Managing Conflict in Relationships​

What is relationship addiction?

Relationship addiction is a state of being addicted to a particular relationship, past or present, and feeling great anxiety and withdrawal symptoms when trying to pull back and away from the relationship. Like any addiction, relationship addiction is a state of losing self to an outside force. Whether or not the outside force is in fact damaging, severe loss of self-esteem, self-resources and self-respect occurs as a result of losing one’s vital connection to ‘self’’.

Is relationship addiction widely recognized?

There are all sorts of recognition and groups formed for many addictions, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex. Relationship addiction doesn’t have the exposure, support and knowledge necessary to assist those needing to break the dependency and pain of relationship addiction. This is astounding considering that all addictions are emotional based (the urge and compulsion of the addiction is driven by anxiety). Relationships clearly are a prolific source of emotional pangs and pain, therefore being one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful addictive pull of all. It stands to reason that many of the other ‘known’ addictions are often by-products of the pain created by relationship addiction.

Is relationship addiction another name for co-dependency?

Yes. It’s very true that relationship addicts are in fact operating co-dependently, that is they’ve lost their sense of self and are being controlled by people and circumstances outside of themselves.

What are the symptoms of relationship addiction?

The symptoms of relationship addiction are identical to the symptoms of co-dependency. They are:

  • Basing your life on what your partner or ex-partner is or isn’t doing.
  • Losing interest in personal goals and pastimes.
  • Compliance to aspects of the relationship that you don’t agree with, and situations that may not be healthy for you.
  • An unhealthy attachment to try and change aspects of the relationship that are causing pain.
  • Feeling like you’re nothing or worthless without the relationship.
  • Often feeling ‘empty’, depressed, lost and powerless.
  • Craving attention in the relationship, and feeling high levels of anxiety when not receiving it.
  • Feeling abandoned and panicked when your partner or ex-partner pulls away from you.
  • Exhibiting behavior that reaches out of control levels.

What are the dangers of relationship addiction?

Because an individual may not have the strength or emotional integrity to ‘be with self’, and manage self without the relationship, the individual is in a high-risk category for tolerating dysfunctional and even abusive circumstances, which will then lead to a further deterioration of self. As with the effects of co-dependency, an advanced state of relationship addiction is extremely serious and can lead to mortality.

Marinda Reynecke

Marinda Reynecke

Counselling Psychologist

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