On Again Off Again: 13 Reasons Why He Can’t Let You Go

Nobody likes a breakup. And as far as I know, most people don’t get into relationships planning to eventually break up. But on that brutal quest to find that one person you can spend the rest of your life with and still tolerate or even like them at the end of a few decades, breakups happen. 

And while letting a relationship go is never easy, to begin with – sometimes we run into men who turn into a real mess when you try and leave – and it makes it hard to make the right decision.

The Guys Who Always Come Back

There are a few special types of personalities that seem to cling to the toxic ‘on again off again’ lifestyle when it comes to their relationships. What’s extra frustrating about the guy who won’t let go is it’s usually the one that the girl had to work the hardest for. The one that didn’t want to be in a relationship, the one that you had worked at for months to achieve more than ‘friends’ status. 

Once the relationship ran its course, by the end of it someone decided they needed to leave (probably the guy – let’s just be real). And just when the woman is ready to move on and get over her feelings, he comes racing back with empty promises and apologies. These kinds of relationships are usually an endless cycle.

No matter what the situation is, it’s still extremely mentally and emotionally unhealthy to be in a toxic unstable relationship. But breaking the cycle is hard, especially when you can’t make an educated decision. So here are some of the underlying reasons why your Romeo may continuously crush your hopes and dreams of a healthy, stable relationship.

1. He’s obsessive or a stalker

he's obsessive or a stalker

Now, ladies, this one is the least likely as to what is going on. Having a childish attitude, sending you love letters, and a few more phone calls than what he gave you when you were together is normal for a guy who wants to return to your arms. It’s when the behavior escalates further in a dark way that you have reason to worry. 

And I do mean it when I say that this is the least likely that's what is happening with your ex, it’s always good to eliminate that possibility with a strong overview of his actions. According to this informative article on stalking, 1 in 10 women will be stalked, and 75% of us will know our stalker in some way which is often why we ignore warning signs of danger. 

While you’re here, brush up on your knowledge by reading the article to help you recognize the signs of being stalked. If you are feeling alarmed by the end of it, talk to someone who can help you figure out the safest next step.

2. You two have formed a TTB (Toxic Trauma Bond)

A trauma bond is when someone forms an unhealthy attachment to someone who is abusing them in some way. Most often trauma bonds are associated with Stockholm syndrome – however, it doesn’t always apply to someone who's been held captive. 

If your relationship is toxic, mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually, or financially abusive and you always take him back and have feelings of attachment that keep you from moving on – this may likely be what has happened to you.

Abusers who do not love their partners will continue to leave and come back. Some narcissists and abusers get off on the reactions they get. And when you take them back once, you’re going to do it again, and again. And they, unfortunately, know this too. 

If your partner breaks you down emotionally, and causes as much damage on his way out, then comes crawling back with promises to be a better man – and it’s happened more than twice or more – most likely you need to take the time to read this article – and seek help to fix this situation.

3. Fear of being alone

fear of being alone

Nobody likes to be alone. As people, we thrive on our social life. And nighttime is the worst – that is when we crave another person’s touch and presence the most. And that is a powerful force that can keep a guy who isn't in love with you, coming back. 

Chances are you’ve already confessed and tried to talk to him about your feelings. And when you try to do that he’s out. But then he gets lonely, bored, and horny, the first person he’s going to think about is the girl that he knows is quite literally waiting on him. And isn’t that just so much easier than going to the bar and hunting something new down?

And then just like that, the relationship starts going too good and starts feeling too serious and he’s gone again. And it hurts. Remember this pain the next time he comes around and you know he’s just feeling lonely.

4. He’s holding onto the past

Another reason a man may be having a hard time letting you go is memories of the good times past. If you two have been an item for a long time, he may be holding onto the things that made you work when you were happier together. Whether it was great love-making, cooking together, or passionate memories, the past is one reason why some people can’t let go of each other. 

And maybe your relationship could work out – if you tried again. However, if you have tried, and tried, and tried again already, then it’s time to accept that it’s not going to work. There comes a point in time when you two need to love each other enough to let each other go – before that love turns into true genuine hate.

5. Not ready to settle down

A lot of the time, when he meets the right kind of girl, men just aren’t ready to lock it down yet. For a guy who isn’t ready, him leaving and coming back doesn’t have anything to do with the woman he’s with, he’s just emotionally incapable of being what he knows you’re probably expecting him to be. 

Responsibility, commitment, settling down – those are all terrifying concepts to men. Or he simply enjoys the ‘game’ too much.

The frustrating thing about this is, once again if you’ve taken him back before he knows you’ll do it again. So he makes it hard for you to move on. It’s not fair – but someone has to make the hard decision. He either needs to decide to settle down or you need to tell him to leave you alone so you can move on.

6. No one else could ever replace you

no one else could ever replace you

If you were together and acted like ‘wife’ material, this could be why he can’t seem to let go. There is a lot of work involved in being a good partner. Cooking, cleaning, providing incredible sex whenever he needs it, taking care of children (if there are any children in the picture), plus our own jobs and ambitions. 

And maybe they hadn’t realized they’d been taking everything that you’ve done for them for granted. 

So when all of those little things disappear (making sure his lunch for work is packed for him, his laundry, keeping a backup roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, making sure there’s a stock of his favorite foods and drinks in the fridge… the list goes ON and ON) he starts to understand exactly how much your presence impacted his life.

And then there is the way you dance when you clean the kitchen, the way you snore, or your bedhead in the morning. We all have the secret things we just love about our partners. Most of the time guys only think about these things right after sex or right after he’s been dumped.

