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Relationship Addiction: Definition, Signs, Causes, Impacts & How to Get Over It?

Relationship Addiction: Definition, Signs, Causes, Impacts & How to Get Over It?

Updated on Jul 05, 2022

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

What is Relationship Addiction & How to get over it

Curious about relationship addiction? Do you or a loved one invest too much into relationships? Perhaps, to the point of neglecting yourself? Wanna stay committed even if your partner abuses you?’

Then you reached the right place to clear your doubts. This think-piece is your one-stop solution to understanding relationship addiction.

If you’re addicted, you can identify your signs and causes. With those, I’ll show you ways to deal with it by yourself. 

You’ll even know if you need expert attention. Moreover, if your partner is an addict, you’ll even find a solution for that. 

So, if you’re ready to have healthier relationships, let’s head right in…

Relationship Addiction Infographic

How to get over Relationship Addiction
How to get over Relationship Addiction

What is Relationship Addiction?

Relationship addiction is when one person depends too much on the relationship to feel worthy, mentally stable, confident, and can’t function without relationships. Relationship addicts lose sight of life and goals. It deteriorates their quality of life.

When you think of addiction, alcohol and drug addiction strike your mind first. However, scholars recently found evidence that behavioral addictions exist. For instance, addiction to shopping, gambling, or even relationships.

As per some experts addiction to love and sex addiction is normal. They are an important part of human life unlike substance abuse or excess shopping.

A person with relationship addiction can’t go without romantic relationships. They struggle to function normally or their mental health deteriorates without a partner.

If you’re addicted to relationships, you’ll lose sight of life goals and purpose and don’t care for yourself… instead of improving yourself.

You aren’t a relationship addict if you jump between relationships, don’t take time to move on after breakups, or like nonmonogamy. Falling in love fast or enjoying being in relationships isn’t an addiction either.

Moreover, relationship addicts aren’t the same as sex and love addicts. Let’s first compare it with love addiction here…

Relationship Addiction vs Love Addiction

In relationship addiction, you’re obsessed with staying in a relationship, you don’t care about who your partner is but in love addiction, you’re obsessed with only one partner. In both cases, you feel appreciated and loved staying in a relationship or being together with one person.

Relationship addicts exhibit addictive behaviors toward having a relationship. It hardly matters who your partner is if you’re one.

You have unhealthy relationship patterns like leaving one person for another to seek validation. You have multiple relationships to feel desired.

In love addiction, you love your sole partner so intensely that it hurts you both. You feel so obsessed that you forget about your needs and focus on fulfilling your partner’s needs only.

You depend on your partner excessively. You evaluate your worth in your lover’s life with your appearance and desirability.

You focus on how much your partner desires you to estimate their love for you. Your self-esteem depends on their validation.

Relationship addiction and love addiction are somewhat similar. However, when you’re addicted to love, you depend on only one partner for everything.

In relationship addiction, you’re not addicted to a person… you’re addicted to the idea of being in a relationship.

Further, let’s bust the confusion between relationship and sex addiction here…

Relationship Addiction vs Sex Addiction

Relationship addiction is when people feel confident and secure only when in a relationship. Sex addiction is when someone always obsesses over having sexual activities and fantasies. Relationship addicts use sex as bait for having relationships. Sex addicts use romance as bait for having sex.

A relationship addict focuses on being in romantic relationships, despite who your partner is.

In sex addiction, you obsess over having sex, the number of partners and being in relationships doesn’t matter. You want to realize sexual fantasies and always think of indulging in sexual activities.

Your relationships only revolve around sex. You can’t focus on work, feel depressed, and lose confidence when you abstain. You might get physical or emotional ailments or get involved in financial or legal matters.

Sex addicts attract sexual partners with romance as bait. Relationship addicts may use sex or money to attract romantic partners.

Curious if science has anything to say about it? Let’s find more on it here…

Relationship Addiction Research

2010 studies showed cocaine cravings and post-breakup feelings activate similar brain parts. 2016 studies proved love develops similar feelings to addictive drugs. 2018 studies showed that yearning for love turns more addictive in unrequited love.

