What Happens in Relationship Addiction? Addiction comes in many forms. Substance abuse and relationships. As a Marriage and Family Therapist I work with people who suffer from relationship addiction. This kind of addiction is a result of some kind of co-dependency.
The Relationship Addiction Process starts off like many relationships where two people meet and start to enjoy each other’s company. Addictive relationships typically go through a process that usually starts with an innocent attraction to someone – and this quickly turns into an infatuation. The relationship addict, who is hungry for love, feels exhilarated and blinded by “love at first sight.” This turns into an excessive preoccupation with the loved one involving hours of fantasy about how the relationship might turn out. (Of course, this happens in normal love relationships also – but the degree to which this happens in an addicted relationship is enormous. This is a case in which feelings control one’s life while rational thought is abandoned – and this is not a healthy style of living.) Love addicts then project all of their dreams for eternal happiness onto the loved one (most healthy people, of course, realize that they are ultimately responsible for their own happiness). See symptoms of relationship addiction.
These fantasies trigger the dependency phase of the relationship. The love addict then develops the fear that the relationship could come to an end, and with it, the end of hope for a happy life. These fears lead to an obsessive quest to hold on to this relationship at any cost – even if it means control and manipulation.
This is when the relationship typically begins to deteriorate. The relationship addict puts so much energy into molding the relationship into what he or she needs that the other person begins to feel smothered, intimidated, and ungrateful. The loved one resents having to live to meet the needs of another person, especially when there is a feeling of control (people typically want to maximize their own life experience rather than using a great deal of their energy to make another person feel comfortable). The loved one may even express resentment in the form of lying, cheating, taking for granted, or abusing the love addict. This puts a severe strain on the relationship and it makes the relationship addict try even harder. A vicious cycle begins.
Love addicts keep on trying, however, attempting at all cost to keep alive the dream of experiencing happiness through the other person. The pain of going through this can be immense. They go into denial, acting as if everything is going well. They are not able to see where the true problem lies, which is in their own unmet needs and their addictive resolution. They idealize the relationship, even though it is barely viable and not meeting the needs of either partner.
A relationship addict who is at this stage of a deteriorating relationship might consider a good, healthy intervention with a professional therapist. Failing to find help can have severe mental, emotional, and physical consequences. There comes a time to make a major life change and to learn how to deal with the pain in a different and more productive way.
For additional information on co-dependency and relationship addiction please contact me at (858) 735-1139.