Are you Addicted to Bad Relationships?

Advertising executive, Carol Fena has been in and out of a relationship with banker, Neal for the last two years. They break up for a week or two but then keep getting back together until the next blow-up. Carol's friends can't understand why she keeps going back to Neal and why she is so addicted to him in spite of the fact that he is emotionally abusive.

Many are the people caught in the web of addictive relationships. And often, we ourselves realise that we have been in relationships that have disappointed us in some way or another... relationships that didn't work out the way we had hoped, wanted or thought they would. And, we're not just talking about intimate and love relationships. We're talking about toxic friends, back stabbing relatives, abusive partners and controlling family members, vicious colleagues.

Sometimes the poisoned relationship is with a family member or an in-law. Or perhaps a friendship has lived out its purpose. In this case, so much time has been invested in the friendship that it is hard to let go. However, addictive relationships are most often evident in romantic interactions between men and women.


Remaining in a bad relationship not only causes continual stress but can also cloud your life with frustration, emptiness and despair. It can drain your energy and make you tense and stressed. Addicts become so elaborately enmeshed in the other person that the sense of self-personal identity is severely restricted, crowded out by that other person's identity and problems. Such people struggle relentlessly to fill the great emotional vacuum within themselves. Despite the pain of these relationships, many rational and practical people find that they are unable to leave, even though they know the relationship is bad for them.

One part of them wants out but a seemingly stronger part refuses or feels helpless to take any action. It is in this sense that the relationships are addictive. In case of romantic relationships, entering a relationship based on the fear of being alone is totally self-destructive. In this type of scenario, an individual will choose to be with just about anybody to fill the void he/she has in life. Desperation for love and romance to fulfill your desires may lead to selection of wrong partners. So, if you use your fears and insecurities to make your relationship decisions, you inevitably will have to suffer pain and suffering.


A person who is excessively attached to another person most likely carried those habits over from past relationships. The conditions in past relationships can leave a person feeling inadequate or mentally and/or physically abused. Romantic relationships are not the only type that causes such habits to develop; they can also stem from lack of nurturing or attention during childhood, isolation or detachment from family, early abandonment, unrecognised early needs and fears of rejection. Often, children who are not loved, nurtured and encouraged in their independence are left feeling 'needy' as adults and may thus be more vulnerable to dependent relationships. These 'clingy' feelings which develop early in childhood, often operate without awareness and can exert considerable influence on a person's life. Often, dysfunctional relationship patterns are passed on from parents to their children.

Thus, unhealthy relationships can be a source of great agony if there is emotional or physical abuse involved. Often, relation addicts do not want to see or believe that their parents, spouses, children or friends can be a toxic influence in their life. This kind of denial may last a lifetime, or it may give way to a painful awareness that the relationship is not healthy. Also, for many people caught in this trap, it is often a vicious circle. For them, the end of one relationship is not always the end of the battle. They choose destructive relationships over and over again. The consequences of their choices are painful and emotionally damaging, yet those that engage in this repetitive behaviour never seem to learn from their experience.


All relationships leave very important clues about who and what we are. Try to remember all the relationships that you know have been bad for you. Think of the relationship history and look for patterns, themes and repeating incidents. "If it is all about everyone else and what they did to you, it means you are a victim, helpless to affect change. When you can see where you are contributing to the problems, you can make changes. Personal accountability is the most empowering tool for healing. You can talk to a trusted friend or a counsellor depending upon the severity of your situation. Sometimes having an outsider's perspective is helpful. Such a person can help you filter through your options and underlying motives for making a decision. Often, it is difflcult to sever ties with people with whom you are emotionally involved - say family members, spouses, boyfriend/girlfriend, ete. Breaking up will not be easy. Be sure to resolve any guilt you might be feeling. Too often we let other people relate to us on the basis of our weaknesses and faults. We are attracted to bad traits in people and consequently, these characteristics lead to unhealthy relationships. These people have no other way of relating to us. It will take some re-learning and re-conditioning to achieve this change of relating to others through our strengths, especially if the negative relationship has been long term. You have to let go of negative relationships. It could mean you have to break a business partnership. It could mean you need to call off an engagement. It might require you to avoid toxic friends and acquire some new friends who are true to you.


Married people stay together to work out their issues. This approach to marriage counselling believes that your partner is the right person to help you heal your wounds. With this approach, many marriages can be saved. However, there are three reasons to leave a relationship: The Three As. There is severe abuse, severe adultery and severe addiction. These three extreme conditions rarely change. In such cases, getting out of the relationship is important. You are putting yourself, and possibly others, in serious jeopardy if you continue to stay in the relationship. Divorce in such cases is merited. Also, partners sometimes stay in bad marriages for the sake of the children. But this can be a big mistake if there is abuse involved, because doing so puts a terrible burden on the children. But marriage experts believe that each marriage has different issues and if the problems can be solved amicably, there is no need for divorce. A study conducted by sociologist Linda Waite at University of Chicago suggests that staying together is better for the children. She writes in The Case for Marriage that "most current divorces leave children worse off, educationally and financially, than they would have been if their parents stayed married, and a majority of divorces leave children psychologically worse off as well. Only a minority of divorces are taking place in families where children are likely to benefit in any way from their parents' separation. I do not advocate divorce as a first step when a marriage is going awry. There are always ups and downs in a marriage. Anyone can manage life during good times. It is getting through the bad times that makes or breaks a relationship.


It is not difficult to break bad relationship habits. Once you decide to let go off your clingy nature, healing will automatically come. Once you aim to heal your past and maintain healthy relationships, you will automatically stay away from associating with toxic people. Always try to keep your relationships healthy. People in healthy relationships grow together and don't stunt each other's progress. Learn to respect your individuality and give and take space. Sometimes we have to associate with negative people, but if you have a healthy self-esteem and courage to stand up for yourself, you won't be affected by such people. Thus, the first step towards breaking bad relationship habits is having a strong conception of your own identity. Often, we allow people into our lives who treat us as we expect to be treated. So, if you feel contempt for yourself or think very little of yourself, you may pick partners or significant others who reflect this image back to you. Learn to recognise such patterns in your life and pluck them off. There will be anger, resentment, hurt and pain. But, you will be breaking your psychological dependency on other people. Recovering from relationship addiction is a process of acknowledging and then letting go of pain, and finding ways to build a happy life.


1) Make your 'recovery' the first priority in your life. Look for roots of emotional abuse.

2) Go through your early relationships. Tell yourself that you're an adult now, in charge of your life. Invest your time in disconnecting from the emotions that have been eating you alive.

3) Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself, i.e., fill in gaps that have made you feel undeserving or bad about yourself.

4) Learn to stop managing and controlling others; by being more focused on your own needs; you will no longer need to seek security from others.

5) Develop your spiritual side, i.e., find out what brings you peace and serenity and commit some time, at least half an hour daily, to that endeavour.

6) Learn not to get hooked into bad relationships.

7) Find a support group of friends who understand the pressures you might be facing.

8) Consider getting professional help, if need arises.

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