Relationship Addiction?

In her book called ‘Smart Love’ Jody Hayes talks about addictive relationships. There are some do it yourself exercises and hints, quotes from former clients and philosophers. The overall message in this book is ‘releasing yourself from the need to be everything to everyone-except yourself’.
It’s not a new book, published way back in 1989, but the issue of women becoming enmeshed with their spouses, children, parents and friends is ongoing. As a support worker I often see the 30-60 year old woman who has ‘given everything to everyone’ and doesn’t understand why she’s empty now.
Relationship Addiction means ‘becoming obsessively involved in the life of another person’ it’s like the other person becomes a drug to you, like an addict to a substance and similarly there is pain with withdrawal. “RA’s are secretly afraid that if they stop controlling others, they will lose everything, but instead by letting go, ” You no longer need to do what you always felt you had to. You have choices.”

Have you ever been sitting with a BFF and all she talks about is her man? HIS opinions, HIS favourite foods, HIS needs. Tiring isn’t it? When this starts to happen, ask her what she thinks about things, remind her that loving detachment means that she can still care about him, but that she needn’t be desperate to help him. This is especially vital if he’s not doing anything to help himself. She has the right to refuse to ‘take on’ his problems, or addictions. You can remind her (or yourself if this fits your relationship) that though it may be hard at first, women who are relationship addicts must find a way to take care of their own needs. Seek counselling, ask yourself honestly, “What’s in this for me?” Listen to the answer carefully.

Women are, for the most part, the caretakers in life. They care for kids, aging parents, spouses, siblings. They are often underpaid, underappreciated and stay in this rut until they run out of steam. They lay down their needs, wants and childish expectations at the altar of ‘love’. If you find that you’re clinging to someone, ask this question. Am I clinging because I’m too scared to let go? I urge you to examine your relationships and if your fingernails are bleeding from hanging on too tightly, call a counsellor. Take care of you.

Excerpts in quotations are taken from Chapter 3. Jody Hayes’ book; Smart Love. Published in 1986 by Tarcher/Putnam

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