Recovery From Relationship Addiction

Adapted from Article by Bob Barrows of New Directions Life Management (843-237-8888)
Relationship addiction can be defined as the inability to disengage from an unhealthy relationship that consumes one’s thoughts, desires, and actions. Relationship addiction may or may not include a sexual component. It is often an aspect of extramarital affairs. Following are six guidelines for living with a propensity toward relationship addiction:
  1. Recognize that for you, relationships are drugs attempting to fill a deep-seated void in your emotional life. The strong, magnetic pull of the relationship is more about this void than about the qualities or positive attributes of the other person.
  2. Since relationships tend to be your “drug of choice” or DOC, you must be on extreme guard when interacting with those who would be possible candidates for your need of a relational “fix.” For example, if your drug mainly involves members of the opposite sex within a certain age or appearance range, then these individuals must be avoided as friends. Any friendship with such persons can easily become your next “fix,” even though your initial intentions towards them may be completely innocent and casual. Interactions with such individuals must be limited, and sharing any personal information about yourself with them must be avoided at all costs.
  3. Since people with relationship addiction have a strong need for intimacy, a legitimate need, you must be proactive in seeking out healthy relationships with individuals who have no potential in becoming an emotional “fix” for you. An example would be forming a relationship with a healthy same-sex person with whom you share common interests.
  4. If sex is a part of your addictive relationships, the challenge of breaking free from these relationships is even stronger since the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain released during sex, such as dopamine, are themselves addictive. If sex is involved, sexual addiction issues need to be addressed as well as relationship addiction issues.
  5. If you are currently engaged in an addictive relationship and desire to break free you must know there is only one way to do this: cold turkey with a commitment to have no further contact with the person in any way. You cannot gradually wean yourself off of an addictive relationship any more than an alcoholic or drug addict can gradually wean off from mood-altering substances. One drink is all it takes to put the alcoholic back into addiction. For you, one phone call, one email, text message, card, note, letter, voicemail, or brief visit is all it takes to put you back into the prison of your addition with that person.
  6. You cannot disengage from addictive relationships on your own. You need professional help to understand the dynamics of the addiction as well as a support network to stand by you and walk with you through the breaking-free process.

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