The Telltale Signs of Relationship Addiction

by Jeannie Assimos - February 26, 2013

Today’s guest blog is from Dr. Susan Campbell, who brings up a topic many of us are familiar with — but may not even realize it! Relationship or love addiction can be very powerful and destructive — I am glad she is bringing it to the attention of us all.

Relationship addiction might be called “the hidden epidemic.” You could be a love or relationship addict without even knowing it because your symptoms are only triggered by a certain type of person. You might be a sucker for the mysterious, silent, withholding type or the demanding, controlling type or the impulse-driven, pleasure seeker. If you have ever thought, ‘this relationship is not good for me but I can’t keep myself from going back,’ it might be time to recognize you’re addicted to love.

I was inspired to write this article after reading about the highly publicized romance between superstars Chris Brown and Rihanna. As I read about their on-again-off-again relationship and their public feuds, including his beating and bruising her several years ago, I can’t help but think about so many other young romantics who, in seeking true love, find only a dramatization of their inner conflicts.

If I were to counsel these young lovers, I would start by asking them to look honestly at the value and purpose of relationships in their lives: What need or value does this relationship serve for you? Are you in it because of the amazing chemistry? Are you in this relationship to avoid being alone? Or would you like a relationship that inspires you to be the best person you can be … or one where you feel safe enough to be vulnerable so you can heal and grow?

Many of us, when seeking a meaningful relationship, forget to ask these basic questions. We think it should all come naturally if we’re really in love. Well, if this is your belief, I have bad news — not everyone who feels like your soulmate is right for you. Maybe they lack the basic communication skills needed to negotiate differing needs and expectations. If you are with someone who gets so threatened by the fact you sometimes want one thing while he wants a different thing — so threatened he will harass you or even threaten you until you agree, this relationship is not going to be good for you.

Take the following Love Addict Quiz. It will help you start paying more attention to any tendency you might have for getting into unhealthy relationships.

1. Are you in a breakup and then make up cycle with a romantic partner?

2. Do you often think to yourself that this person is not good for you?

3. Do any of your close friends tell you that this person is not good for you?

4. After you two have been apart for a few days, do you get to a point where you feel empty or lost without this person?

5. During the days immediately following a breakup with this person, do you experience difficulty sleeping, eating, or carrying out other self-care activities?

6. Do you need emotional intensity in order to feel alive?

7. Do you feel “high” when the two of you reconnect after a fight or a falling out?

If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, I suggest you take a serious look at yourself. If you need emotional intensity, for example, I ask you to look at what you might be avoiding with this pattern: Are you avoiding feeling ordinary? Do you have a need to feel special as a compensation for deeper feelings of insecurity?

Can you locate the source of your insecurity? What do you fear, specifically? Do you fear being alone, being rejected, being insignificant? If you can feel even a bit of this fear here and now, do any memories come up — possibly of a time someone important to you rejected you? If you can actually feel a bit of this fear intentionally and with compassionate awareness, this is a first step to healing this fear. Learning to feel painful feelings with compassion towards yourself allows you to dip into these feelings while you are in control — as opposed to needing these feelings to get triggered unconsciously by a lover.

If you tend to feel empty or lost without your lover or if you are obsessed with worries about the relationship, you probably have a deep-seated fear of abandonment or of being alone. If this is your issue, I recommend allowing yourself to experience the “alone” feelings triggered by the relationship but in very small doses.

And do this with intention, with the conscious aim of touching into your pain from a wiser, more loving place in yourself — a place that knows it’s okay to experience emotional pain, a place that realizes a certain amount of “fear of loss” is normal when you love someone.

Most dysfunctional relationship patterns arise out of the need to stay unconscious about our normal fears and about the normal emotional discomfort we feel when differences arise. When we just can’t stand any emotional discomfort, like when we have to have our own way in a relationship, that’s when we get into inappropriate relationships that force us to feel our hidden fears and insecurities — even to the point of dramatizing these.

You can have it all in love: both sex and healthy love. You do not have to choose between being passionately in love and being a cooperative team. But to achieve this, you need to realize that if your current relationship is unhealthy, you need to take an honest look at how you tend to avoid what I call, “the normal discomforts of relationship.” Dealing with differences is uncomfortable, yes. But to avoid dealing with your differences in a relationship can only create needless suffering or what we might call, “the unnecessary dramas of relationship.”

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