Addictive relationships can be toxic, it can leave one or both partners feeling helpless, hopeless, afraid to leave the relationship and are very rarely healthy.
So, how do we know if we are in an addictive relationship? Here are 5 signs that you may be in one and what you can do about it.
1.) YOU HAVE FREQUENT ARGUMENTS
If you have read my previous blog posts, I often talk about normalizing conflict as an inevitable part of a healthy relationship. And, of course, every relationship has its' challenges and you will not get along all of the time.
However, if your relationship is a constant battle, where you don't have enough time in between your arguments to recover, this may be a sign of an addictive relationship.
Addictive relationships thrive on drama. There may be a never-ending cycle of catastrophic interactions, sometimes where there are threats of ending the relationship, that create a constant instability where neither partner can fully recover.
According to author Mark Manson, "Drama is when someone creates unnecessary conflict that generates a false sense of meaning for a short period of time."
However, drama is not meaningful or healthy. It is, in fact, toxic and does not promote a healthy and functional relationship.
2.) YOUR MIND IS CONSTANTLY PREOCCUPIED WITH THE RELATIONSHIP
Sure, we think about our partner throughout the day, keeping them in mind as we go about our days and fulfilling our daily responsibilities.
However, if we find that we are consumed with thoughts of our partner, going over the last argument in our heads, unable to focus on other things, this is a sign of an addictive relationship.
Often when we are in addictive relationships, we know on some level it's not good for us, and yet, we don't leave. This creates an inner turmoil that can occupy your mind, trying to make sense of the relationship and how to fix it. In addition, if you find yourself making a list of excuses of why your partner behaved the way they did, this can also can be an indication of addiction to the relationship (and potentially abuse).
3.) YOU HIDE PARTS OF (OR ALL OF) YOUR RELATIONSHIP FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Like with any addiction, we hide our drug of choice from others. In addictive relationships, we know this relationship isn't a good one and thereby hide what's really going on with our loved ones. We might even hide the relationship because that's the only way it could survive. Sometimes, we know that if our friends and family knew about it, they might encourage us to leave and we are not ready to let the relationship go.
4.) YOU FEEL YOU CANNOT SURVIVE WITHOUT THE RELATIONSHIP
In addictive relationships we find ourselves unable to leave. We may even decide to end the relationship, only to rush back into their arms, fearful about losing them or being alone. Sometimes an indicator of an addictive relationship can be the cycle of frequently breaking up and getting back together. Feeling powerless and unable to find the strength, we stay in the relationship paralyzed with the idea of being alone and on our own.
5.) YOU FEEL LOST AND QUESTION YOURSELF ALL THE TIME
Sometimes in addictive and toxic relationships, our partner will put us down or tell us our thoughts and feelings are not valid. We may start believe them and question ourselves and our ideas, thoughts, feelings and opinions. You may pull back and conform to your partners values and beliefs in order to avoid conflict, causing further disconnection from who you really are and your values. Also, if we acknowledge things are bad and don't leave, we may beat ourselves up about it and start to feel depressed and anxious.
WHAT TO DO?
Acknowledging you might be in an addictive and toxic relationship is the first step in the process. So, what can you do if you find yourself in a toxic relationship?
1.) CREATE A LIST OF REASONS WHY THE RELATIONSHIP DIDN'T WORK FOR YOU
Our memories of an addictive relationship can be selective and we may remember only the good times or memories with that person and it can be easy to forget why we left the relationship in the first place. Sometimes writing down a list of the reasons why you left can be helpful in those moments when we feel tempted to reach out and reunite with our old flame. And the truth is, all the negative and toxic things will still be there if we decide to get back together, leaving you in the same place or worse than you were before. Instead of reaching for your phone to text or call them, reach for your journal and write down honestly all the things that you did not like about your relationship to give yourself a chance to analyze the relationship more realistically.
2.) DEVELOP A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF
When we are in toxic relationships, we stop doing the things we love or realize we haven't give ourselves the time to discover what really brings us meaning and moments of joy.
Also, check in with yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. How are you taking care of yourself? This is a good time to take a walk outside on a nice day, connect with friends that care and support you and read a good book you neglected to finish. Doing these things sends the message that you matter and, ultimately, you care enough about yourself and will not tolerate anyone who doesn't feel the same.
3.) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT AND CARE ABOUT YOU
You may have lost touch with family and friends during the course of your relationship. This might be a good time to reconnect with those you felt close to and begin to create a support system so you don't feel alone. This helps you be more resilient in moments of doubt or loneliness and will remind you of your value and worth.
Finally, going through a break up is never easy and is a loss that needs to be grieved. Sometimes getting counseling or therapy can be helpful to process the loss and help you to heal and move on. No matter the state of the relationship, a loss can be hard, so go easy on yourself and feel the feelings as they come up, even if that means that you cry or feel the anger that had built up for so long.
And remember, you are worthy of genuine love and belonging.
With caring and support,