Symptoms of Relationship Addiction

Symptoms of Relationship Addiction:
Premature Bonding
Relationship addicts have an overwhelming need to bond with someone. This goes beyond a healthy need to connect with others. Unfortunately, this need to form an instant attachment tends to overwhelm other people and pushes them away. And it leads to poor decisions about whom to let into one’s life.
Excessive Fantasies

Throughout the course of the relationship, the addict spends a great deal of time thinking about the other person and how perfect things will be. Even after the relationship has ended, the fantasies about getting together again may continue. Of course, a healthy love relationship also involves fantasies, but addictive fantasies have an obsessive quality about them. These fantasies tend to take over one’s day. The need to fantasize takes precedence over socializing with others, work, taking care of normal daily routines – and they tend to become dreams or expectations that must come true.

The Need for Excitement
Addicts in general crave getting “high.” Relationship addicts base their ideas about a relationship on romance, and this involves creating drama. They might pick fights just to experience a rush of excitement. An ordinary argument becomes a war. They see reality in terms of their own needs, so they easily read between the lines (“No matter what she says, I know she really loves me”). A love addict fails to understand that a normal relationship involves a series of highs and lows – in real life, lows do not mean that the love has ended. They see an ordinary relationship as boring because it lacks a sense of constant excitement.

Exaggerated Anxiety and Jealousy about the Relationship
Relationship addicts typically have fears left over from earlier experiences in their lives when they have been neglected, rejected, or abandoned. Their greatest fear in adulthood is feeling lonely because this reminds them of their earlier negative experiences – and they never want to endure that again. They need to feel attached and find it difficult to live independently. So, in their relationships they tend to look constantly for signs that things are not going well. They become possessive of their partner, experiencing anxiety when the partner is not present and frequently accusing or nagging the partner.

Ineffective Expression of Emotions
The relationship addict, because of difficult earlier life experiences, is confused and overwhelmed by emotions. For example, she/he might feel that anger leads to rejection or abandonment, so she/he doesn’t express anger and instead holds in all emotional expression – and when someone expresses anger to the relationship addict, she/he is unable to tolerate it. She might harbor painful feelings that seem unrelated to present circumstances. She/he may become stoic (relationship addicts have a great tolerance for suffering and endure substantial pain rather than face the prospect of a breakup of the relationship). Because she/he suppresses her normal, flexible emotional expression, she/he may revert to polarized expression of feelings (“all or nothing”) – for example, love or hate (but nothing in between), vigilance or complacency, fear or courage.

Loose Personal Boundaries
Because many relationship addicts have issues with self-esteem, they have weak personal boundaries. They lose their sense of individuality and become enmeshed with their partner. They don’t know where their needs and emotions begin and where their partner’s end. If their partner feels happy, they feel happy. If their partner feels sad, they feel sad. If they sense that their partner wants them to be a certain way, that is what they become. They have difficulty saying “no.” Unfortunately, this sets the stage for being treated with disrespect. Addictive relationships show a lack of equality between the two partners.

The healthy love relationship can be viewed in terms of two independent people who come together and make a commitment to each other. They each have the freedom to live as they choose within the boundaries of the commitment, and they are loved by their partner for showing integrity in how they live. Their partner encourages them to follow the beat of their own drum. The commitment enhances each partner’s ability to experience a full life – with love, security, and support.
If you believe you or someone you know can relate to any of the above symptoms it would be good to seek the help of a counselor or therapist who can make an assessment to determine whether or not there could be a relationship addiction in the making.
I work with individuals and couples in San Diego and its neighboring communities.  I also provide telephone and internet counseling so please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

Emotional Unavailability – When Your Partner Can’t Connect

Emotional Unavailability – When Your Partner Can’t Connect. When we commit to a relationship, we usually expect that our partner will reciprocate with roughly the same level of emotional involvement that we put into it. Many of us hope to find a soulmate, a partner who can share and understand our feelings and ways of thinking on an intensely personal level. Others don’t expect such an intense level of involvement and feel more comfortable maintaining personal privacy within a relationship with more appropriate boundaries. Conflicts may arise when the two partners differ in their expectations of how close they should become. One partner may feel emotionally stranded, feeling abandoned and craving more closeness, while the other partner may feel smothered or pressured into providing more of his or her emotional self than can possibly be given.

