One way of getting around the potential monotony of Will They or Won't They? is by getting them together... then breaking them up. Then getting them back together. Then breaking them up. This allows writers to both explore the pair as a romantic couple, but still (hopefully) avoid a Shipping Bed Death by keeping the relationship novel and keep an air of drama as the relationship isn't set in stone. Naturally, this can be Truth in Television as people can break up with a lover but find themselves back together. Compare New Old Flame, which is usually a one-time getting back together and usually used as a form of Remember the New Guy?. May result in Friends with Benefits for a while... but don't expect that to last terribly long.
Examples:Anime and Manga
- Lupin III has the "official couple" of Lupin and Fujiko, which is usually him chasing after her, but rare examples have Fujiko trying to get him to marry her, or the two of them actually united in purpose. Their on-again-off-again relationship is best summarized in The Castle of Cagliostro, as she explains to the Girl of the Week, "We've been allies, and enemies, too. On occasion, we've even been lovers."
- In Jormungand, Chiquita and Lehm have been married twice (and divorced twice). The reason behind their breakups hasn't been explored.
- How I Met Your Mother:
- Ted and his high school/college girlfriend Karen. They'd have a cycle where he'd catch her cheating, break up, then eventually get back together.
- To a lesser extent, Barney and Robin. They hooked up in season three, dated throughout season 5, broke up, almost hooked up in season 6, hooked up in season 7, then got engaged in season 8. Almost every period where they weren't dating involved an Unrequited Love Switcheroo.
- Seinfeld: Whether or not Elaine was dating Puddy or not would depend entirely on what works for the episode. Their unstable relationship was lampshaded often.
- New Girl:
- Schmidt and Cece. At first they were casually hooking up, then they stopped when feelings got involved, then they were dating, then they broke up, then Schmidt declared his love for her, then Cece decided they weren't working, then they were friends with benefits, then she got engaged to someone else, then she broke off the wedding because she liked Schmidt, at which point they get together again... only for her to dump him when she learns he never broke up with his ex and had been dating them both. It's been a complicated story.
- Off-screen, Nick and Caroline. Before the series began, she had dumped him three times. They get back together and break up at the end of the first season.
- Ross and Rachel's relationship epitomized the trope for almost all nine seasons of it run, and was the show's primary focus. All told, they broke up and got back together four times.
- Chandler had an on-and-off relationship with Janice (she of the Annoying Laugh) for several years, even after Janice got married.
- For the first season or two Monica had an on-and-off with "Fun Bobby." The gang realized that Fun Bobby had a drinking problem and helped him quit, but then discovered that without alcohol Bobby wasn't Fun.
- The Big Bang Theory: Leonard and Penny have this kind of relationship, full of false starts, set backs, and at least two notable break ups. As of season five they're significantly more stable, but Penny's Commitment Issues have threatened to bring them back to square one a number of times.
- In Scrubs Elliot and JD have been on-and-off again so often that even by the third season other characters treat it as a mundane occurrence.
Carla:"What's wrong with him[JD]?"Turk:"He slept with Elliot last night."Carla:"[bored voice]Oh, that time of year again."
- Eerie Cuties: The signs of Ace and Brooke's soon-to-be on/off relationship were seen as early as the "War Dance" arc. Since then, they've dated and broken up several times for various reasons. In fact, they've even been compared to Ross and Rachel!
- Homestar Runner and Marzipan are the Official Couple, but Marzipan claims that they have an open relationship, which Homestar doesn't agree with. They break up very often, but are usually seen back together by the next episode.
- Doc Holliday and Big-Nosed Kate famously had such a relationship, characterised by living together for a while, having a fight, one or the other storming out of town, and then the taking back up together next time they were in town. Fictional portrayals usually retain this.
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