E-Course, Class 2

Addictive Relationships

Let’s face it, if we were really good at choosing healthy relationships, we wouldn’t be here reading information about dangerous men. We would be happily somewhere with a healthy guy! So let’s at least begin with the universal assumption that we haven’t done our best job at selecting potential relationships with men who actually HAVE potential!

There are a lot of ways to define relationships that don’t work well. Often they are called ‘dysfunctional’ or ‘abusive’ or ‘bankrupt.’ But what I’d like to focus on are those relationships, that despite all that horrible things that are going on in it, the women is encased in a web she can not climb out of because her relationship is pathological. She is with someone who has a Pathological Cluster B  disorder which means it brings that pathology into the relationship.

For some of the relationships with a pathologically disordered partner, it will also be ‘addictive.’  I would like to say that for The Institute, we do not believe all pathological relationships ARE addictive. But we do believe some of them are. This e-course is for those relationships who do have an addictive component to them.
Some people do not even realize that relationships/love/sex can qualify as an addiction or an out of control behavior.  12 Step groups exist for these types of addictions.

Addictive relationships are characterized by attachments to someone who, for the most part, is not available emotionally. In addictive relationships there is a single overwhelming involvement with another person that cuts her off from other parts of her live. The result of trying to be in an addictive relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable is:


  •   Confusion
  •   Fear
  •   Franticness
  •   Obsession
  •   Loneliness
  •   Despair
  •   Anger
  •   Feeling Stuck

Addictive relationships have similar qualities to other patterns of addiction which ‘rob’ people of the quality of their lives. It impacts the ability to:


  •   To have healthy communication
  •   To have authentic enjoyment of one another
  •   To be your healthiest self
  •   To love him outside of dependency
  •   To be able to leave the relationship if it becomes unhealthy or destructive to you

Addictive relationships are described by women as “a feeling that I just can not leave him no matter how bad he has been or how awful I feel.” There is a battle going on inside of her and despite a normally rationale approach to life, she still can not unhinge herself from this pattern of destruction that she knows is bad for her. She often feels helpless to make the choice to leave. She is ‘hooked in’ in ways she does not even understand. (Also read our information on The Intensity of Attachment as it pertains to Pathological Love Relationships in our book Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

As is true in other addictions, one loses the ability to constructively manage their own lives. Like drug or alcohol addiction, addictive relationships show the same signs of:


  •   Magical Thinking
  •   Helpless to stop the addiction/relationship
  •   Feeling bad about one’s inability to stop
  •   Passivity
  •   Low initiative to stop the behavior/relationship  

The inability to manage one’s life is often connected to belief systems that you hold about your self, your future and relationships. Often these beliefs are what they call “stinking thinking” – that is, at the core of these are erroneous beliefs often developed from childhood on.

Unmet childhood needs warp into adult ‘neediness’ which places a person at higher risk for developing dependent and addictive relationships as an adult.

If your childhood was effected by your parent’s relationship or someone they dated, please be aware that the same thing can happen to YOUR children. A good reason to work on yourself and stop dating dangerous men is for your children and to stop the damaging effects to them. Addictive relationships are always the destructive exploitation of one’s self and the other person which masquerades as ‘love.’


The following check list is a guide to help you identify any tendency towards relationship addiction or unhealthy relationships in general. If you answer ‘Yes’ to most of the following statements, you probably have a problem with relationship addictions.

1.  To be happy, you need a relationship. When you are not in a relationship, you feel depressed, and the cure for healing that depression usually involves meeting a new person.
2.   You often feel magnetically drawn to another person. You act on this feeling even when you suspect the person may not be good for you.
3.    You often try to change another person to meet your ideal.
4.   Even when a relationship isn’t good for you, you find it difficult to break it off.
5.   When you consider breaking a relationship, you worry about what will happen to the other person without you.
6.   After a break-up, you immediately start looking for a new relationship in order to avoid being alone.
7.   You are often involved with someone unavailable who lives far away, is married, is involved with someone else, or is emotionally distant.
8.    A kind, available person probably seems boring to you and even if he/she likes you, you will probably reject him/her.
9.   Even though you may demonstrate independence in other areas, you are fearful of independence within a love relationship.
10   You find it hard to say no to the person with whom you are involved.
11.  You do not really believe you deserve a good relationship.
12.  Your self-doubt causes you to be jealous and possessive in an effort to maintain control.
13.  Sexually, you are more concerned with pleasing your partner than pleasing yourself.
14.  You feel as if you are unable to stop seeing a certain person even though you know that continuing the relationship is destructive to you.
15.  Memories of a relationship continue to control your thoughts for months or even years after it has ended.

