There is a striking comparison between the DSM-V Diagnosis of Substance Dependence, a synonym for addiction, and the patterns of use, impairment, increased tolerance, and withdrawal found in addictive relating.
As with other addictions, it is difficult to self-reflect and recognize the dependence trap when you are in it. Here are warning signs that you may overlook if you are in an addictive relationship.
- The person you are with was magical when you met. She/he is the person you have dreamed about. It’s perfect. Three months later something disrupts the magic. He/she cheats on you or seriously embarrasses you in front of your friends or family. You ignore it. After all, everyone makes mistakes; but it happens again. You rationalize “Don’t you have to balance the good and bad in relationships?”
- The relationship never just flows or gets better and better. Instead, there are some magical times and more very painful times that shock you. You keep hanging in trying to get the good times and the magic to return.
- You are more anxious then you have ever been and you can’t seem to stop checking in with The Person You Love to see if he/she stills loves you. “ Is everything good with us?” “Did I do something?” When the person pulls back and is angry with your constant contacts, you move in to give even more of yourself whether that means an apology or self-deprecation. You just have to reset the love.
- The main topic of your conversation with friends, family and anyone who will listen, is The Person You Love. Should you do this? Does she love me? What could I say to him to make him spend more time with me? Does it really matter if he has no interest in what I do or my passion for the outdoors?
- Your friends and family try to point out that The Person You Love is unfaithful, selfish, cruel, dishonest, and not really loving or appreciating you. You can’t listen. They don’t know how good the good times are!
- As the ruptures in the relationship send you into a panic and another round of questions and discussion with your friends, they start to pull away. You start to pull away from them, convincing yourself they are too critical. That is fine with The Person You Love– She never liked your friends.
- Physically you are not well. You can’t sleep. You need more and more reassurance from The Person You Love who seems to give you less and less. You are gaining or losing weight. You drink or smoke or abuse self more and more. You are terrified to lose The Person You Love.
- Your work world and outside worlds are fraying. Whenever you start to wonder after a fight or betrayal if this is a no win situation-The Person You Love convinces you it is all in your head.
- As you work to desperately keep The Person You Love, you lose yourself to the relationship addiction.
10. If you are lucky–something terrible happens:
- The Person You Love asks for something impossible -an open relationship.
- You find out that The Person You Love is going back to a spouse.
- You end it…The Person You Love leaves…You hit rock bottom…You are desperate…you think of taking any crumbs.
If you are lucky–something good happens:
A friend has a similar breakup and tells you about getting help.
You find a therapist, a group, a twelve-step program.
You start to heal and…yes…with time…
“ You Will Love Again The Stranger Who Was Your Self.”
( Derek Walcot, Love after Love, 1986)
Listen in to my guest Ross Rosenberg discuss “ Are You in Love or in a Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome” on Psych UP Live