Addictive Relationships: Are You in One?

The Greeks had no shortage of words for love. Eros indicated passionate, romantic love, full of desire and longing. Philia was the kind of love that came with friendship and loyalty. Storge, thelema, and agape also meant love, but all in different ways. In English, however, we tend to lump it all together – although we have plenty of words to describe the different elements of love (affection, devotion, infatuation, passion, and so forth), as far as actual love is concerned, we only have that one word to express it.

We also have another word that can sometimes be related: addiction. Addiction is being so gripped by a habit or practice as to be enslaved by it. This progresses to such an extent that its sensation causes actual trauma, a psychological wound so deep that the damage is both significant and lasting. The etymological root of addiction is addictio – to surrender to or to give something over. Addictive love has this enslavement and surrender about it, and when this is not addressed, it can lead to some very dark and dangerous things.

I think spiritual leader and author Thomas Moore said it best: most addiction and addictive behavior is based on us misinterpreting or distorting our soul’s longing. I have noticed over the years that when we are not in touch with our true selves, we are much more likely to fall prey to those potentially destructive behaviors we learned in our youth to help quench the longings we perceive. When those longings fall into the “object love” category, this can often set us up for entering into addictive relationships.

But it’s not that repetition in itself is bad. On the contrary, it’s repetitive behaviors that are responsible for many of our successes. The trick is to spot when our patterns are unhealthy and destructive, and to examine those more deeply. Each time we can catch it, we have a perfect opportunity for deep self-inquiry.

Keeping drama to a minimum can seem boring, sure. If you are attracted to the drama and fun of bad boys, it can be difficult to see that the novelty is only temporary. If you suspect you might bo one of the hundreds of thousands of people who are trapped in the cycle of relationship addiction, here are some questions that might help clarify things:

Do you have feelings of restlessness or agitation when you don’t know where this person is?

Do you bend over backwards to be agreeable, accommodating, or sexier in order to retain this person’s interest?

Are you having increasing feelings of being unfulfilled in this relationship as time goes on?

Do you ever feel that your attraction seems bigger than you?

Do you feel overwhelming relief or a kind of high when this person calls or contacts you?

Do you feel some excitement or a sense of the forbidden with this person?

Do you find yourself rationalizing or making excuses for their behavior?

Do you find that your own usual behavior changes when you are around this person?

Does it seem that deep down, you do not share any of the same values or behaviors?

Do you keep finding reasons to stay even though you already know you are in the grip of an unhealthy addiction?

Have some of your other relationships with friends and family been damaged because of your relationship?

Do you know deep inside that this is not the person you really want to be with, but somehow you still don’t manage to leave?

It can be difficult to see your own addictive relationship, but having the courage to look is a wonderful first step forward. If you are in an uncertain situation right now, I would say this: start raising your self-awareness. A journal can help greatly with this. If you do find that your relationship has crossed the line from dependent into addictive, or is in danger of doing so, you are not alone by any means. There are plenty of helpful groups out there who can assist you with getting back in the love game in a healthy way, with more productive behavioral patterns. For assistance, contact your local chapter of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.

Maryanne’s teaching another emotional and physical self-defense workshop in Santa Rosa, CA along with karate black belts. More info on http://askmaryannelive.com. Can’t get to Maryanne in person? Her new DVD series, launched this week gives you personal, expert relationship advice from the comfort of your own home. Discover: Six critical tools for your relationship tool belt, which of your relationship patterns are destroying your chances for having a great relationship, why having sex too soon can be a deal breaker ~ and more! Click here.

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