People are the ultimate designer drug: What is your poison?

The [addictive] process of abusive relationships is complicated. Here I discuss the reasoning behind why some get addicted to the highs and lows of unhealthy partnerships and the powerful impact that actions and words can have.

We all know the mind-altering effects of drugs and alcohol, but have you ever stopped to consider the mind-altering effects that the people in your life have on you?

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Think about it. Anytime you meet someone, there are definite biological components at play. Research suggests that when a person falls in love, there is an increase in dopamine and a desire to be with that person—the “I can’t get enough of you feeling” that is all too common in the initial stages of dating.

Like taking a drug, however, after meeting someone and beginning to have them in your life consistently (i.e. you are in a relationship), that “shiny penny” excess-dopamine phenomenon begins to plateau and you begin to develop a tolerance of sorts. You’re left at the same place you were before you met the person. The “high” is gone.

Perhaps this is the reason why so many friendships and romantic relationships fade. After the dopamine levels out, the tolerance builds, the excitement or newness dwindles—the decision to separate from that person becomes more attractive. So what could be the reason behind a person deciding to remain in a relationship that is unhealthy or causes the proverbial hangover that seems to linger on and on?

Love addiction.

Two powerful little words that are quite prevalent in our society.

The “rule of thumb” to knowing if you have an addiction is evaluating whether or not the person, place, or thing is causing you significant distress and impairing your ability to carry out activities and functions of daily living. We typically think of male-female romantic relationships when we consider domestic violence, however, emotional and physical abuse comes in the form of many different familial and even platonic relationships.

Take for example a relationship between mother and son. The mother constantly tells her son that he is failure, will never amount to anything, and he is a disappointment to all. As a result, the son feels worthless and no good. However, as in most abusive relationships, there are periods of “sobriety” where the abuser refrains from the abuse and the relationship appears hunky dory. It is during these times that a very critical part of the cycle of abuse occurs:

The honeymoon stage.

Or the part where you fall back in love with your abuser because he or she is acting the way that you had always hoped or “knew they could”! Your abuser may apologize and profess their undying love for you, vowing to “never do that again”. Your love for them becomes even more reinforced, thus the cycle is able to continue and you hold on to that honeymoon period thinking that “I know he/she will get back to the person that I fell in love with again”.

With each revolution of the cycle of abuse, we become more desensitized to the abuse, and our emotional states start to become dependent on that other being—or as I believe—the emotional aftermath we’re left experiencing, until our tolerance builds up and we are but a shell of who we once were.

People experience emotional highs and lows throughout the course of a relationship—romantic or platonic. And I believe that the addiction becomes not to the person, but the feeling that the person elicits within you. Feelings and thoughts carry a very high amount of weight in a relationship. And the rollercoaster of highs and lows can at times, become what people become addicted to, or in some strange way, comforted by.

 

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The joy, the passion, the fighting, the making up…one big blur of experiences that can make you feel like you’re riding the cyclone (but not having fun).

 

Take the woman that is being abused by her partner. She knows deep down the signs that the explosive and destructive emotional outburst is about to occur. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, she also knows that there will be the making up and “best behavior from the abuser” parts to the cycle that she so desperately craves. Thus, there begins the pattern, and because human beings—whether you want to believe it or not—are patterned creatures, a sort of comfort or acceptance of the situation is derived.

Human beings have flaws and certain people in our lives know how to bring out parts of you that are the best and alternately, the absolute worst. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to decide how you are going to allow another person to treat you, when enough is enough, and realize that your self-worth is more important than accepting abuse.

How much another human being can affect another human is an amazing phenomenon that truly makes the world go ‘round; or with regards to the darker side of human kind, causes a person to start to lose sight of who they are and how they feel about themselves.

Think about it…The pretty girl smiles at you and your morning is made. You receive a sweet text from your partner and your bad morning turns to good. Your parent calls to tell you how proud they are of you and for once, you start to feel proud of yourself.

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Alternately, your spouse comes home from work and wordlessly flings their belongings on the floor, instilling a sense of fear in you. Your girlfriend slaps you across the face because you asked what time the movie starts, causing you to feel idiotic, embarrassed, and angry.

