My God – the ecstasy and agony of love. Have you ever been addicted to a lover? How do you know? Have you ever felt your knees shake, your heart race, tongue-tied, or faint at the sight of them? Have you broken up and gotten back together – over and over again? If you can answer “yes” to any of those… you’re an addict. A former client of mine struggled ending a toxic 10-year marriage. She and her husband had seperated numerous times and always ended up back in bed together, reuniting and then the cycle began again. She eventually filed for divorce, and followed through, although the invisible pull towards him was powerful. I could identify with her torn feelings and broken spirit.
I was addicted to someone once… I’ll call him “John” – it was the only time in my life when I experienced “love at first sight” – it was mutual. We were together for several years. Our affair was intensely passionate, terribly toxic and dysfunctional, and we were both miserable when we were apart. John always won me back by tears and promises to change… When we made love, John allowed himself to be utterly vulnerable to me. His love for me was palpable – as mine was for him. But, we were young and fumbled our way through rough territory. We didn’t have much support. We would reunite and the cycle would start all over again. He was my drug of choice. I wore my family and friends out with my relapses. I relapsed multiple times in trying to end my addiction to John. When I saw him my knees went weak. Even after years of being together – I still felt “high” at the sight of him. I was crazy and madly addicted to him. I felt as if I could have done anything to be with him. Ending our affair is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I think there should be some 12-step program for “Lovers Anonymous.”
When relationships are toxic, but you continue to return over and over and over again until all of your family and friends are disgusted – that’s a red flag for addiction. What researchers know is that neurochemicals released from your feeling about a lover can be identical to a drug-induced high. The brain literally responds in the same manner. No wonder it’s difficult to end! This explains, also, why some people go from one relationship to another – and never stay long term. They’re junkies. Once the high from one lover begins to dissipate, they need to find the next high. This is the same pattern as substance abuse, the user needs more of a drug to elicit the same feeling.
So, if you find yourself in this situation with your lover, be gentle with your relapses. It’s normal. You may return to a toxic relationship multiple times until you can make the break. This is a good time to get into therapy. A competent therapist can assist you in exploring the painful relapse dynamics and help identify tools to prevent future relapses. Don’t be hard on yourself if your successful at everything else in your life but lover relapse – realize the addictive pattern is literally neurology having it’s way with you!