QUIZ 2    
1.    Even though you know the relationship is bad for you (and perhaps others have told you this), you take no effective steps to end it.
2.    You give yourself reasons for staying in the relationship that are not really accurate or that are not strong enough to counteract the harmful aspects of the relationship.
3.    When you think about ending the relationship, you feel terrible anxiety and fear which make you cling to it even more.
4.    When you take steps to end the relationship, you suffer painful withdrawal symptoms, including physical discomfort, that is only relieved by reestablishing contact.

SO—Are you? What was the tally of your two quizzes?
Finding the true answer, while it may be concerning, is at least a step towards taking more control of your pattern of selection to stop the cycle with dangerous men. The first step is awareness. Here are some TIPS for overcoming your relationship addiction:

Robin Norwood, in her excellent book “Women Who Love Too Much” outlines a ten step plan for overcoming relationship addiction. While this book is directed toward women, its principles are equally valid for men. Stated here (reordered and sometimes paraphrased), Norwood suggests the following:
1.    Make your “recovery” the first priority in your life.
2.    Become “selfish,” i.e., focus on getting your own needs met more effectively.
3.    Courageously face your own problems and shortcomings.
4.    Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself, i.e., fill in gaps that have made you feel undeserving or bad about yourself.
5.    Learn to stop managing and controlling others; by being more focused on your own needs, you will no longer need to seek security by trying to make others change.
6.    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 endeavor.
7.    Learn not to get “hooked” into the games of relationships; avoid dangerous roles you tend to fall into, e.g., “rescuer” (helper), “persecutor” (blamer), “victim” (helpless one).
8.    Find a support group of friends who understand.
9.    Share with others what you have experienced and learned.
10.    Consider getting professional help.

Some women get stuck in trying to get out. Others get stuck in trying to choose differently the next time and not end up with a dangerous man AGAIN. Here are some signs you might need professional assistance for a short time to help you get ‘unstuck’:

1.    When you are very unhappy in a relationship but are unsure of whether you should accept it as it is, make further efforts to improve it, or get out of it.
2.    When you have concluded that you should end a relationship, have tried to make yourself end it, but remain stuck.
3.    When you suspect that you are staying in a relationship for the wrong reasons, such as feelings of guilt or fear of being alone, and you have been unable to overcome the paralyzing effects of such feelings.
4.    When you recognize that you have a pattern of staying in bad relationships and that you have not been able to change that pattern by yourself.
Know that as your relationship addiction increases it becomes more difficult to cope with anyone or anything else. This becomes all encompassing. There is the rush of the addictive relationship that is absent from healthy relationships. Often women misread that sign to think it means there is a strong connection—it just might not be a healthy connection! Addiction is where two people use each other to fill their own loneliness. They are distractions from the inner pain of what someone is feeling.

The only way through pain is going through the middle of it. The only way to find healthier relationships is to work on yourself so that YOU are healthy and you are choosing relationships out of the healthiest part of yourself.

(Thanks to the Counseling Center at the University of Illinois and the NAMB for information on Addictive Relationships.)

In closing,

The only defense is self defense. And the only self defense is knowledge. This E-course will teach help you realize your potential need (or not) for future insight into the area of dangerousness. Perhaps it will illuminate areas that you need more knowledge about, more insight, or just information. If after reading this installment of the E-course, you recognize your own patterns, please avail yourself to more information through our products, or through your local women’s organizations and counseling programs.  

Our hope is that this information is used for a woman’s relational harm reduction and education for healthier relationships. Please pass this on to other women who need this life-saving information. Be the beacon to other women…

This information is companion and support material to the media-attracting book ‘How To Spot a Dangerous Man BEFORE You Get Involved.’ You can order the book, our companion work book and our ‘How To Break Up With a Dangerous Man e-Book’ at www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com.

**Workbooks are on back order. In the meantime, you can order them at Amazon.com or HunterHouse.com

Or gather information about The Intensity of Attachment in our book Women Who Love Psychopaths.



Stay TUNED for the next installment Class 3 of our E-course coming to you next week!