Charting changes in commitment: Trajectories of on-again/off-again relationships

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Journal of Social and Personal Relationships


Communication Studies


The present study examined how turning points reported by individuals in on-again/off-again (on–off) relationships reflected relationship trajectories. Participants (N = 581) completed an online Retrospective Interview Technique asking them to report on up to 10 turning points. Participants indicated their commitment level at each turning point. Based on the variations in commitment across turning points, five trajectories emerged. Trajectory groups were compared regarding relational stability factors. Results suggest that on–off partners with a steady-low commitment trajectory reported less stability than individuals with steady-high commitment. Additionally, partners in the fluctuating trajectory, which would seemingly represent less stability, reported moderate perceptions of their relationships, faring better than the low-steady commitment group. Overall, findings add to an understanding of how to best characterize on–off relationships.