A 2010 medically reviewed study showed during breakups or rejections, certain parts of the brain were activated in 15 respondents. They found that cocaine cravings also activated similar areas.

As per a 2016 study, medical reviewers compared romantic love with natural addiction. In love, people develop dependency, craving, euphoria, and withdrawal symptoms, with other addictive patterns in drug abuse.

Experts explained that dopamine production is the reason for romantic love. The same happens during drug addictions. However, they found the drive for romantic love is a chemical or behavioral addiction.

Another 2018 medically reviewed case study connected dopamine with love. Moreover, they also found that the yearnings later diminish and take the form of long-lasting love in mutual attraction. Only in one-sided and unrequited love, the yearning turns addictive.

Wondering where the roots of the chaos lie? Come on, follow me for the answers…

Relationship Addiction Causes

Usually, people develop relationship addiction due to brain chemical imbalance, genetics, family dynamics, attachment styles, and/or low self-esteem.

According to relationship experts, the reasons for relationship addiction vary from brain chemistry to genetics… neither of which a person can control.

Your family dynamics might play a role in this. You might learn it from the elder’s relationships or it might be the result of an attachment issue.

It might also be due to low self-esteem. You might crave your partners’ validation as you don’t feel confident in yourself. You may slowly become dependent on them to an unhealthy extent.

Anxious whether you’re a relationship addict? Let’s verify it from these…

Relationship Addiction Signs

If you’re a relationship addict, it’s hard to notice it yourself. Usually, people identify it only when their partners or close friend points out something is off.

However, gone are the days when you find it only after many fights, failed relationships, and heartbreaks. Know you’re addicted if you match with even one of these…

1. You have an urge to fall in love continuously

In the early stages of a relationship, you feel euphoric due to the dopamine release in the bloodstream. This high feeling is kinda addictive so if you’re a relationship addict, you’ll continuously crave the first stages.

You want to fall in love, but probably you won’t like the idea of a long-term relationship because the early stage fades away with time.

You don’t have any relationship goals… you just want to enjoy the feelings. Eventually, this hurts you and your partner deeply because you’re not on the same page or never communicated.

2. You obsess about someone unavailable

Another red flag of being a relationship addict is when you pester the other person too much. Perhaps the other person is over you, doesn’t have any feelings for you, is emotionally unavailable, or married.

You feel obsessed with them, try to change their mind, and become a nuisance in their life. If you’re too hung on your ex, you never stop obsessing over them. You can’t stop thinking about them.

3. You obsess over being in love

If you’re a relationship addict, you’ll always obsess over the fairy tale love story. You want to have your own fairy tale, hit the ‘couple goals’, and behave as if you’re made for one another.

Basically, you want to have a relationship like the movies. You prioritize someone who fits just right with you, without any extra effort to make the relationship work.

4. You wanna be in a relationship, doesn’t matter with who

As someone addicted to relationships, behavioral addiction to stay committed will persist. You don’t wanna stay single for even a day of your life. It’s because being in a relationship makes you feel confident.

You can’t love yourself, so you constantly want someone beside you to shower that love. You increase the risk of dating the wrong person this way.

5. You follow unhealthy relationship patterns

If you’re always on-off withs relationships, that’s an alarming sign of relationship addiction. You’re probably addicted to the sharp spike of dopamine and endorphins during the initial stages and depression during separations.

Probably, these make you feel livelier, make impulsive decisions, and impact your brain functionality. You get withdrawal symptoms when you’re away and you believe that’s true love. This leads to an addictive relationship cycle.

6. You have no self-control over decisions

You might be a relationship addict if you can’t control yourself from moving on too fast. You may behave too impulsively for your own good.

Perhaps, you fought with your partner one day. You won’t even wait to resolve the issues and hop on another relationship.

7. You don’t have a life without the relationship

When you begin a relationship, it becomes your sole life focus. You forget about your friends and family and deeply become involved with your partner. You may even lose interest in your job and hobbies.

Your partner may feel smothered because of your actions. They want more distance from you for your obsessive behavior. They might even hurt you to keep you away.

You continuously chase your retreating partner and feel exhausted. This eventually takes the form of self-neglect and depression.

