Some people might think, “How can you be addicted to relationships? Relationships aren’t substances like alcohol or cigarettes. And plus, aren’t relationships good? Aren’t they the whole point of life?” Hmmm. To that last question no, yes, and sometimes. I know—it’s confusing. If you are emotionally stable and build a life for yourself that is complete and gratifying without a romantic relationship, then, from there, you have a shot at finding a healthy relationship. And when you find someone that truly makes you a better person, and encourages you to be an individual and pursue things outside of the relationship, then, yes! That relationship should be a priority to you! Why? Because it doesn’t demand to be a priority nor does it drain you of energy and damage the other areas of your life (the way addictive relationships can). Let’s get into it. Here are the steps to recovering from relationship addiction.
Acknowledge the addiction
The first step to recovering from any sort of addiction is admitting you are addicted. And you know you’re addicted to something when you realize that you actually can’t quit anytime you want to.
Know the signs
If the prospect of being alone terrifies you so much that you can’t even entertain it, you are likely addicted to relationships. If you feel panicked and like you are free-falling when you are single, you are probably addicted to relationships. If you’re always seeking your next fix after a breakup…you get the idea.
Alcoholics can’t go to bars and relationship addicts…well, they also probably shouldn’t go to bars since those are hookup zones. But, more importantly, they probably shouldn’t go to speed dating events, meet with matchmakers, be on dating apps, or go on dates.
Know you can’t just have one
Understand that, like an alcoholic who can’t just have one drink, you can’t just go on one date. The moment you go on a date with someone, you become unhealthily and rapidly attached, want more dates, and crave a relationship.
Recovering from a substance addiction is immeasurably easier (not easy, but easier) if the addict notifies people in their life that they are trying to recover. For relationship addicts, that means telling their friends and family not to try to set them up on any dates, and not even to talk to them about a potential match. It means telling their network to support them in their goal of being alone for a while.
Determine why you’re addicted
Addiction usually occurs when there is some other major thing in a person’s life that that person doesn’t want to face. This can range from discontent in their career to suppressed memories of a childhood trauma.
Let yourself go to that dark place
Look, the reason you were constantly on dating apps, going on dates, and rushing into relationships was because when you weren’t, you felt some dark entity creeping up behind you—that entity is that thing in you’re life you’re trying to avoid. If you don’t give into your addiction, you’ll have no choice but to face that thing you’ve been avoiding. Let yourself go there. The only way through pain is through it. Not around it, over it, or under it.
If you know you’re a relationship addict, seeking counseling can be very helpful at this time. Facing past trauma or the major, deeper issues in your life that caused the addiction is scary alone. So don’t do it alone. One on one or group counseling can make it easier.
Make some apologies
You probably isolated and even hurt some friends and family while you were fully into your relationship addiction. It’s time to go mend those relationships. If there is anyone you lashed out at because they tried to suggest you had a problem, it’s time to go say you’re sorry.
Surround yourself with love
You don’t have to be alone to be single. Just direct that need for love and comfort towards non-romantic relationships. If you’re going to get over your addiction to romantic and sexual attention, you’re going to need people who love you platonically and unconditionally around.
Don’t set a timeline
If you tell yourself, “I’ll just be single for six months,” then you won’t really address your issues. Getting over relationship addiction means being okay with the prospect of being single forever. Only when you’re okay with that, can you find a healthy relationship that isn’t based on codependency or personal issue avoidance.
Get to know yourself
One of the scariest things for recovering relationship addicts is the realization that they don’t really know who they are. They’ve always just taken on the identities, interests, behaviors, and hobbies of their partners. It’s time to get to know who you are, without anyone influencing you.
Take it day by day
You don’t need to create some new identity overnight. Take this one step at a time. Every day, simply ask yourself, “What do I feel like doing today? Who do I feel like seeing? What do I want to learn?” Getting to know one’s self cannot be rushed.
Remove other relationship addicts
It’s pretty tough for alcoholics to hang out with drinkers when they’re in recovery, and it’s difficult for recovering relationship addicts to hang out with other relationship addicts who are in denial about their issue. You know who these friends are—you’ll have to distance yourself from them for now.
Be proud of yourself
You’re taking back your life by overcoming this addiction. There won’t be some controlling force dictating everything you do, what you wear, where you eat, who you hang out with, how you behave and more—as there was when you were in denial about your addiction. You should be proud of yourself for being strong enough to take back your life.