As we continue to discuss Addictions this week, it is important to identify Relationship Addictions. We see this a lot at Imagine Hope. Again, it is one of the Addictions that is hard to recognize if you don't understand what it is. It is "acceptable". You've heard people say, and there was even a song written about it, "They are just addicted to love". This can actually happen.
Relationship Addiction is when someone feels incomplete when they are alone and not in a relationship. They feel they need a relationship to make them a whole person. Because of this, they often find themselves in unsatisfying relationships and will stay in them until they find another person. Here are some common characteristics and behaviors found in a Relationship Addict:
1. When they are in a bad relationship, it is difficult for them to see that is is unhealthy. They make excuses and live in a lot of denial because they are afraid of leaving and being alone. They often break up and then get back together, usually several times with one person. They will continue this cycle usually until they have someone "on deck".
2. Relationship Addicts won't leave a relationship until they have someone else in the works (as I said above, on deck). This person gives them the security they need to leave the relationship, knowing they won't be alone.
3. They feel any relationship is better than none at all, even unhealthy ones.
4. Their relationships are usually unbalanced: 90/10% Giving vs. Taking. They continue giving so the person won't leave. They worry about pleasing that person so they won't leave.
5. They believe they can change each partner into who they want them to be and strive to do so.
6. Relationship Addicts are strongly drawn to others and feel a deep connection right away to many people.
7. Some of them are very independent with their work or other parts of their personal life. However, when it comes to a romantic relationship, they can't be alone.
8. They will often drop all their friends to focus all their time on their romantic relationships.
Do you recognize any of these? We hear so often, "I don't have to have someone in my life- I just don't like being alone!" Yes, all of us have a need for relationships in our lives, we are wired that way. However, when we feel we are incomplete when we don't have someone and we stay in unhealthy relationships to avoid being alone, we are acting addictive.
To even further show how this can be an addiction, the withdrawl symptoms of someone who is a Relationship Addict and is trying to stop the cycle are very similar to someone who is quitting drugs or alcohol: Depression, loss of appetite, poor concentration, withdraw, lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, preoccupation with relationships.
There are options to get help: Counseling, CODA (Co-dependents Anonymous), working a 12-step program. Relationship Addictions can be difficult to treat without support. The challenge is helping the addict see that they need to not be in relationship for awhile to learn about recovery. Because it is not a "drug", many clients feel they can stay in relationships and recover. It is the same as drinking while you're trying to quit drinking- it doesn't work.
Imagine Hope's therapists are trained to work with Relationship Addiction. Additionally, you may find www.lifelinecounseling.com helpful. Thank you for reading!
*Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC, LCAC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville.