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We posed a few common questions of the heart to an expert in the field – Dr. Laurie Betito, a Montreal psychologist with a specialty in sex therapy.

Whether you’re with a long-time partner or have a brand new lover, this is a great time of year to take stock of your relationship. We posed a few common questions of the heart to an expert in the field – Dr. Laurie Betito, a Montreal psychologist with a specialty in sex therapy.

Why are so many people involved in on-again, off-again relationships?

The main reason is that couples don’t address the problems in their relationship, so it becomes a vicious cycle. “Couples break up for a reason, then get back together; there’s a honeymoon phase, then the same issues come up, and then they break up again,” says Betito. They may fear being alone or simply miss the great sex. “They may be nostalgic for the good stuff,” says Betito. “They forget the negatives and what led to the breakup and only remember the good times.”

Older people tend to have fewer on-again, off-again relationships. “Our expectations of a relationship are completely difference when we’re 50 than when we’re 20,” says Betito. ”We’re much more realistic when we’re older; we know what we want and we’re better able to communicate that.”

How long should you wait between relationships – and why?

Everyone grieves differently and at a different pace, but if you tend to hop into a relationship immediately after ending one, or start dating someone new even before breaking up with someone else, you should examine this rebound tendency. “Ask yourself: Why do I always need to be with someone? Why can I not be happy alone?” says Betito, “This kind of pattern doesn’t give you a chance to figure out what went wrong, and to learn from it.”

It may be different in the case of a divorce, especially if it’s being dragged through the courts. “It would be nice if you waited until the divorce was final to start a new relationship – in this case, I think a year is reasonable – but sometimes the timing is out of your hands,” says Betito.

How much should you tell a new lover about past relationships?

That depends on a number of factors. For example, a woman would want to know that a prospective partner has cheated on every person he’s ever been with, says Betito. “She may also want to know that he’s bisexual or has an STI - not chlamydia, which is curable, when he was 18 years old, but if he has herpes or HIV.” That said, information about past relationships is not something a woman – or a guy for that matter - wants to lay out during the first meeting, she says. “You wait and see if there’s a potential relationship here, if this new person is someone you want to open yourself up to.”

These days, it’s not unusual for even relatively young people to have had several significant past relationships, even several marriages. “There’s the whole notion of the starter marriage followed by the marriage that produces children and then a third marriage later in life, possibly after a divorce or widowhood,” says Betito.

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