The course of a relationship follows a predictable path. The early weeks, months, or even years of a relationship, in fact, are a time of togetherness – when partners search for and experience the similarities that bring them together. It is common for a couple during this first phase to experience a level of emotional sharing so intense that they want to carry their relationship to a more committed level. The next stage, however, is when boundaries are established, when we focus on our differences and in maintaining our own individuality. Couples who can negotiate their way through both of these stages are moving toward a successful long-term commitment. Both of the initial stages typify a good relationship – the coming together phase, followed by the firming up of our own identities within the relationship. A solid relationship is one in which feelings can be readily expressed and shared while each of the partners is able to experience a sense of their own identities.

All too often, however, there is a discrepancy between the two partners in terms of how much of their emotional life they make available to the other. When one partner is able to share emotionally and the other is not, it is usually the emotionally available one who feels more pain. Take the classic example of a couple who has an intense courtship. One partner lavishes the other with flowers, expensive dinners out, and intimate phone calls. Sweetness fills the air and it feels like a dream come true. You have finally met “the one” you had always hoped to meet. But then, almost as quickly as it began, your partner fails to reciprocate when it comes to sharing emotional feelings. Dating comes to a stop, voicemail messages are not answered, and it’s over. There is no fight. There is no discussion about why things are coming to an end.  You’ve now experienced being “ghosted.”

After you accept that it’s over, you struggle to make sense of the relationship and notice that the focus was always on you, and that’s why it felt so good. In fact, your partner knew a great deal about you, but you knew virtually nothing about him or her. You confused flattery and attention with emotional involvement. You may finally realize that your partner was unable to connect with you or anyone on an emotional level. He or she was an expert at luring people in, but had no ability to sustain an emotionally available relationship over time.

It is a painful ride, but you can learn a valuable lesson from it – that relationships entail reciprocal self-disclosure and sharing. The next time, you’ll have the wisdom to know this before being drawn in.  For more information about emotionally unavailable people and how to avoid them or try to live with them contact me at (858) 735-1139

The Dumpers and The Dumpees

The Dumpers and The Dumpees.  A breakup seems easiest for couples who decide mutually to end the relationship. In most cases, however, as suggested by Bruce Fisher and Robert Alberti, in their book, Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends, a breakup involves a dumper, the party who takes the initiative to end the relationship, and a dumpee, the one who wants the relationship to continue it.  Sometimes, when one analyzes the nature of the relationship, it may be difficult to decide just who is the dumper and the dumpee. In general, however, the dumper is the one who says it is all over, and the dumpee is the one in shock who begs the other not to leave. Dumpees often say they were taken completely by surprise by their partner’s announcement.

The breakup experience is often very different for each of the two parties. The dumper usually began preparing for the end well before the final announcement, and the actual parting often comes as a relief for the dumper. The primary emotion experienced by the dumper is guilt. The dumpee, on the other hand, is usually hit by surprise and with a great deal of pain. The turmoil of the breakup itself is usually much more intense for the dumpee, but it is this pain that can motivate more personal growth. The main task of the dumpee is to work through feelings of rejection. Both parties usually experience a great deal of pain as their relationship comes to an end, although the pain of guilt is different from the pain of rejection. For a healthy adjustment, it is important to recognize which role has been assumed, dumper or dumpee, and to work on the issues appropriate to that role.

How Long Do I Wait Until I Get Into Another Relationship? Expect that it will take at least a year before things begin to feel at all normal again. For most of us, depending on the length and the nature of our previous relationship, it will take two or three years. This may seem like an eternity, but in reality, this is a wonderful and precious opportunity to find out who you are as an unattached individual. A word of warning is in order – don’t expect to involve yourself with someone else immediately! You are on the rebound. To attach yourself prematurely in a love relationship is unfair to you and to the other person. You must deal with important personal issues when your previous love relationship comes to an end.

Living through the transition and exploring these issues can be painful – and falling in love again may seem like the perfect way to end the pain.  If you enter the dating scene too quickly and before you have a chance to explore the issues which led to your breakup, the other person becomes a replacement object, and that is not what a healthy relationship is about. You will probably carry into this replacement relationship the same issues that helped to lead to the demise of your former relationship – and similar events may very well happen again. Your real goal is to discover who you are and to explore what happened. When you are at the point of being able to have a happy and fulfilled life as a single person, then you can choose when, or even if, you should involve yourself in another love relationship. When you know that you have that choice, you may be ready. I help individuals and couples who have broken up, with this process in therapy.

If you would like to know more about working on personal issues as they do effect relationship issues, please call me at (858) 735-1139 and I can help you sort out what you need to know about what is contributing to your relationship.