Are You Addicted to a Toxic Relationship?

by | Feb 13, 2019

We’re all familiar with the perils of addiction—surrendering to a substance that you can’t resist, until you are entirely under its control. You go back for more repeatedly because the short-term rush is great. But the long-term harm is even greater, and it’s inevitable. Usually we think of addiction in connection with drugs or alcohol, but it’s also an apt description of some abusive relationships.

Are You Addicted To A Toxic Relationship? Nancy'S Counseling Corner

Is your partner your drug of choice?

If you are addicted to a toxic person, you think about her obsessively. Of course, that might describe infatuation or even love. But the difference is, you are powerless to stop your obsessive thoughts even as they cause you distress. Usually, there’s a cycle of high hopes, anticipation, waiting and desperation to connect with your loved one. When you do, there’s momentary bliss, then despair—a terrible let-down while you suffer in angst anticipating your next encounter.

If you are in a relationship that involves such constant drama, take a closer look and see what you are getting out of such an unsatisfactory situation. Maybe you get a feeling of being wanted, even if it’s fleeting. Maybe you feel a sense of belonging, even if it’s false. Whatever your reward, it’s only temporary. Most of the time you are feeling empty and despondent. Until you connect with her once more and the cycle begins again.

It takes strength and courage to break the cycle.

Once you realize you are caught in a cycle, you can begin to change things for the better. But the hard truth is, like quitting any addiction, it won’t be easy. You have to be determined to end your toxic relationship, and you have to stick to your decision. That means no contact whatsoever—no texts, no calls, no emails. No trolling social media for hopes of a glimpse. You must disengage and detach entirely.

It will be hard to disengage because your brain is wired to be rewarded when you are with the object of your obsession. And when you abstain, you suffer stress that jumpstarts your system to seek relief. Your brain releases chemicals that cause you to crave your former partner, no matter how toxic. Now is the time to put up the good fight, and refuse to respond to your brain chemistry.

How can you get through the craving period?

Understand that things will get better if you can just hold out long enough for the craving to subside. Maybe you need some positive reinforcement from mantras that build your self-esteem and courage. Maybe you need to focus your attention on a hobby—like cooking, or gardening or meditating. Physical exercise helps, too—choose something you love to do and pour your energy into it. Writing helps a lot of people, especially journaling on a regular basis. Or just get together with a really good friend and talk out your issues.

Know that recovering from addiction is hard work, but worthwhile work. You must persevere. Tell yourself you will not participate in your partner’s toxicity. You will not put up with feeling bad around her. You will not engage in the constant drama she generates. You will manage your emotions. You will take control and believe in yourself. You will reframe your relationship by your rules. You will take your power back. And keep it.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:



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