The fact of the matter is, some men don’t understand what they have until they lose it. And you better believe that a lot of times, he realizes he will be able to find someone similar to you – but no one will ever be you.

7. He’s afraid of failure

If you two have been together for a while, or have a really strong attachment, your absence may make him feel insecure or vulnerable. You may have been his sounding board and confidant, and you were the one that made him feel like he could do anything. In strong relationships, it’s normal to feel empowered by your partner. Males especially find a sense of purpose when their partner is supportive. 

So when his main source of confidence, ideas, and inspiration is gone – what is he going to do?

8. He doesn’t want to start over/date someone new 

Let’s be real. Dating sucks in today’s age. It’s so impersonal, and too many people are just out to play cat-and-mouse with other people's feelings. Not to mention, when you get used to someone, you get comfortable, you’ve already had most of your weird and awkward conversations. 

 Most of the time men don’t enjoy that awkward new relationship phase where they have to work extra hard to get comfortable with someone else – and many of them will go to great lengths to avoid it.

9. Family matters make it complicated

What happens when he doesn’t want to be with you or settle down, but his family loves you? Speaking from personal experience, I know exactly what it is like when the man you’re in love with only calls you because his family has pressured him to. 

If you’ve been with him for a while, it’ll be natural that the family doesn’t want to lose you either. But being friends with his family after the relationship is over doesn’t mean you have to be with him. He may not even want to be with you, but the pressure from his family may be influencing him to come back every time you break up

Set some boundaries with him, and his family, and request they respect your guy’s decision to be apart. Just because you two aren’t together doesn’t mean you can’t love his family still, or be around them – unless it causes unhealthy stress for you.

10. Jealousy is a bitter pill

jealousy is a better pill

A classic reason for exes to come back is because of that nasty green pill called jealousy. Even if they are not in love with you, men are extremely territorial. He knows how beautiful you are, and when you put effort into it with makeup and nice clothing, it’ll drive him nuts. The thoughts of you having sex with some random big buff hot dude will invade his mind and drive him literally insane

Even if they are the ones that left you, when another man swoops in to claim what he threw away, most likely he won't be able to stand it. If a particularly possessive chap thinks you’re getting snuggled up with someone else, he will come back with flowers and backhanded hostile interrogation in hand.

11. It is easier to stay in a routine than shake things up

For a lot of men and women alike, staying in a comfortable routine is much easier than disturbing the cycle of life. If the situation isn’t uncomfortable, extreme, or dangerous, many people, especially men, would prefer to stay where they are rather than destroy a comfortable routine.

12. Abandonment issues

In today’s world, we have a lot of broken people. And people with abandonment issues, especially those stemming from childhood have a very hard time letting go of people who mean a lot to them. Try to be patient but keep being persistent in standing your ground, while standing your ground.

13. He genuinely loves you

Then of course there are just the sad circumstances of that he genuinely loves you, for you, no strings, and he wants the whole commitment enchilada and you’re probably the one not really feeling him. That or life keeps happening and for some reason, you two seemed destined to be unable to be together. A man who still has hope, however, will always come back. 


What does it mean when a guy can't let you go?

Depending on the situation, there could be a lot of reasons why a man can’t let you go. Some men have a hard time because they hadn't found someone they could open up to the way they were able to do with you. Sometimes it’s insecurity. Sometimes emotional immaturity comes into play. You have to look at the situation and the person he is to figure out his motives.

Why does a man stay with a woman he doesn't love?

Sometimes, especially if a man has built a life with someone, they find more comfort in the familiarity and habit of their life. It’s easier for them to stay even if he is no longer in love than to shake up his routine with a breakup and having to start over with someone new.

Why can't he open up to me?

Men are not groomed to open up and talk about their feelings like girls are. Being a guy is more difficult when it comes to emotions. Depending on how they are raised, and how they have matured emotionally and mentally probably has a lot to do with why he can’t open up to you.

He also may have trust or abandonment issues. Men suffer a lot of the same insecurities as women, however, they handle it more internally than we do.

How do you let go of someone who won't let you go?

No matter the situation, letting go of someone who keeps coming back is hard. The best thing to do is to analyze what is best for you. If you truly believe letting that person go is the healthiest decision for you, then you need to be stern.

Don’t allow them to continue to come back for sex, or comfort, or company, or entertainment. Stand your ground and tell them to leave you alone. If the situation escalates, then take the appropriate measures to ensure your safety.

How do you know if he will never leave you?

In all honesty, there is no true way to tell if someone will never leave you. In my life and career as a relationship counselor, I have seen happy marriages of 50 years or longer disintegrate, while shocking couples people never thought would make it – make it.

Love is not easy, and it can be terrifying – especially to someone who's already been hurt. But you’re never going to know if you don't try – within reason. Be aware of your emotional and mental health and happiness while you are in a relationship, and learn from your mistakes of the past.

In Conclusion

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much you love another person. You can love them to the end of the universe and back again, but it won’t change the circumstance. A relationship that continuously stops and starts again isn’t healthy. Not emotionally or mentally, for either party. Why would you waste time on someone who isn’t certain, or who disappears and hurts you over and over again? 

And most importantly, why would you waste your happiness and love on someone who is always leaving and then just waltzing back like they didn’t do any damage? I hope that this painful cycle stops, and you do what it takes to get back to normalcy. On and off again relationships can cause damage to your future ability to trust someone new, and invest yourself emotionally. 

At the end of the day, I hope this article helped you get a better perspective if you’re going through anything similar, and don’t forget to share with your friends. 

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