UT professor conducts study on effects of “On-Off relationships” on friendships

Mariadela Villegas

A UT professor conducted a study which analyzed the effects “on-off” relationships have on friends of the couples.

The study, conducted by communication studies associate professor René Dailey was published in “Personal Relationships,” a journal of the International Association for Relationship Research.

 Dailey surveyed adults aged 18 or older who were currently dating or had dated in the last six months. 

Dailey found that a person in an “on-off relationship” would receive negative feedback about it from family and friends, as opposed to someone who was in a “noncyclical,” or continuous, relationship. Some students say in their personal experience, friends might not give negative criticisms explicitly while the couple is still together, but have some stronger reactions when the breakup happens. 

“[Cousins] would be like, ‘I’m glad y’all are back together. I hope it works out this time,’” public health sophomore Karla Bolivar said. “But after I ended the relationship officially, they were happy.” 

Dailey said the circumstances Bolivar experienced are very common with friends of people in on-off relationships.

“The friends are doing more indirect things,” Dailey said. “The partners in the relationship wouldn’t actually see the criticism but more of the interference by their friends.” 

Dailey’s study found that the majority of the surveyed participants felt that although their friends or family members had an opinion on the relationship, the opinions didn’t carry any weight in their relationship decisions. 

Spanish and Russian senior Reagan Mycka said in his past relationship, his friend’s negative opinion of his girlfriend didn’t affect his own decisions. 

“He didn’t like the girl at all,” Mycka said. “But he always respected my decision.” 

Based on the results of the study, Dailey concluded while friends may express their opinions, the ultimate decision falls on the person involved in the relationship. 

Dailey said not all on-off relationships are bad; some may even be beneficial for people. Having friends interfere in the relationship says a lot about the nature of friendship itself rather than the romantic relationship. Dailey said the study poses new questions about the nature of the on-off relationships.

“After the breakup, [an individual] is not sure whether they can date other people, and having that [feeling] might prevent themselves from seeking other options,” Dailey said. “[We could explore} to what degree we hold back from actually looking at alternatives if [someone] have been in one of these relationships.”