Relationships are powerful for a lot of reasons—a variety of strong emotions, intimacy, trust, hopes, and dreams. And that’s not even talking about the powerful negative emotions—fear, abandonment, rejection, shame. Yes, relationships are worth the risk. However, we need to be thoughtful and careful because powerful things (love and sex, as well as alcohol, drugs, and other similarly addictive things) can present problems for humans.
It’s possible for us to act like we have some of the classic addictions when it comes to relationships. Addictions are some of the most powerful and confusing experiences a human can have. The short definition of an addiction is when we continue to do something in spite of all the chaos, drama, or pain it causes us. And to make matters worse, we (and others) often logically know that we should stop, but for some reason we keep doing it.
We often see a few of the same telltale signs. Those signs tend to be guides for a variety of subjects, and this is definitely one where they can help to guide our decisions.
1. First things first: Is this a pattern?
Does déjà vu mean anything to you? Have you been unsuccessful at avoiding this “type” of relationship or been unsuccessful at moving past the “same old” drama in this relationship? In spite of your best efforts, you keep finding your relationship back at this same spot, same drama.
We all have a bad day or bad weekend; that’s understandable. If you’re in a relationship that you care about, you’re going to have moments that you’re not proud of. What starts to concern professionals should also concern you—patterns. It’s patterns that separate an “understandable” low moment from behavior that may actually reflect a deeper problem, a problem where we act like we are addicted.
If it seems to be a pattern, then we have to figure out just how significant of a negative impact it’s having. Because if it’s having a big impact on your life and you continue to stay in the relationship, you might be hooked on the drama more than the person.
2. Is all the drama stealing your free time?
How much time is spent recovering from, managing, or avoiding the drama? Do you increase your alcohol consumption (or pot, pain meds, Xanax, etc.) to manage the emotions? Relationships take work and will involve challenges, maybe even some drama. But if it’s a frequent thing or a thing that has a significantly negative impact on your life, why are you still doing it? Yes, there are challenges in relationships, but that shouldn’t be the norm. It should be the exception. If you’re always fighting or confronting or arguing about things, it actually may mean it’s time to move on rather than move in.
3. Do you kind of miss the drama?
Drama has an emotional intensity that can be elevated—very elevated. Do you miss the intensity, maybe even crave it? If you keep going out with the same kind of person and ending up in the same kind of chaos, you may just feel that’s normal. Or possibly you like it because it makes you feel alive, cared for, like they are committed to you, or any host of reasons that aren’t really that accurate or healthy.
Why do you think it’s normal for relationships to have so much drama? Sure, relationships have their share of ups and downs, but is there more drama than enjoyment? Your partner should help you be a better version of yourself, not bring out the version of you that you don’t really care for.
4. Has the drama spread past the relationship?
Do you avoid good friends or family because you have to deal with the drama or miss events because of the drama or avoid them because your loved ones are tired of it? Does managing the drama episodes interfere with the things you enjoy in life (working out, going to movies, travel)? Are you tired of your close friends asking why you keep going back to that person?
If you think you’re the only one who understands your partner, you could be right. Or they could all be right, and you’re the one that’s missing the obvious. It can be challenging to gain insight into ourselves. The most challenging place to do that is in romantic relationships. The emotions are simply too powerful and old for us at times.
So you found yourself saying “yes” to most of those. What does it mean?
Well, if it’s causing all that negativity, why do you stay? Are you doing the same thing but expecting a different outcome? That’s the classic definition of insanity or, in this case, addiction. You keep listening to the words even though the behaviors don’t match up. How much longer are you going to wait or “try” before you move on? It really confuses our hearts when we hear the words we want to hear but don’t see the behaviors that support the words. It may break your heart, but it may be time to end this.
Being drawn to or addicted to relationship drama may mean that somebody in the relationship has a touch of “crazy.” If it’s you, that’s good; you can grow and change. If it’s them, different story. We can’t change people, and crazy never gets tired. You just need to get away from it. Don’t try to fight it; it won’t get tired like you will. Healthy people, as painful as it is, move on and begin to live again.
- Kevin Gilliland, Psy.D.
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