This post was updated on Feb 9, 2023
People generally want to be close to others… emotionally and physically. After all, life is better shared with someone special. But for some people, the euphoric feeling of being in love can be intoxicating and addictive.
The words “I’m addicted to you” may sound sweet, loving and romantic at the moment. However, this could be a warning sign for something darker.
But first, consider what a normal or healthy relationship is.
Healthy relationships start with growing up in a functional family… your parents prepare you to emotionally and intellectually relate with others. To share, connect and have each other’s needs met.
Healthy relationships do not involve constant drama and continual feelings of longing. You do not have to wonder, wait, or live in turmoil over your last meeting.
However, if you grew up in a dysfunctional family, then you lose sight of what is a healthy relationship.
Unhealthy relationship patterns lead to unbalanced, unfulfilled and addictive relationships.
Just like an addiction to alcohol, drugs or other substances, being in an addictive relationship is unhealthy, toxic and powerful.
7 facts you should know about addictive relationships
Key 1: Magical (or Unrealistic) Expectations
Addictive relationships are not real. They function out of fantasy. In reality, you are in love with what you wish the person was… not what they are.
This starts even before you meet your partner. Before you have a relationship. You form expectations of what your relationship will be like. How you will feel once you have a relationship.
Having magical expectations leads to wanting to change the person you are to be selected by the person that you’d like to be with.
If you find yourself constantly thinking that the relationship would be perfect if the person could change a little bit, then it is a sign of a dysfunctional relationship.
Key 2: Visible Patterns and Characteristics
Addictive relationships are composed of three elements: obsession or preoccupation, the feeling of being out of control, and the need to stay in it despite negative consequences.
Addictive relationships follow patterns and cycles, which include:
- Mind Games
Key 3: Instant Gratification
Addictive relationships happen fast and hard because it’s often based on instant sexual addiction.
Being in this type of relationship feels exciting, like an adrenaline surge. However, adrenaline is fear-based. This feeling is often confused with attraction, passion or instant love.
If it is love at first sight, animal attraction, or infatuation, then these are your warning bells.
Key 4: Obsessiveness and Desperation
An addiction to a person or relationship involves obsessive thoughts about the relationship: anticipation, waiting, confusion, and desperation.
It involves thinking about the relationships all the time and believing that without intense continuous effort the connection will be destroyed.
Key 5: Isolate Yourselves from the World
Being in an addictive relationship is intoxicating, to the point where you feel that no-one can share this marvelous experience you have. Because they won’t understand. So, you isolate yourselves from the world.
An addictive relationship is defined by an increasing craving to be alone with the person. Which also leads to withdrawal symptoms when you are away from them.
By staying isolated, you may find that you lose yourself and what you stand for.
Key 6: Cycle of Pain
Being in an addictive relationship becomes a vicious cycle. You become addicted to the brain chemistry related to the anticipation and traumatic bonding of the relationship.
Yet, because the relationship is so unfulfilling, you are left feeling empty, lonely and unfulfilled. This ends temporarily every time you are with your object of obsession (the person).
Key 7: Where it Starts
Issues in your adult relationships relate to your childhood. You’re drawn to what’s familiar, regardless of how good it is for you. It is what you know.
Addictive relationships, like different types of addiction, becomes a survival pattern. They happen because you are trying to fill the hole of an abandonment wound from childhood.
If you’ve experienced any of the following and have not taken the time to heal your wounds, then you are likely to be susceptible to addictive relationships:
- Your parents got divorced
- One or both of your parents were alcoholic
- You were adopted
- You lost a sibling or parent at a young age
- You were abused
- Your parents were emotionally unavailable
- You were neglected
- You were afraid of being abandoned
- You didn’t get validation from your parents
What to do about addictive relationships
Now if you’ve dated one harmful person, this doesn’t mean you’re addicted to bad relationships. However, if you’re noticing a pattern, then there may be a problem.
Although being in an addictive relationship feels isolating and lonely, you’re not alone. It is more common than people think.
The good news… it doesn’t mean you will always be in an addictive relationship for life. You are not “broken.”
Just because you come from a dysfunctional family doesn’t mean you can’t create secure attachments and healthy relationships. If you are committed to change, then you’re not stuck with this forever.
Instead, be open to change and find someone who understands and can help you to talk about the relationship and the pain that’s inside of you.
Remember you are worthy of happiness and love, and a healthy relationship. You can have relational freedom.
If you are ready to create meaningful connections and overcome addictive relationships, then contact PIVOT. We’re here to help.