The Purpose of Addictive Relationships

The word addiction tends to carry many negative connotations with it. Being addicted, after all, is being controlled by compulsivity and losing control to a certain behaviour or cycle. Essentially, you’re addicted when a behaviour controls you instead of you controlling it.

We hear so much about addictions today. By no means is ‘addiction’ new but the breadth of addiction seems to have grown with technological and industrial developments. We hear about chemical addiction, emotional addiction, food addiction, shopping addiction, social media addiction, gambling addiction and relationship addiction.

All these addictions deserve to be fleshed out and there is a lot of literature out there confronting each one. What I’d like to focus on in this blog is relationship addiction.

Only 20 years ago, when I started my personal transformation in the 4 dimensions (inside and out), I hardly heard people talk about addiction to relationships. At the time the hot topic was ‘co-dependency’. In her popular book, Women Who Love Too Much, Robin Norwood had already observed the compulsive and unconscious way in which women attract a certain kind of man to have a romantic relationship with. She outlines the repetitive cycles that seem to continue without our control.

Through my own studies and life experience over the years, I came to realise that we can be compulsive and addicted to any kind of relationship, even one with a friend or colleague. The most detrimental reality is that often we don’t or can’t recognise it and can live a life going through toxic relationship cycles until we die.

The hit documentary, The Secret, first introduced us to the Law of Attraction, and taught us that we attract what we want. Dr. Wayne Dyer saw beyond this and aptly observed that we do not attract or manifest what we want but what we are. I’d add that not only do we attract what we are but also what we most need to experience for healing, provided we want to (we always have free will after all).

Therefore, people we attract in relationships mirror who and what we are, who and what we aren’t as well as who and what we need to become more life (more on this in my book, Stella’s Mum Gets Her Groove Back).

When might we possibly develop a relationship addiction?

When we keep attracting or manifesting in our lives and in cycles people that:

  1. Keep nurturing our addictive/compulsive behaviour and/or instigate our addiction in a relationship. These people offer us an opportunity to heal if we recognise it of course.
    (E.g. You keep finding yourself in relationships that offer ‘crumbs of love’, you can’t stand it and eventually end up feeling let down or receiving too little compared to what you give out. You will find that you keep attracting people in life and work that will provide you with the opportunity to heal the root ‘hurt’ that’s there and is causing you to attract these types of relationships. If you are addicted to relationships that mainly offer struggle, it’s also an opportunity to begin a healing cycle and investigate the belief system that you acquired early in life.)
  2. Represent exactly who and what we are in that moment in our lives.
    (E.g. We might keep attracting relationships -and therefore be addicted to- relationships that make us feel abandoned or betrayed. This might suggest we need to recognise how that behaviour reflects what we do with our own friends, partners and colleagues. Otherwise, it could be that we are betraying ourselves in choosing not to see the truth / stay in denial because it’s more convenient). 
  3. Represent the lesson we need to learn to move on to another phase in our lives, that is to say another level of our personal development and expansion.
    (E.g. It’s often the case that we unconsciously, or sometimes consciously, choose someone for certain qualities within ourselves that we are unwilling to develop or express outwardly yet. We claim to admire said qualities and/or abilities in the other person, yet feel challenged and resistant when we ourselves are required to develop those same qualities.

Within the human experience, it’s our personal desires that have the power to seduce us into deep, sometimes desperate, relationships with other people. We use these relationships to be recognised or seen as a certain kind of person. We want love, approval, attention, protection; we crave admiration, respect, comfort and sex; we are driven by materialistic desire, security, status, power; we are stimulated by the inner compulsive unconscious need to help or rescue someone, often a partner. Equally, our desire is the key to our personal evolution. Without that deep-rooted desire, it is hard to stimulate change and growth from the trying relationships and events that we face.

This is how relationships with the foundation of an addiction unfold: they feed our personal needs, conscious or unconscious. The men and women with the greatest ability to facilitate our further development are the ones who generate the strongest feelings in us and towards whom we find ourselves inexorably drawn.

  image by  Volkan Olmez

image by Volkan Olmez

Is there a higher purpose in addictive relationships?

In my work, I’ve often tried to find a basic explanation as to why we human beings often endure such suffering through remaining in challenging relationships, be it romantic, professional or friendly. Having been in an addictive relationship for 26 years, it was hard for me to see what was occurring clearly until I distanced myself. In the past 7 years, I watched, read, pondered and gradually began to understand.

What I finally realised is that our most significant relationships exist for different reasons to what we might initially realise. Their true purpose isn’t to make us happy, meet our needs, define us, root us, keep us safe or fill us with the love we so crave and still don’t give to ourselves. Their true purpose is to push us to grow and expand in all four dimensions: physical, emotional, intellectual, relational (and   a fifth spiritual dimension too, if we so desire). Their purpose is to actuate our evolution and the our purpose is to do the same with them.

Perhaps in reminding ourselves of the Universe’s impeccable efficiency, we might come to understand the often unpredictable and tumultuous nature of human relationships.

How to deal with an addiction in relationship

  1. Look for a coach or counsellor to work with, depending on your desired outcome. They can help you recognise if you’re in an addictive relationship and/or keep repeating a similar cycle over and over again and how to break out of it. 
  2. Deepen your desire to grow and expand out of the relationship addiction using a set of useful questions to pose to yourself regularly and consistently:

What about this man or woman attracts me the most?
What don’t I recognise within myself that I can become aware of through this relationship?
Has living through this relationship and my addiction to this type of relationship invited me to be more honest about my own dark side?
How have I responded to said invitations?
What if this relationship has come to show me the darkest thing about my own true nature?
What’s keeping me attached to the pain that these relationships keep offering me?
Why do I continue to fall into the same hole each time?
What is my unconscious pay off?
Can I acknowledge what about these addictive relationships I can be grateful for, such as the part they played in my evolution?

 

There are questions that might help you peel away layers within yourself as you continue to ask them. They can invite us to examine what’s going on within us and around us in our relationships and life.

When we learn to habitually pose these questions, and others that pertain to you, and seek their answers, we will find that a new paradigm will emerge. We’ll start becoming less judgemental of ourselves and the relationships we’ve engaged with and invested time on. With this new approach and fresh vision, it will be possible to comprehend the intended nature of the relationships we have as well as the events and situations which led us towards them and vice versa. 

With this new way of thinking and perceiving our relationships, we can begin to appreciate the way each person works and fits as part of a greater order, in which we are all interconnected and play a vital and magnificent role.

This article was featured on Thrive Global


The following blog posts go into more detail on some of the topics and themes touched on above:
Why Am I Addicted to Toxic Relationships?
Authentic Love vs. Inauthentic Love
Reflecting on 10 Years of Willingness and Courage
 

header image by Sasha Freemind


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