8. Your feelings fluctuate in the relationship

In healthy relationships, couples handle both good and bad times maturely. However, a person with compulsive relationship addiction won’t do the same.

They feel great when their partners are in harmony. But whenever there are minor fights in the relationship, the addicted one thinks it’s the end.

Moreover, when they have a breakup conversation, they feel physically or emotionally sick… they can’t end a relationship even if they want to.

If this rings a bell, you might be addicted to relationships.

9. Your relationship is always on your mind

If you have relationship addiction, you’ll also think about the relationship 24/7.

Thoughts like how to make your partner love you more, why your partner behaved a certain way, and how to change their feelings flock in your mind.

Even when you hang out with your friends and family, you only think and talk about your relationship.

You might even get distracted from work, deteriorate your performance, and hamper your financial stability.

10. You have low self-esteem

You lack self-confidence so badly that you believe you don’t deserve your partner. Even when your partner behaves indifferently, you can’t stop loving them.

Your mood depends on how they treat you. Unless they think you did a good job, you doubt your capabilities. You may even accept your partner’s constant criticism which leads to even worse self-esteem.

You can’t bear to be independent in your relationship. You can’t bear to say ‘no’ because you have to keep your partner… else you might not find anyone else.

11. You depend on sex to keep your partners

Relationship addicts feel they don’t have much to give their partners. So, to keep your partner beside you, you try to please them in bed.

Whenever some relationship issue arises, you can’t communicate to resolve the situation. You rather depend on sex to make up with your partner and express your love.

However, sex can never solve the problems and they only snowball and later burst out.

12. You make excuses for abuse

Relationship addicts face difficulty breaking free from relationships. So, they even put up with toxic relationships. If you even accept physical abuse in exchange for the relationship… you’re addicted.

Moreover, you forgive your partner too easily after the abusive episodes because you can’t leave them. You might even defend your abusive partner when your loved ones confront them.

You can’t notice that your partner’s actions are wrong.

13. You become substance dependent

Relationship addicts always feel insecure, anxious, depressed, irritable, or confused. Their and their partner’s relationship goals and drive to stay in the relationship differ.

So, they face many difficulties coping to accept the situation. Eventually, they depend on substance addiction. Some might even get addicted to gambling, food, or compulsive decisions.

14. You don’t take long to commit

If you’re addicted to relationships, you won’t take enough time to know your prospective partner. You’re so dependent on having a relationship, you can’t wait until you know a person before starting one.

You feel drawn to even the wrong person which hurts you in the process. You obsess over feeling loved, cared for, and appreciated, so you’re ready to get it at any cost.

After every breakup, you’re always in a hurry to find someone new or get back to the last partner.

15. You compromise too much for the relationship

As a relationship addict, when you begin a relationship with the wrong person, you won’t try to communicate the issues. You may not even try to end the relationship.

You’d rather force yourself to adjust until you inconvenience yourself. You change your morals, beliefs, and ethics to last your relationships.

You might even feel that with love and time, your partner will change and understand you.

Considering leaving your addiction untreated? I’ll suggest against it because of these…

Relationship Addiction Impacts

Always consider medical advice if you’re a relationship addict. Because it is no less than substance addiction. It can wreck your or your partner’s life too badly if you leave it untreated.

Some of the possible effects are listed here…

1. You always think about your relationship and can’t focus on your life. So, you can’t make real progress personally or professionally.

2. You allow your toxic partner to walk all over you and crush your self-esteem.

3. If you let your partner continuously spew toxicity in your life as you can’t bear to separate from them… you might become a physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, or any other form of abuse victim

4. Whenever you have fights or there are breakup conversations, you exhibit self-harming and suicidal tendencies.

5. To cope with relationship troubles, you depend on substance abuse or other forms of compulsive addiction like binge eating and gambling.

6. You don’t care for your health, indulge in addiction, are always stressed, and become suicidal in addictive relationships. So, your immunity to physical ailments considerably drops

7. You can’t think of a life without your partner. However, your partner wants to leave you. You might apply brute force to make them stay, i.e., abuse them to stay behind.

