Select Page

Addictive relationships can significantly impact your life, just like any other addiction. These relationships are characterized by an intense emotional dependency on another person, where being apart from them causes significant distress, and being together creates a euphoric high. Recognizing and addressing these patterns is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships and personal well-being.

Characteristics of Addictive Relationships

  • Addictive relationships share many similarities with other forms of addiction. One key characteristic is experiencing psychological or physical withdrawal symptoms when you cannot be with the person. This might manifest as extreme anxiety or a constant need to communicate with them, such as texting every few minutes.
  • Spending excessive amounts of time thinking about the person is another sign. If your thoughts are consumed with them, to the detriment of other areas of your life, it can be problematic. This might lead to neglecting sleep, work, or other responsibilities because you prioritize being with or thinking about the person.
  • Making impulsive or risky decisions to avoid abandonment is common in addictive relationships. You might find yourself doing anything to keep the person in your life, even if it means making poor financial choices or compromising your own needs and values. This can harm your financial stability and overall well-being.
  • Giving up significant people and events to be with the person is another red flag. If you start isolating yourself from friends and family to spend all your time with this one person, it can lead to a loss of support systems and increased dependency on the relationship.
  • Continuing to engage in the relationship despite negative consequences is a hallmark of addiction. If being in the relationship causes you distress, lowers your self-esteem, or interferes with your health, work, or other relationships, it might be considered addictive.

Causes of Addictive Relationships

  • Self-medication of depression or anxiety is one cause. Being in a relationship can provide a temporary escape from these feelings, making you dependent on the person for emotional relief.
  • Substitute addiction is another cause. In recovery from substance addiction, individuals are often advised to avoid new relationships for at least a year to prevent substituting their previous addiction with a new one, such as an addictive relationship.
  • Abandonment anxiety, often stemming from adverse childhood experiences, can lead to addictive relationships. This anxiety drives a need for constant reassurance and closeness, making it difficult to function independently.
  • Enmeshment or helicopter parenting can also play a role. If you were raised in an environment where decisions were always made for you, you might struggle to feel secure or capable without being in a relationship.
  • Exposure to models of addictive relationships, such as those seen in family members or friends, can normalize unhealthy relationship dynamics. You might not recognize the patterns as harmful because they are familiar.
  • Lastly, low self-esteem and codependency can drive addictive relationships. If you rely on others to validate your worth, you might become overly dependent on a partner for emotional support and validation.

Characteristics of Healthy Relationships

  • Healthy relationships are built on honesty and trust. You should be able to be apart from your partner without experiencing extreme anxiety, and there should be open and respectful communication. Each person’s feelings, thoughts, wants, and needs should be acknowledged and valued.
  • In a healthy relationship, you miss your partner but can still get things done without being consumed by anxiety or depression. You feel loved for who you are, not for what you can provide or do for the other person.
  • Healthy relationships do not alienate you from friends and family. Instead, they integrate into your existing support systems and enhance your overall well-being. While there are ups and downs, a healthy relationship is generally fulfilling and contributes positively to your life.
  • There is also a healthy and consensual power division. Whether the relationship is equal or has a power dynamic that both partners agree upon, it should not cause distress or negatively impact your life goals.

Addressing Addictive Relationships

  • To address an addictive relationship, start by recognizing the harm it is causing in various aspects of your life. Reflect on how it affects you physically, emotionally, and socially. Consider how it impacts your self-esteem and relationships with others.
  • Explore what the relationship is protecting you from. Is it anxiety, depression, or a fear of making decisions? Identifying these underlying issues can help you find healthier ways to address them.
  • Develop a plan to protect yourself without relying on the relationship. Think about who or what else can provide the support and security you need.
  • Finally, seek support to develop and implement your plan. Support groups, such as Love Addicts Anonymous, can provide valuable resources and encouragement as you work towards healthier relationships and personal growth.