In a new book “Love Smacked,” I explored the various complexities of relationship addiction. As a guideline to a working definition and a greater understanding, keep in mind that any type of addiction is something that causes a negative occurrence in the individual’s life.
The Damage of Addiction
Just like being addicted to work, to sex or to dieting can create physical and mental health negative impacts, so can being addicted to being in a relationship. Of course, most people on earth are in a relationship at any given period in time, but these relationships are healthy and non-problematic for the individual. When they cross the line to being emotionally or physically abusive, or when one partner sees his or her identity only as being in a relationship, it becomes a toxic situation.
The challenge in relationship and marriage that a person with this type of addiction loves the falling in love component of the relationship. They want to be swept off their feet, and are prepared to do whatever it takes to not just experience that feeling in the initial part of the relationship, but to continue to expect the “other” in the relationship to become their other half, completing themselves and filling in an eternal void in their emotional state.
At the same time, the person addicted to the marriage or the relationship sees and feels the gap. They recognize there is a lack of this satisfaction and feeling of being complete through the partner, but they cannot let go as being alone is just too impossible to consider.
The End Game
For those with relationship and marriage addiction, stopping and considering what is going wrong in the multitude of failed relationships is not an option. It is the search for the feeling of being in love, for the perfect partner, and for the next promising relationships that drive them forward.
People with love addiction tend to jump immediately from one relationship to another. Every new partner is Mr. or Ms. Right. The love addict fails to recognize the repeating pattern in partner personalities, which leads them to copies of a doomed relationship time and time again. This is a direct result of being so interested in being in a relationship that time spent on straightening their own priorities and exploring the root causes of trauma that create this ongoing cycle.
Relationship and marriage addicts have to be a relationship or a marriage. It is not an option to take the time to be on their own and become comfortable with themselves as a person on their own. Instead, they are constantly in rebound relationships, often cycling in a downward spiral of choosing partners that also have emotional and relationship issues.
For these people, being an individual on their own is not a sign of strength or a positive goal. They only see being in a relationship as the way they want to spend their life, and they are willing to exert all of their energy into achieving that goal, no matter how destructive and even dangerous it may become.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Certified Transformation and Recovery Coach and the leading Psychotherapist on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and Sex Addiction. She is also the author of Love Smacked and Infinite Recovery. Take her quiz to find out if you are a love addict or sign up for a 30-minute strategy session. Sherry maintains a private practice in Westlake Village, CA as well as facilitating skype and phone appointments. For more information, visit www.sherrygaba.com.