8. Your idea of boundaries becomes hazy. Since you can’t ever refuse your partner, you feel used and taken advantage of.

9. You want to make the relationship work and last so you might subconsciously or consciously try to manipulate your partner’s feelings. None of your partners will want to stay back with such toxic dynamics.

10. You stay back in the wrong relationship to avoid loneliness and because of your low confidence. You don’t even understand that you deserve better in life and lose out on happiness.

Confirmed that it’s not a good thing? Wanna know how to break relationship addiction? No worries, because I have the cheat sheet here…

How to get over an addictive relationship?

Overcoming an addictive relationship isn’t a child’s play. On the flip side, it isn’t that hard either. You can definitely opt for help from support groups, but in the end, this is your journey.

Even experts will only prescribe you ways… you’ll need to work on it alone. So, why not help yourself this way…

1. Pen down your relationship history for a reality check

When you’re addicted to anything, you don’t notice the harm it brings to your life. If you want to work on your situation alone, then write down the major points of your past relationships.

Grasp details about how healthy relationships work and compare them with how you work in relationships. Understand when it’s alright to seek your partner for comfort… and when you must suffice yourself

Do you depend on your partner for validation? Why is that so? Do you not feel comfortable and confident by yourself? Do you expect too much from your partner? Why don’t you try to meet your expectations yourself?

2. Understand your sense of good and bad relationships

Healthy, happy, or loving relationships need lots of work. Nobody learns to build one in a day. However, everyone has their ideal of good and bad relationships.

Make two columns on paper and write down the qualities you think are good or bad. Perhaps, on the good side, you’ll put ‘great chemistry’, ‘matching interests’, ‘no arguments’, ‘always agreeing’, and so on.

Initially, in the honeymoon phase, people find these the ideal qualities. However, after three years in a relationship, if your definition of a good relationship is still as rigid… It’s a problem.

For instance, fights are normal in relationships. Rather, no arguments signify something is off. You can’t have all matching interests. You have your own life and are free to pursue individual interests only.

Redefine your relationship description… research and find out the true meaning of love.

3. Sounds tough, but take a break

If you can’t work with these steps while you’re in a relationship, step back from one another. You can’t figure out the rights and wrongs if your partner is always in front of you.

You may even feel nervous before this step. You’ll think ‘What if he/she never returns? Will they misunderstand me? Will they find someone better? What if I lose them for life and never have a relationship?’

Fight these emotions and work on gaining confidence. Rethink what your relationship brings to your plate? Does it help you grow or make you miserable?

If you don’t wanna completely go on a break, then take time apart to socialize and understand your needs. Seek online support groups to learn different coping mechanisms.

4. Set healthy life and relationship goals

Talk to your partner about boundary setting and life goals. Discuss what and where you want to be 5 years down the lane. Build achievable goals and think realistically.

If your partner asks you to be a millionaire, that’s extreme and chances are, you’re not with the right person. Assess your capabilities and consider your happiness while you build goals.

If you cling to unrealistic goals, you won’t be able to realize them. Then you’ll start hating and criticizing yourself. None of these are healthy, so prioritize healthy life.

In case your partner sticks to unrealistic goals and you still wanna stay with them… work on making boundaries. Whatever you think you can’t do to your partner, make that your boundary.

For instance, if you can’t imagine pressuring your partner into anything… then you must also not accept being forced into something.

5. Distract yourself from negative self-talk

You’re your greatest enemy if you’re a relationship addict. You send yourself into a negative spiral. You can’t consciously stop the negative talk.

However, make an effort to distract yourself whenever you begin it. Listen to music, go for a jog, dance, paint, do everything and show self-love.

Leave positive quotes on the washroom mirror every night. Give yourself positive self-talk every morning for 5 minutes.

This will eventually build a stronger you and help you have healthy relationships… you won’t depend on your partner’s validation for too long.

However, there’s a limit to self-help. Sometimes, it’s better to seek experts before things go out of hand. Like when? Let me explain it here…

When to get help for relationship addiction?

Overcoming relationship addiction isn’t easy by yourself. If you can’t deal with it, it’s important to take the situation more seriously.

