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Relationship addiction
Relationship addiction does not mean that you are addicted to relationships or that you continue to seek out new or other relationships or to fall in love, it means that you fall for men who are emotionally damaged and that are not capable of real intimacy and with whom you feel the uncontrollable urge to care for him and to love him on order to change him and that he will, in return, will give you all the love, attention and acknowledgement that you lacked in the past.

When this does not happen, and you are treated without love and respect, and are even treated violently you are not capable of breaking free of this relationship, but instead have the need to be with him even more.

You cannot stop to be involved with him or stop having thoughts about how you could solve the issues in the relationship or gain some control over the situation. Your relationship has become an obsession. You confuse love with obsession. Your whole life, your behaviour, your emotions are controlled by the relationship, even your physical health suffers.

 
You downplay his faults (‘He doesn’t mean it) and take an unbalanced amount of responsibility for the problems. You think the relationship would be better if you had tried better or do try better. You take his irritations, moods, indifference, his putdowns and disrespectful comments and say they are a product of his unhappy upbringing. You try to help him and try to get him to help himself to work on his issues in the hope that he will change and that all will be well. In the mean time, the problems and the pain get worse.
 
You might have grown up in a family in which there was alcohol or drug abuse, gambling addiction, emotional, verbal or physical violence, sexual abuse or other problems. In any case problems that have caused severe emotional pain and that were not discussed in an honest, open and effective way. The situation and your feelings were denied, trivialised, ridiculed or judged, which made you deny your feelings, hide them and pretend they did not exist. Because of this, you lack the ability to get in touch with your feelings and inner voice and use these to make choices and protect us from new problems. You feel attracted to people that deal with feelings in the same, destructive way as you have learned (the way that feels most comfortable) which leads to more pain.
 
You walk around with an enormous amount of unhealed pain, sadness, loneliness, frustration, powerlessness, anger and an even greater, almost insatiable need for love, acknowledgement, appreciation and attention. Therefore, you’re easy prey for and become dependent on people who are a even the slightest bit kind to you and give you some attention even though their intentions might not be sincere. At the same time your are frightened to experience real love and to have real intimacy with another person. You have never learned to experience this or how to deal with it. To receive love is an outright threat to the way of life you have created for yourself and brings about all the pain and anger that you have safely stowed away in your subconscious.

 

In order to heal from your relationship addiction you need to learn a completely new way of living. You need to heal the wounds from your childhood and more recent wounds and you have to learn how to treat yourself and to deal with your feelings (and others) in a loving, respectful way. You have to learn to love yourself and become your own loving father/mother figure and to get in touch with your inner voice and to learn how to trust it. To become responsible for your own life, wellbeing and to be self reliant, so that you are not an easy prey for all kinds of (well meaning) people around you.
 
There are many reasons that make us choose to stay in a bad relationship. On a superficial level practical reasons, such as financial dependence, living arrangements, children, judgement from others and possible career problems could be valid reasons.
 

On a deeper level you will encounter thoughts that are internalised and that make it more difficult to end the relationships. These are automatic thoughts that are learned, such as:

love is forever.
being alone is horrible.
you’re not supposed to hurt others.
you’re supposed to stand by your man.
women are caretakers.
I’ll never find someone else.
I’m not interesting or attractive enough.
if I try hard enough this relationship will work.

 

On an even deeper level lie feelings that you haven’t dealt with that make it hard for us to stop the relationship. These feelings started in your childhood, and have a subconscious effect on your adult life. Children need to be loved, to be taken care of, to be encouraged in their independence but also to learn how to feel their feelings and to identify these feelings.

When parents are successful in teaching this, their children can feel safe enough to start and end relationships. If this need is not met, children will developed into emotionally dependent adults that are vulnerable to have relationship addictions.

 
 
When you are not happy in a relationship but aren’t sure to accept it the way it is, to do more to improve the relationship or to end the relationship.
You recognise a pattern of bad relationships but are unable to break the cycle.
You recognise yourself in the book ‘When woman love too much’ by Robin Norwood.
When you think you need to try harder to improve the relationship.
When you have come to the conclusion to end the relationship, but aren’t able to do so.
When you suspect that you are staying in the relationship for the wrong reasons, such as guilt or fear of being alone, and you are unable to deal with these feelings.
When you continue to enter into relationships or situations that do not make you feel happy.
When you feel attracted to needy men, men who have problems with alcohol or drugs, violent men, married men or men that are emotionally not reachable in one way or the other.
When you find it difficult to let go of an unhealthy relationship.
When you invest more into the relationship than you get in return.
An unhealthy relationship affects your entire being. It dissolves your personality, endangers your health and does not occur without consequence.
 
Relation addiction test
We have developed a test of several questions that you can use to see if this pertains to you. Are you a relationship addict? Click here for the relationship addiction test
 
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Translation by Barbara Barnes
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