Created By: Larkmarn on January 13, 2014 Last Edited By: Larkmarn on February 13, 2014
Troped

Relationship Revolving Door

An on-again, off-again relationship

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Trope
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.

Live Action Television
  • 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.
  • Friends:
    • 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."

Webcomics

Web Original
  • 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.

Real Life
  • 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.
Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • January 13, 2014
    DennisDunjinman
    • 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.
  • January 13, 2014
    randomsurfer
    • Friends:
      • 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.

  • January 13, 2014
    MiinU

    Live Action Television

    Webcomics

  • January 13, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    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.
  • January 13, 2014
    DAN004
    Compare Slap Slap Kiss?
  • January 13, 2014
    MiinU
    Might also result in the pair settling for being Friends With Benefits, if they decide the relationship just isn't working, but still enjoy the sex.
  • January 13, 2014
    crazysamaritan

    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."
  • January 14, 2014
    surgoshan
    • On Veronica Mars, Veronica and Logan. She's a private detective/daughter of a disgraced former sheriff, he's a bad-boy son of an abusive, disgraced former movie star. They Fight Crime!
  • January 20, 2014
    MiinU
    bump.
  • January 20, 2014
    Larkmarn
    ^^ Could we get a bit more context on Veronica and Logan in terms of this trope?
  • February 5, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    What about indexes? Maybe that'll collect a few hats.
  • February 5, 2014
    Larkmarn
  • February 5, 2014
    Dalillama
    Real Life
    • 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.
  • February 8, 2014
    Larkmarn
    I'm probably going to make On Again Off Again Relationship a redirect.
  • February 8, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    If you didn't, I was going to. :D
  • February 8, 2014
    Ominae
    In the manga Jormungand, this is how most of the HCLI personnel show Lehm and Chiquita since they used to be married, divorced, then got married again and then got divorced again. The reasons for this are not stated.
  • February 11, 2014
    CrypticMirror
    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."
  • February 11, 2014
    Stratadrake
    What if we switched the words around and called it a Revolving Door Relationship?
  • February 12, 2014
    Arivne
  • February 12, 2014
    Larkmarn
    I like the way it sounds better, but to me it kinda seems more like a promiscuous person who has a lot of relationships.

    Could just be me. If other people don't see that I'm happy to change it.
  • February 12, 2014
    DAN004
    I already love RRD. D:
  • February 12, 2014
    robbulldog
    On Bones, Dr. Hodgins and Angela have this on-again-off-again for several seasons.
  • February 12, 2014
    paycheckgurl
  • February 12, 2014
    Larkmarn
    Once we get the name discussion. Any thoughts on it?
  • February 12, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    I see no reason to change the name.
  • February 13, 2014
    Larkmarn
    Alright, so we're 2-2 for RRD and RDR. Any other thoughts?
  • February 13, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    Relationship Revolving Door seems to fit the criteria of Clear Concise Witty from where I'm standing.
  • February 13, 2014
    Larkmarn
    Okay, counting myself that's 4-2 for RRD. If no one objects, I'll probably launch this tomorrow.
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