Moreover, immediately seek a mental health professional for counseling or psychotherapy when any of these happens…

1. You depend too intensely on your partner or feel a relationship is important for a fulfilling life.

2. You can’t break free from a toxic or abusive relationship.

3. You compulsively contact an ex or a crush even when they asked you not to.

4. You have self-harming thoughts or want to harm someone else.

5. You experience too frequent mood swings.

However, things become a bit difficult if you’re not the addict in the scene. So, let’s find out your responsibilities in that case…

What if someone else is addicted to you?

If your partner is a relationship addict, set boundaries and insist on maintaining them. Spend time apart from one another for your life goals. If they can’t handle it, avoid contacting them to help them get over the cravings.

If you’re not a relationship addict, but your partner is… you may feel they’re jealous, clingy, and overdependent on you.

If you still want to make this relationship work, try to set boundaries, insist on them, and spend time away from one another to invest time in your personal lives.

If they can’t follow certain rules, this is an unhealthy relationship. Maintain distance and avoid contact for a prolonged time to help them get over the addiction.

But that wasn’t all because relationship addiction is a controversial topic. You ought to have more queries, so head into these…


So, whether you have questions for informational purposes only or just in case to be sure and aware… I get that you’re curious and wanna know more about it.

People have varying opinions on being a relationship addict, about an addict’s personality, health issues, and more. So, let’s find out everything here…

1. Who becomes addicted to a relationship?

People who are addicted to relationships aren’t aware of it themselves. They might have self-harming tendencies, can’t refuse others, have low self-esteem, and crave relationships to feel confident.

These qualities in a person lead them to addiction in relationships. However, anyone who desires love won’t become addicted.

Researchers say that both love and drugs lead to similar psychological and chemical impacts on the body. So, it’s hard to say who exactly can become addicted to relationships.

2. What does it mean to be an addictive person?

To have an addictive personality in relationships implies you’re prone to develop addiction in relationships.

You can’t control your whims and impulses and can’t set proper boundaries. With addictive qualities, you often rely on relationships to feel happy, content, and fulfilled.

3. Can some relationships be addictive?

If you grew up in a healthy and loving family, you won’t easily enter into unhealthy relationships. You’ll have your own ideals and beliefs about relationships… so you won’t easily have addictive relationships in life.

However, if you grew up neglected or faced abuse and toxicity since childhood, you might have addictive relationships in life.

It’s normal for you because you grew up feeling insecure in your very first relationships. You may get addicted to feeling insecure and resort to typical addict behavior in relationships.

4. Can relationship addiction lead to any mental health issues?

You may develop new mental health issues from relationship addiction or aggravate old ones. You might get anxiety, depression, and sometimes even personality disorders.

Don’t leave mental health concerns untreated because they diminish relationship satisfaction. If you treat them, it will help you minimize or even cure your relationship addiction. Seek an expert ASAP to get rid of trouble from your relationships.

5. Why does ending an addictive relationship feel like substance use withdrawal?

When you break up from addictive relationships, you might experience extreme emotional and even physical withdrawal symptoms. Those are mainly because of the chemical changes in your body.

During intimate moments in love, your brain releases endorphins and dopamine. After the breakup, your brain stops releasing them and you crave good feelings.

If your body is used to alcohol or drugs, when you stop consuming them, you also feel withdrawal symptoms. This way withdrawal from substance addiction and breakups from addictive relationships feel similar.

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

Some people might think relationship addiction is something romantic. Some might tell you against getting a cure for that. However, if you’re addicted, you know your troubles. 

Don’t let others’ thoughts waver your resolve to seek healthy relationships. If you notice some signs in yourself or your partner, don’t hesitate to break the silence.

Communicate and build healthy boundaries to work on a better relationship. If you can’t figure it out yourself, seek out support groups to get firsthand guidance from survivors.

Consider psychotherapy if things get too serious. Or, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you or a loved one is suicidal at 1.800.273.8255.

If you’re on and off between relationships, make recovery your priority. Don’t jump into relationships for some time. Seek your loved ones’ support to come out victorious in this battle.