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What is an addictive relationship?

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11:48 pm
September 28, 2004

over the edge

New Member

posts -1

Hi everyone I just read this and it helped me a lot. I copied it for everyone who hasn't read or seen it.

Addictive Relationships

It is often very hard to end a love relationship even when you know it is bad for you. A "bad" relationship is not the kind that is going through the usual periods of disagreement and disenchantment that are inevitable when two separate people come together. A bad relationship is one that involves continual frustration; the relationship seems to have potential but that potential is always just out of reach. In fact, the attachment in such relationships is to someone who is "unattainable" in the sense that he or she is committed to someone else, doesn't want a committed relationship, or is incapable of one. Bad relationships are chronically lacking in what one or both partners need. Such relationships can destroy self-esteem and prevent those involved from moving on in their careers or personal lives. They are often fertile breeding grounds for loneliness, rage, and despair. In bad relationships the two partners are often on such different wave-lengths that there is little common ground, little significant communication, and little enjoyment of each other.

Remaining in a bad relationship not only causes continual stress but may even be physically harmful. An obvious harm is the physical abuse that is often a part of such relationships. In a less obvious way, however, the tensions and chemical changes caused by the constant stress can drain energy and lower resistance to physical illness. Continuing in such bad relationships can lead to unhealthy escapes such as alcohol or drug abuse and can even lead to suicide attempts.

In such relationships, individuals are robbed of several essential freedoms; the freedom to be their best selves in the relationship, the freedom to love the other person through choice rather than through dependency, and the freedom to leave a situation that is destructive.

Despite the pain of these relationships, many rational and practical people find that they are unable to leave, even though they know the relationship is bad for them. One part of them wants out but a seemingly stronger part refuses or feels helpless to take any action. It is in this sense that the relationships are "addictive."

Are You Addicted?

Listed below are several signs of addiction. Consider whether they apply to you:

1.Even though you know the relationship is bad for you (and perhaps others have told you this), you take no effective steps to end it.
2.You give yourself reasons for staying in the relationship that are not really accurate or that are not strong enough to counteract the harmful aspects of the relationship.
3.When you think about ending the relationship, you feel terrible anxiety and fear which make you cling to it even more.
4.When you take steps to end the relationship, you suffer painful withdrawal symptoms, including physical discomfort, that is only relieved by reestablishing contact.

If most of these signs apply to you, you are probably in an addictive relationship and have lost the capacity to direct your own life. To move toward recovery, your first steps must be to recognize that you are "hooked" and then try to understand the basis of your addiction. In this way, you gain the perspective to determine whether, in reality, the relationship can be improved or whether you need to leave it.

The Basis of the Addiction

There are several factors that can influence your decision to remainin a bad relationship. At the most superficial level are practical considerations such as financial entanglement, shared living quarters, potential impact on children, feared disapproval from others, and possible disruption in academic performance or career plans.

At a deeper level are the beliefs you hold about relationships in general, about this specific relationship, and about yourself. These beliefs may take the form of learned societal messages such as "Love is forever," "You are a failure if you end a relationship," "Being alone is terrible," and "You should never hurt anyone." Also relevant are beliefs about yourself such as "I'll never find anyone else," "I'm not attractive or interesting enough," or "If I work hard enough I should be able to save this relationship."

At the deepest level are unconscious feelings which can keep you stuck. These feelings develop early in childhood, often operate without your awareness, and can exert considerable influence on your life. Children need to be loved, nurtured, and encouraged in their independence. To the extent that parents are successful in doing this, their children will be able to feel secure as adults in moving in and out of relationships. To the extent that these needs are not met their children may be left feeling "needy" as adults and may thus be more vulnerable to dependent relationships.

Strategies for Overcoming Relationship Addictions

Robin Norwood, in her excellent book "Women Who Love Too Much" outlines a ten step plan for overcoming relationship addiction. While this book is directed toward women, its principles are equally valid for men. Stated here (reordered and sometimes paraphrased), Norwood suggests the following:

1. Make your "recovery" the first priority in your life.
2. Become "selfish," i.e., focus on getting your own needs met more effectively.
3. Courageously face your own problems and shortcomings.
4. Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself, i.e., fill in gaps that have made you feel undeserving or bad about yourself.
5. Learn to stop managing and controlling others; by being more focused on your own needs, you will no longer need to seek security by trying to make others change.
6. Develop your "spiritual" side, i.e., find out what brings you peace and serenity and commit some time, at least half an hour daily, to that endeavor.
7. Learn not to get "hooked" into the games of relationships; avoid dangerous roles you tend to fall into, e.g., "rescuer" (helper), "persecutor" (blamer), "victim" (helpless one).
8. Find a support group of friends who understand.
9. Share with others what you have experienced and learned.
10. Consider getting professional help.

When to Seek Professional Help

Some counseling may be called for when any of these four circumstances exist:

1. When you are very unhappy in a relationship but are unsure of whether you should accept it as it is, make further efforts to improve it, or get out of it.
2. When you have concluded that you should end a relationship, have tried to make yourself end it, but remain stuck.
3. When you suspect that you are staying in a relationship for the wrong reasons, such as feelings of guilt or fear of being alone, and you have been unable to overcome the paralyzing effects of such feelings.
4. When you recognize that you have a pattern of staying in bad relationships and that you have not been able to change that pattern by yourself.

Need Additional Help?
Some books on addictive relationships are:

"Women Who Love Too Much." Robin Norwood. Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc. 1985.
"Is It Love or Is It Addiction?" Brenda Schaefer. U.S.A.: Hazelden. 1987.
In addition, the Counseling Center offers free workshops and individual counseling to help with these issues. For more information, call the Counseling Center at 333-3704.

