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Relationship Addiction – Addiction Center

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Relationship addiction is characterized by cravings and a loss of control when it comes to being in a relationship with a specific person. Like love addicts, people with relationship addiction seek feelings of euphoria and gain intense chemical reactions and releases while in pursuit of or in a relationship.
While it is normal to feel longing and as if you cannot deny the love of your life, relationship addiction is characterized by needing a relationship to be happy. This person cannot be alone and can jump in and out of different relationships, regardless of its impact on them. Or they can stay in the same unstable and complicated relationship full of drama, make-up-to-break-up patterns, arguments, and betrayal as opposed to being alone. Oftentimes, trauma begins in childhood or can occur from one’s unhealed relationship history; repressed trauma may have a causal link with relationship addiction. Healthy relationships can be challenging to form and maintain.
Initially, relationship addiction can mimic normal relationship behavioral patterns. Becoming infatuated with a partner, craving closeness, craving frequent sex, and feeling out of control emotionally are also normal. Like love and sex addiction, relationship addiction has defining characteristics. For relationship addiction, these include but are not limited to:

  • Making up and breaking up often.
  • Using sex to fix the relationship.
  • Having no life outside of the relationship.
  • Using the relationship for well-being or identity.
  • Justifying abuse.
  • Being unable to leave the relationship.
  • Committing too quickly.
  • Being too dependent.
  • Being unable to see the partner’s flaws.
  • Allowing the partner back after misconduct.
  • Feeling exhausted by frequent highs and lows.
  • Experiencing relationship obsessiveness.
  • Feeling unloved, resentful, or undesired.
  • Not spending time with loved ones and friends.
  • Changing one’s self to be in the relationship.
  • Changing one’s habits or behaviors.
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression.
  • Feeling tired, confused, irritable, or insecure.
  • Using substances to cope.
  • Binge eating, gambling, or acting compulsively.

In addition to the above traits, someone can experience other addictive qualities that are similar to love addiction and codependency.
People facing relationship addiction are often dependent on the high of falling in love. Elements like hope and wishful thinking, combined with the thrill of the chase or a release of dopamine, may become addictive for some. Cuddling and touching releases the bonding hormone known as oxytocin, which can keep people connected to relationships.
Both of these chemicals can be released in the brain when someone enters into a relationship, especially one with a strong degree of sexual attraction and chemistry. He or she may appear dependent on the relationship, using it to cope with stress, depression, or to fill a void. Similar to codependency and love addiction, relationships can function to provide someone with self-esteem, relieve abandonment issues, and attain self-love. As a result of this need for love, individuals can stay in toxic relationships, maintain relationships with people who abuse substances (playing the enabler), and become emotionally distressed.
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Addictions usually aren’t simple; oftentimes, there are hidden factors as to why someone struggles with them. For example, codependency — sometimes called the need to please — is characterized by enabling and putting other’s needs before one’s own. As a result, the individual attempts to find self-worth and self-esteem through their relationships. Furthermore, he or she may be afraid of being alone; this can be due to the belief that there is something wrong with them if they’re not partnered up. They may also be attracted to people with addictions or people who are abusive in nature, desperately trying to please them. They may end up cheating if they’re in a relationship that doesn’t provide their needs to avoid breaking up and being alone.
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Once someone has become addicted or depends on something to feel good or to feel normal, he or she can experience withdrawal-like symptoms or even depression. In the case of love addiction, someone who is off and on with another may feel extremely lonely or depressed. The lack of chemicals when apart from their significant other can cause someone to crave them even more. Constantly feeling disappointed or resentful can easily create low moods and impact someone’s self-esteem. In response, someone can develop negative relationship beliefs or increase substance abuse to try and numb the pain.
More Frequently Asked Questions
If you or a loved one goes from one unhealthy relationship to another and has exhibited one or more of the traits listed above, know you can get help. Facing any addiction is challenging, but it can be done with the right support and medications. Since other problems can exist underneath relationship addiction, it is important to get to the root so that the individual in question can form healthy bonds. Additionally, combining harmful substances with unhealthy relationship patterns will only wreak havoc on mental and emotional health.
Contact a treatment provider to inquire about treatment methods, counseling services, healthy relationships one can form in support groups, and around-the-clock care.
Last Edited: November 11, 2021
Krystina Murray
Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University, has over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 15 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.
Clinically Reviewed: May 10, 2021
David Hampton
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker and the author of two books. David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. As a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), David works closely with Nashville area treatment centers, nonprofit recovery organizations, and consulting with faith-based groups trying to bridge the gap between the recovery communities and faith-based organizations who wish to understand addiction.
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