Mediates by Meredith Richardson
Some people bring us a great deal of pain along with the joy, and yet we keep running after them anyway.
When people look at the relationship from the outside, they may not understand it. “Why do you want to be with him?” they ask. “He treats you badly,” or “He’s mean,” or “How could he do that to you?” or “You don’t deserve that.”
“Why do you want to be with her?” they ask. “She doesn’t like your friends and won’t let you go out with them.” “She is a b#@%%!”
On the receiving end, you’re hearing what they’re saying, but thinking, “But you don’t understand. You don’t see this person the way I do. You don’t see the kinder, gentler side that the person only shows to me.”
And you may also be thinking, “And now I’m not going to talk to you about my love anymore. You’re not a safe person to talk to. You’re judging him and you’re judging me.”
On NPR, the singer Dessa was talking about her inspiration for heart-centered lyrics in her latest album, “Chime.” One inspiration was a relationship she had which she described as breaking up from the beginning, but they kept at it for years. “As soon as we started dating, we started breaking up,” she said. After years of this, she still felt her heart explode with hope when she got a call from him. She ended up screaming at herself and her heart in her car in the rain. Why did her heart keep leaping in hope for this man when she knew intellectually that the relationship was a bad one, forever doomed? She went so far as to have a fMRI done, in which she was shown a picture of her former boyfriend, then a picture of a man who looked like him but wasn’t him, to find in her brain where the love was so that she could erase it. Then, once they isolated the target area, she went to a specialist to stop reacting in that way to her former boyfriend. She saw her behavior as the equivalent of a muscle cramp. She wanted a muscle that was strong and could flex without cramping. Afterwards, she had another fMRI to see if she had successfully rid herself of romantic love for him. The fMRI showed that she had been successful.
I think that with any form of addiction, it can be a lot easier to see it clearly from the outside looking in than it is to see it from the inside looking out.
In a “normal” relationship, there are highs and lows, but they aren’t anything like the spikes of an addictive relationship. It’s like comparing hills to mountains and fjords. The highs are higher and the lows are lower in an addictive relationship.
In an addictive relationship, when your partner is attentive and happy, the sun shines brighter. While most people experience this when first in love, it usually fades over time. It may not fade as much in an addictive relationship because you cannot count on your partner to be this way on a regular basis. As a result, when it happens, it is a much bigger event than when you are dealing with a person who is generally happy or even keel. You can take for granted that your partner will be there for you, will be the same person that s/he always is.
In an addictive relationship, when your partner is sullen, withdrawn, angry, drunk again, neglectful, mean, cheating, threatening, etc., you may look to fix things so that your partner can be attentive and happy again. You may rage against your partner. You may cry. Your lows are lower than they would be if you were not in an addictive relationship. If you were not addicted to this person, then when she continuously acted this way, you would say, “Enough.” You would not only say, “Enough,” you would act on it. When you are addicted and chasing the high, you might say, “Enough,” but you don’t mean it. Your partner returns to being attentive and happy, your heart blooms with hope and love, and you are still riding the rollercoaster of addiction.
Why do you do this to yourself?
1. You may have an addictive personality.
Some of us have addictive personalities. It is just who we are. If we aren’t addicted to a person, we can be addicted to food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, work, TV, our phones, video games, and more.
This person may feed your addictions.
2. You may be repeating old patterns.
Some of us are recreating what we learned at an early age.
Some of us grew up with parents in addictive relationships.
Some of us lost a parent to addiction, whether because the addiction took over the parent’s life and left us with little time with the parent, or because the parent actually died from the addiction.
Some of us grew up without a parent.
Some of us grew up with parents who weren’t constant in their love for us or who showed us that love was conditional upon our meeting their needs and expectations. We couldn’t rely on them. We had to provide the love for them, as they couldn’t provide it for us.
Some of us were taught to put other people’s needs always before our own. If we aren’t caretaking for others, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.
Some of us are afraid of getting close and so we do a lot to push people away, even if we really want to get close, or we think we do.
What would you like to do differently (if anything)?
If you suspect you are in an addictive relationship, take some time to answer the questions below.
1. What do you see as signs that you are in an addictive relationship?
2. If you could change your relationship in any fashion, what would you like to see happening instead?
3. What are you willing to do to make your relationship better?
4. What is the other person willing to do to make the relationship better? If you don’t know, that’s a conversation that you need to have, either on your own or with me, a mediator, counselor, or spiritual advisor, or another trusted, neutral professional.
5. What will you do if the other person isn’t willing or able to do enough to meet your needs? (You can answer this question now or you may wait until after you have implemented the answers to steps 3 and 4.)
You can choose whether to continue with an addictive relationship. You cannot choose whether or not the other person will relinquish their addictions or their addictive behavior for you.
Please let me know if I can help. You can reach out to me through this website or book time with me on fiverr.
Adapted from an address to the annual conference of the Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand in July 2015. A revised version of a keynote address given to the...By John Sturrock