Do you jump from relationship to relationship? Does it feel like you don’t function well if you aren’t in a romantic relationship? Relationship addiction is something that many people struggle with, but are greatly unaware of it being an addiction. It also falls into the same category as sex and love addiction.
Now, don’t go jumping into defense mode. If you do, then this post is probably triggering you. That means that you probably have a relationship addiction or sex and love addiction.
However, you can heal that. If you don’t heal it, then you will find yourself in unhealthy relationships over and over again. The reason theses addictions occur is that both partners are lacking the ability to have healthy boundaries in relationships.
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As a psychotherapist, I see relationship addiction quite often. Shame also accompanies the addiction when I have a patient telling me he or she is in another relationship again quickly after one has just ended.
It always saddens me to see that shame because, underneath that, there is a person who so desperately wants to be loved. We all deserve to be loved, but very few of us know how to get that love in a healthy way.
I, myself, struggled for years with relationship addiction, but was completely oblivious to the severity of my addiction. Not only that, but I also just thought I was “supposed” to be finding a man. I am from the Deep South and women are practically considered old maids if they aren’t married with children by the age of thirty.
I’ll dive a little more deeply into how I struggled with relationship addiction in a bit and I’ll give you examples of boundaries to set. I’ll also discuss ways to show your partner examples of healthy boundaries. For now, let’s look at how to know if you have a relationship addiction or a love and sex addiction.
Just know that you will probably not like these signs I’m about to show you because being honest and vulnerable with yourself is hard. Keep in mind that these signs may exist because you probably haven’t seen examples of healthy boundaries.
10 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship (These are ALWAYS present in the beginning of a relationship)
1. Your day does not begin well until you hear from the person.
2. You lose track of your own interests.
3. You no longer make plans or you cancel plans with others because your partner wants all of your time.
4. You feel empty and alone when you are not with your partner or when you are not in a relationship.
5. Your mood is dependent upon the mood of your partner.
6. You have frequent arguments that result from you not feeling important to your partner.
7. You are constantly questioning your partner’s love and/or commitment to you.
8. You believe your world would fall apart if the relationship ended.
9. You stop taking time for yourself.
10. You are depressed or anxious when you are not with or in constant contact your partner.
Now, take a minute to really think about whether or not any or all of these signs apply to you. If they do, then we need to spend a little time looking at how these behaviors were created. Once you have a little more knowledge of that, you will know better how to heal and change these behaviors.
How Relationship Addiction is Created
As with the majority of our “issues,” relationship addiction and sex and love addiction stem from unmet needs in our childhoods.
Don’t roll your eyes at that. It’s true. I know this from my own personal healing and from the numerous patients I have worked with who struggle with codependency in romantic relationships. If you want to read more about codependency, read my post 5 Steps On How to Overcome Codependent Behavior/Recovering from Codependency.
These addictions show up in our romantic relationships because of unmet emotional and, sometimes, physical needs from our childhood. If we don’t have healthy relationships with our parents/caregivers or see healthy relationships modeled, then we sure don’t know how to create healthy relationships for ourselves.
If our parents/caregivers don’t establish healthy, secure attachments with us, then we falsely learn we aren’t good enough to have those kinds of relationships. If you want to learn more about how that gets created in childhood, read my post The Creation of Negative Self Talk.
Healthy Boundaries in Relationships
You’re not going to heal your Not Good Enough Stuff that is showing up in your relationships overnight. So, we need to take a look at the answer to healing this and allowing ourselves the time to actually heal it.
The answer to healing relationship addiction is one of the trendy words of the last several years and that is boundaries. Are you on your second eye roll by now?
If so, don’t stop reading now. There is no way that you can have a healthy romantic relationship if you don’t know how to set and maintain healthy boundaries.
Keep in mind that I am not just referring to you setting boundaries with your partners, but also with yourself. Sometimes boundaries with yourself are even more important.
As I mentioned earlier, I struggled greatly with relationship addiction throughout my late teens and the entire decade of my twenties. I had a lot of Not Good Enough Stuff that kept showing up in every relationship I had.
If you want to learn more about what I mean by Not Good Enough Stuff, click here to read my post Explanation of Not Good Enough Stuff.
Due to all of that, I had no boundaries with myself, which meant I sure as hell didn’t have them with any of my partners. Just sitting here and thinking about that younger version of me brings me a little sadness but also joy.
That younger me was so insecure and had such huge feelings of unworthiness that I thought a man could take all of that away for me. Obviously, that never worked, but boy did I try it time after time after time.
