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End That Addictive Relationship, Once and For All

suitcase240Here’s a quick checklist to know if you’re addicted to a toxic relationship:

  • You have more bad moments than good but you can’t let go because you’re always chasing another fix of the good.
  • The relationship depletes rather than energizes you.  It takes away from other areas in your life.
  • You lose resources (emotional, financial, interpersonal) but no matter how great the cost, you continue with the relationship.  You can’t seem to make rational calculations.
  • When you try to leave, you can’t seem to follow through; you go through withdrawals.  You cave, and you relapse.
  • You pretend every time you make up, it will be different.  You consistently ignore the fact that the past is the greatest predictor of the future.  You will be back there, in pain, again.   But you have selective memory (i.e. denial.)
  • You’re lying to your friends and family about the way you’re being treated; you’re minimizing the pain so they won’t turn against your partner, or urge you to do what you already know you should do, which is end the relationship.
  • OR you’ve alienated good people in your life who don’t want to stand by idly and watch you suffer anymore.

Now here’s how you can start extricating yourself, once and for all.1)  Admit to yourself that it is an addiction.

The act of naming something as bad for you is an important first step.  It begins to pierce the denial.  But you’ll have to name it again and again, like a mantra.

That’s because as an addict, you are compulsively driven to try to improve a relationship that never improves for any significant period of time.  You are chasing a fantasy, and it is robbing you of vitality in other parts of your life.

Worst of all, it is sapping the strength you need in order to leave.  You’re so drained that you feel you have no choice but to stay.

That is not how love works.  It is how addiction works.

2)  Recognize that you do have a choice.  In fact, you’re making one every second you remain in the relationship.

Now think what you’re choosing.  Are you choosing sanity?  Happiness?  Safety?  Security?  Self-esteem?

Or are you choosing the opposite of those things?

If you’re choosing self-destruction, ask yourself why.  “I love him/her” is not an answer you should accept any longer.

You might want a therapist to help you with this.  There could be many contributors and if you allow them to go unexplored, then you never leave.  You stay in a painful, no-win situation, and every day you do so, you’re exposing yourself to more damage that you’ll have to correct later.

3)  Develop an exit strategy.

That means plan out everything–from what you’re going to tell the other person, to how to marshal the support of friends or family or a professional, to what you’ll do on the lonely nights ahead when you feel weak and want another hit (think of it as relapse prevention), to how to get back on the wagon if you do relapse (i.e. how to end things all over again rather than simply fall back into old routines.)

Remember that reunions feel so sweet, but getting high for a while won’t change the fundamental underlying problem.

Love yourself more than you love the addiction.

I know, easier said than done, but if you never say it, if you never try, then it will certainly never be done.  You’re making a healthy choice just by reading all the way to the end.  You just completed your first step.

Woman with suitcase photo available from Shutterstock

End That Addictive Relationship, Once and For All

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2015). End That Addictive Relationship, Once and For All. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Feb 2015
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