Copyright 1996 by The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Counseling Center
Send comments about our website to:
10/15/02 gsims

2:50 am
September 29, 2004


New Member

posts -1

Thanks for the good information, I am currently reading Women Who Love Too Much and seeing a counselor. This is definitely a problem I think a lot of us on this board are struggling with.

8:55 am
September 29, 2004


New Member

posts -1

over the edge,

Great info! Thank you for sharing


9:23 am
September 29, 2004



posts 100

thanks so much for taking the time to put this on this thread!! what usefull info!!

thanks again :)

9:55 am
September 29, 2004



posts 29

Good and helpful info here, over the edge. Thankyou for posting this.

12:22 pm
September 29, 2004


New Member

posts -1

When I first started attending AA meetings for support…I would state I am a relationship addict. People would snicker. I didn't quite understand the way of my pattern of jumping from relationship to relationship, I just knew that I did this and that I needed help.

I attend Al-Anon because the last two relationships I chose were with Alcoholics. Now after 4 years in 12 step programs, I don't need to rush into anything. I certainly know where I am and am in no way healthy. Doing my personal inventory helped me to help myself. I am not looking for a quick fix any longer. There is NO Quick Fix. The fix is working through the pain and addressing what isn't working today in my life. I don't really like all that I see but I know now I am making progress. My last thought today is creating another sick relationship.

2:29 pm
September 29, 2004

over the edge

New Member

posts -1

Hi Sassy, Sunny, Camer, Tumbleweed and MJ,

I'm glad this info helped everyone. After my ex-boyfriend contacted me again and my therapist told me not to see him again. I did as she said and told him that my therapist had told me not to get involved with anyone until I recover from my codependency. I really identify with "When you think about ending the relationship, you feel terrible anxiety and fear which make you cling even more" and "When you take the steps to end the relationship you suffer painful with drawal symptoms, including physical discomfort, that is only relieved by reestablishing contact"

Boy that is so true for me. I started feeling really sad when I told him I couldn't see him. So a week ago I called him again, and we have been emailing. I haven't seen him for more than a year. We live in different States. I told him what I was most scared of were his mood changes and I think it is due to his pot-smoking and you know what his answer was? "Your nonsense about me turning cold and mean and my pot-smoking is just that -nonsense!" Can you believe it? He is in deep denial!

I need closure and to definitely end it but it is so hard on some days.

3:11 pm
September 29, 2004

over the edge

New Member

posts -1

This for Jul,

Hi Jul you wrote on my other thread <>

You hit it right on the nail. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. I was beginning to think I was crazy. My ex-boyfriend and his buddies would sit around smoke pot and drink. They thought this was normal. His buddies' girlfriends would also smoke pot. I was the only one not doing so. I had also on two ocassions seen him doing cocaine. I haven't seen him for more than a year.

The guys that I've met recently also smoke pot. A few months ago I was at a party were everyone was smoking pot and drinking beers. I'm sick of it!

Thanks also to Inpain and Zax for your input on my thread.

3:16 pm
September 29, 2004

over the edge

New Member

posts -1

This is what Jul wrote:

"I'm just tired of the guys who think getting high daily, drinking daily, and taking oxyies daily is normal. And I mean taking all these things together! I'm just tired of the denial that is rampant out there"

This is what I wanted to include on my other post.

6:47 pm
September 29, 2004


New Member

posts -1

Hey over, thanks so much for the addiction info. I printed it to keep, and I'll tell you I am so in the description of the addict. Not that I've had that many real relationships, but once I'm in, I'm in for the long haul. Usually they're with alkies. Thanks also for the note back about the big time denial out there. Just seems like everyone is f***ked up these days! And I am so over being used, abused, and coming in behind partying and whooping it up as my ex used to say! Thanks again for sharing!

9:52 pm
September 29, 2004


New Member

posts -1

mmm…yeah I was just in this "relationship" with someone who I think was also "hooked". It was more trouble than it was worth, we were constantly stepping on each other, contantly breaking up, getting back together. She was the "helper" role and I was the "victim" role and we both fell into that other category. I think I realized on some level that it wasn't going to work because I wasn't very happy, but even after it officially ended I kept coming back thinking it could work if I tried hard enough. Now she's instantly off with someone else yet doesn't understand why I'm not jumping up and down to be her best friend right now, and having trouble with it. I feel demolished! I'm afraid the friendship is just going to be a continuation of the relationship except without the sex. And still there's that sick little self saying "come on, you can make it work, you just need to get your ____ together and work on yourself and she work on herself and then it will work. NO!!! It wont!!! I don't want to keep repeating this relationship over and over. I just don't have it in me. God help me

10:23 pm
September 29, 2004


New Member

posts -1

i totally hear you. I just got out of one of those to and I was the victim and he was the helper and it was terrible. I totally understand. I knew it was not going to work and when he finally broke it off, I was so upset but I knew it was for the best. I still want him back at times and think I can't live without him. These relationships are so confussing. Although I know it's bad for me and I need to give myself time I feel almost lost without him. He took care of me and I am scard to take care of myself. I also want to move on and not keep repeating this behavior but I don't know how to stop b/c this seems to be some sort of pattern.

4:41 pm
October 5, 2004


New Member

posts -1

I am just out of an addictive relationship. I was the helper, he was the one who always needed my counseling!
I really fell for this guy and over 8 months we had three big bustups. But I always went back to him. I still miss him like anything.But I know this relationship was not healthy.
Everything was about him and his needs. I always had to fit in with his program. THe last row we had, I suddenly realised how angry and resentful I was. I felt so used.
So I ended it Although it really hurts, Think it will empower me.

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