Examples of Healthy Boundaries for Yourself
Let’s go back to examples of boundaries since I said that is the key to healing relationship addiction. Before you can truly tackle boundaries with a partner, you first have to tackle them with yourself.
Once you learn the boundaries you need for yourself, you have a blueprint for the boundaries you need to set with a partner.
In order to teach you about creating boundaries with yourself to heal your love addiction, I am going to use the 10 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship I gave you above. These signs will show you examples of boundaries you need to set.
Number one is your day does not begin well until you hear from the person. The boundary that is needed for this is to find a way to create self-love when you get out of bed. The best way to do this is to incorporate a routine of self-care first thing after you wake up.
Don’t panic at the thought of that. It does not have to be time-consuming OR a grand gesture of self-love. If you want to learn how to create time for self-care, read my post 4 Ways of Creating Time for Self-Care Ideas.
For now, I’ll give you one example of what this could look like. While you are getting ready for your day, turn your favorite song on. If you need to feel energized, find your favorite song that gets you there. If you need to feel calm and peaceful, find your favorite song for that.
If you’re wondering how this applies to boundaries, keep reading. By committing to doing this every morning, you are setting a boundary with yourself that you will be in charge of feeling good. That means you are not being codependent or waiting for a partner to “make” you feel good in order for you to start your day off well.
The second example in Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship is you lose track of your own interests. The boundary here is committing to doing at least one activity a week that you enjoy.
For my patients, I tell them to pick a time one day a week for at least an hour where they are unavailable to their partner. Spend that time doing whatever activity you enjoy.
Do NOT reschedule that time for anything. In order to avoid that, you must schedule your day and time where nothing, aside from a TRUE emergency, will arise. If you aren’t sure what you’d like to do with your weekly scheduled time, read my post What is Self-Care.
This leads us right on over to Sign Number Three. You no longer make plans or you cancel plans with others because your partner wants all of your time. Again, the boundary with yourself is committing to the weekly time for yourself.
Setting a boundary with yourself for this sign is similar. Find a time once a week, every other week or once a month that is set aside for you to spend time with family or friends. Make sure you communicate that to family and friends so that you can make plans to do something.
As with Number Two, find a time that something can’t “pop-up” causing you to cancel or reschedule. Now, I know you will be at the mercy of others with regard to plans changing, but you can make sure you are always available at that time.
Others may require your planned time to change, but set a boundary with yourself that, once you commit to the different time, you will uphold your commitment to yourself and your friends and/or family. Your boundary is simply committing to making the family and/or friend time happen!
Licensed Therapists are Important for Healing Relationship Addiction
Now, we are on to Sign Number Four where you feel empty and alone when you are not with your partner or when you are not in a relationship. This can bring up a lot of pain because that emptiness and loneliness can be HUGE. Trust me, I knew that very well for many years.
This is a hard one and there is no simple boundary or quick fix. If you read the post I mentioned earlier, Explanation of Not Good Enough Stuff, you can understand why this sign is so prevalent for you.
So, my advice on healing this is to find a licensed therapist to guide you through it. If you struggle with finding a therapist, read my post 5 Steps for Finding a Good Therapist.
We’re halfway there now with Sign Number Five, where your mood is dependent upon the mood of your partner. This is the epitome of codependency. You probably don’t know how to identify your own feelings because, like all of this, you were never taught how to do that.
I have a simple tip for teaching yourself how to identify your feelings. You may have read this in a previous post. It works and I want everybody to know about it. Go to a home improvement or paint store. Pick up several different paint swatches.
Make sure you get a variety of colors and not just colors you like. Also, get colors that you don’t like and even some that you feel kind of neutral about.
Here’s how to use the paint swatches. Throw them out on a table or flat surface. Pick the color you feel most drawn to that matches how you are feeling.
Hold that paint swatch and talk yourself through the reasons why you were drawn to it. As you do this, you will begin to identify how you are feeling. As I tell all of my patients, “I don’t know is not an answer.”
Using that answer is the only “wrong” way to do this exercise. Otherwise, you’ll be doing it “right.” As you do this more often, you will begin to be able to more quickly identify what you are feeling through the use of colors.
The boundary you’re setting for yourself here is that you will identify your feelings, instead of adopting feelings based on your partner and whatever is going on in his or her world.
Sign Number Six is that you have frequent arguments that result from you not feeling important to your partner. As with Sign Number Four, there is no quick fix or easy way to heal this or set a boundary.
The reason I listed number four and six as signs is that they are so prevalent and important for you to heal if you want to step out of your relationship addiction. As I said with Sign Number Four, I recommend finding a licensed therapist to help guide you through healing this aspect of your relationship addiction.
