A person who has a relationship addiction cannot function normally without being in a relationship and often feels incomplete. Moreover, the “addict” may stop taking care of themselves while in a relationship, and neglect any goals or purpose they might have had for their lives.
Like any addiction, relationship addiction can lead to many adverse consequences. A person can be addicted to relationships without even realizing it unless another person or other life event triggers the symptoms. Recognizing these symptoms is the first step in getting help, and if you or someone you know has experienced any of the following, you may want to consider seeking therapy and counseling.
Signs of Relationship Addiction
Many people with relationship addiction find themselves unable to end relationships, although there is emotional or physical abuse occurring. Deep down, they know that the relationship isn’t good for them, but any attempts to break free from it result in reconciliation. While they may experience intense feelings of love for the other person, they also sometimes feel devalued, and they, as well as the other person, may frequently question their self-worth.
Many relationship addictions are rooted in fear of being abandoned. Relationship addicts often fail to recognize that they are currently in a toxic relationship or look the other way.
Having Multiple Break Up Cycles
One of the main signs of relationship addiction is going through many breakups and makeup cycles. In other words, the addict is unable to stick to their guns and stay away from the romance for an extended period.
Instead, the addict always reconciles with their partner, although they realize it is probably not in their best interest to do so. This can occur even though the person with relationship addiction was the one who was wronged in some way. In fact, that person is often the one who initiates the reconciliation.
Multiple breakups is likely a sign that the relationship is not working, or that one or both individuals cannot or will not change their behaviors in order to bring about harmony. A healthy relationship can be resurrected from more than one breakup, but this usually does not occur at such an extreme level.
Having a Lack of Self-Control
Just like a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, a relationship addict does not typically exercise self-control. They do not have control over a new relationship, and they can easily transition from one relationship to the next without pause.
For example, a relationship addict may learn that their partner is having an affair, and instead of summoning up self-esteem and dignity, they keep begging their partner to stop the infidelity. Whether or not the other person obliges, this is not power—this is an inability to ensure that a relationship is offering oneself the respect one deserves.
There Is Little Life Outside of the Relationship
Many relationship addicts give way too much of themselves, and their partners may even feel suffocated. Not unlike other kinds of addiction, relationship addiction has negative effects on many different areas of a person’s life, such as losing interest in hobbies, jobs, family, social life, etc.
Instead, all attention is focused on the relationship, even when the other partner exhibits a lack of interest in the relationship or is disrespectful or hurtful. All is lost for the sake of maintaining the relationship. And ironically, the relationship addict can feel very lonely and empty inside despite being in a relationship.
Thinking That Sex = Love
People who are addicted to relationships may often confuse sex for love. They may allow themselves to be used for sex, thinking that sexual intimacy is the same thing as love intimacy. For example, a partner may be abusive emotionally or physically, and then resolve this problem by initiating sex. While sex and love can certainly co-exist, sex is not a replacement for love, even in the context of an intimate relationship.
Obsessive Thinking About The Relationship
A person who has an addiction to a relationship is continuously thinking about the relationship and over-analyzing it. They may be wondering how they appease the other person or change themselves in some way to make their partner love them more.
Even while at work or talking to family and friends, they are continually thinking about the relationship or discussing it with others. Serious problems can arise from this obsessive thinking because the person can’t focus on anything else or deal with other issues.
Making Excuses for Wrong Partners
It’s not uncommon for relationship addicts to make excuses for their partner’s bad behavior. They may say something like, “Well, I know I complain about him being abusive, but I stay with him for all the times when he’s good to me.” Unfortunately, people who are addicted to relationships tend to attract the wrong kind of partners—often those who are narcissistic, unfaithful, and use manipulation to keep the other person in line.
Moreover, relationship addicts will frequently drive away good partners because of their obsessive behavior, neediness, or general lack of self-worth and self-esteem. Instead, they will settle for another person who is less than deserving to feel needed and be in a relationship. Their fear of abandonment is enough to keep these individuals in a bad relationship because they think that it is better than being alone.
Low Self-Esteem and Self-Defeating Behaviors
Addicts of any kind tend to have self-esteem problems. These problems may cause the addictive behavior, and the behavior itself tends to lower their self-worth as they engage in it. Also, because they are prone to attracting the wrong people, their partners fuel their lack of confidence and inflict emotional abuse intended to keep them in their place.
Sometimes, however, a person can become addicted to a relationship that drags them down from an attitude that was much more positive. They soon find themselves behaving in ways they never before imagined, from a place that is desperate, exhausting, and lonely. Others will notice this decline and speak up, but the person in the addictive relationship will continue to make excuses for their partner and possibly isolate themselves from family and friends for this reason.
Substance Abuse in an Unhealthy Relationship
Many of the same factors that contribute to a person being a relationship addict may also compel a person to drink or use drugs in excess. Childhood trauma or a fear of abandonment, emotional dysregulation, and many other mental health problems are found among both those who have relationship issues and people who engage in substance abuse.
Other times, relationship addiction can lead a person to turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate away negative feelings about themselves and their lives. Conversely, people with substance abuse issues may become involved in bad relationships because their overuse of drugs and alcohol is problematic, and a person seeking stability may very well be scared away by this fact.
Regardless of which behavior came first, both problems tend to exacerbate each other, leading to an ever-increasing cycle of relationship problems and escalating substance abuse.
Getting Help for Addiction
Recovery in Tune is a specialized addiction treatment facility that offers comprehensive programs, in both outpatient and partial hospitalization formats, designed to treat all aspects of a person’s mental health and well-being. Severe emotional problems, such as those related to relationship addiction, need to be addressed in conjunction with substance use disorders to prevent relapse and ensure a person is stable enough to maintain long-lasting sobriety.
If you are suffering from addiction to both substances and relationships, contact us today! We are committed to ensuring that each person we treat receives the very best care available and is given the tools they need to reclaim their lives for good!