Sign Number Seven is where you are constantly questioning your partner’s love and/or commitment to you. The boundary here is to find space for you to love yourself and be committed to yourself before you can allow anybody else to do that.
If you don’t set that boundary with yourself, you are setting yourself up to find partners who leave you questioning their love and commitment to you. Yes, it’s so cliché to say you have to love yourself first, but cliches become cliches for a reason! There is truth in them.
Sign Number Eight is one that I struggled with after every single relationship I had that ended. I rushed into the next relationship as soon as I possibly could. I can even remember hopping onto my online dating profiles the same day the relationship ended.
I just couldn’t imagine my life without a partner. The thought of not having a partner made me feel like every aspect of my life would fall apart. In order to heal that, I had to set a boundary with myself.
That boundary was committing to a certain amount of time before I would even consider going back to online dating or dating of any kind. Setting that time boundary for myself allowed me to grieve the relationship and process why it ended.
Doing that allowed me to do things differently and in a healthier way for the next relationship. I am actually thankful for every relationship that ended and caused me pain. It allowed me to see what I wanted in a relationship and my behaviors that kept me from getting that.
When I set this boundary with myself, every relationship I entered become healthier and closer to what I wanted and deserved. After doing that and healing, I was able to open myself up to my amazing husband and have a very healthy, loving relationship.
Trust me, though, there were many years where I thought that would never be possible. However, I just had a lot of healing, learning and boundary-setting with myself to do before it could happen.
Just a Few More Examples of Healthy Boundaries
We only have two Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship to go! Sign Number Nine is you stop taking time for yourself. I’ll be very brief here. I’ve already told you how to set a boundary for this. Hopefully, you haven’t forgotten already. If so, re-read what I wrote for Sign Number Two.
Finally, we are at Sign Number Ten. You are depressed or anxious when you are not with or in constant contact your partner. I’ll be brief on this one too.
This is another one that is the epitome of codependency and is going to require you to do some deep healing work. Again, my advice is to find a licensed therapist to help you with healing this as it is showing up in the form of relationship addiction.
As I mentioned earlier, once you are able to set boundaries for these Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship with yourself, you have a blueprint for the boundaries you need to set with a partner. Here’s a quick guide to what that can look like for your relationship addiction or sex and love addiction.
Teaching Your Partner Healthy Boundaries in Relationships
• Your day does not begin well until you hear from the person. (Set the boundary that you are not responsible for how your partner feels.)
• You lose track of your own interests. (Set the boundary that you will not give up your interests and encourage your partner to have his or her own interests.)
• You no longer make plans or cancel plans with others because your partner wants all of your time. (Set the boundary that your partner does not ask you to cancel your plans with others and that he or she respects your need to spend time with friends and/or family.)
• You feel empty and alone when you are not with your partner or when you are not in a relationship.
(Set the boundary that your partner respects your time for healing because you can’t heal that empty feeling if you don’t create time do to so. This might be him/her being supportive of you going to therapy.)
• Your mood is dependent upon the mood of your partner. (Set the boundary like as mentioned in Sign Number One. You are not responsible for how your partner feels and you will no longer mimic his or her feelings as a way of codependent support.)
• You have frequent arguments that result from you not feeling important to your partner. (Set the boundary that you are both in charge of allowing yourself to feel important and will communicate your needs regarding that with one another.)
• You are constantly questioning your partner’s love and/or commitment to you. (Like the previous boundary, set the boundary that you will communicate your feelings and needs with one another but without the expectation that the other is responsible for how you feel or meeting all of your needs.)
• You believe your world would fall apart if the relationship ended. (Set the boundary with your partner that you will continue to heal whether or not you are in a relationship. Do this so that your partner is aware that you will only choose to stay in the relationship if it is healthy.)
• You stop taking time for yourself. (Set the boundary that your partner must respect the time you need for yourself.)
• You are depressed or anxious when you are not with or in constant contact your partner. (Set the boundary that you are unable to stay in constant contact with your partner and that you need time to focus on other aspects of your life so that you can be present and available during your time together.)
Boundaries are Hard
Please keep in mind that these examples of boundaries you’re setting with yourself and others can be very difficult. You will struggle and feel like you are “falling back to your old ways.” That’s ok. At least you are recognizing it now. That allows you to make a conscious decision as to whether or not you choose to continue unhealthy behaviors.
If you feel like this post was helpful or you have struggled with a relationship addiction or sex and love addiction, comment below to share any thoughts or questions you have. We can all learn from one another AND we can all be loving and kind to ourselves and others as we continue to heal our Not Good Enough Stuff.
This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.