Humans and our word and action choices are very powerful forces in this world. Our ability to cause a stir is palpable and ever-present. Consider the recent Trump/Kathy Griffin debacle. One decision probably forever (negatively) changed that comedian’s career. The actions of people have very serious consequences. Much like choosing to drink too much, deciding to infringe on another person’s boundaries and taking the joke too far can have very serious implications in life.

Tying it all together…

We are beings that have millions of neurons interacting together, thrive in relationships, hurt each other’s feelings, and inadvertently and sometimes consciously choose to cause harm. The only person that you can ever truly control is yourself.

I challenge you to make healthy choices and treat others with kindness. You never know how you will affect someone else…what joke will push someone over the edge (think bullying) or conversely, what kind word will cause someone to want to remain a part of this world.

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Choose the people in your life that give you a healthy “high”. A high where you feel good because you are cherished and respected. The high that comes after a shared experience of laughing and talking with your partner or friend. Not the emotional high that comes during the honeymoon stage in the cycle of abuse. Pick your poison carefully…every person has the ability to affect others in a positive or negative way.

Be the positive light and force that others desire to be around. And most importantly, be someone that YOU want to be around.

Wishing you positive interactions and healthy choices today and everyday,

Rachel Ann

Relationship check-up: 5 signs of an unhealthy relationship

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People enter into and stay in unhealthy relationships for many reasons. Sometimes you may not realize the level of unhealthiness that your relationship has reached. Other times, despite the dysfunction, you are comfortable and assume that all relationships are unhealthy so “why even bother finding someone new!” Friends, let me tell you. There are healthy partners out there. You may have to patiently remain single for awhile before finding that person but believe me, the payoff is so worth it. Not to mention, you’re worth it and you deserve happiness!

If you’ve been struggling with your relationship or perhaps you feel like you could use some quick reminders on what unhealthy relationships look like then read along…

5 signs of an unhealthy relationship:

1. You don’t consider each other in important decisions.

A true partnership is just that: a partnership. You wouldn’t decide to sell your half of the business without consulting your business partner first, would you? The same goes for your romantic relationship. If your life partner is discussing a move 1200 miles away and you’re not in the equation, this is a big glaring sign that this relationship is not on the right track. For a relationship to stay healthy and continue to work, partners must consider each other in every decision that they make. Why? Because what one person does will ultimately affect the other.

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2. You don’t communicate with each other.

So you feel neglected by your partner’s busy career? Instead of communicating openly about how you feel, you decide to take a vacation away from your partner for a week, avoiding the issue and hoping that it will just work itself out when you return. Uh-uh.

A healthy partnership is based upon respect, concern, and open communication with one another.

If you’re not able to communicate with your partner about how you feel and vice versa, then this will be a short lived relationship, or perhaps a long-lasting, yet very unhappy relationship where you feel that your needs are never really being met.

3. You don’t fight fair.

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In all relationships, there will be times where you just flat out do not agree with one another. However, there is an art to fighting fairly.

If you or your partner are constantly bringing up events from the past, name-calling, and or stone-walling (shutting down and refusing to communicate, much like point number 2), then you are definitely in the thick of an unhealthy relationship.

Learning how to resolve conflict and disagreements within your relationship is much like building the foundation for a house. It has to be there or the house will crumble. If you have children, then they learn how mom and dad resolve (or refuse to resolve) conflict and ultimately the cycle just continues itself.

Learn to fight fair. Listen attentively, allow your partner to speak, think before you speak, and stay in the here and now. If there are issues from the past that have never been resolved, then I urge you to go to a therapist and discuss them, then agree to let them go and move forward.

4. One or both of you are cheating (this includes emotional infidelity).

I am of the mindset that if you’re cheating, you’re feeding some sort of void in your relationship or within yourself.

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Maybe you are the eternal ladies man that needs to receive validation from women and one woman is not enough, yet you decided to get married thinking that “marriage will fix me”. Being the eternal ladies man (or woman!) could be a completely separate point in and of itself, but the key point here is that: problems you have before you marry will only follow you after you get married (unless they are dealt with beforehand).

You must deal with personal issues prior to becoming united in holy matrimony because marriage will only magnify your issues. Having another person that is always around you is kind of like having a mirror to look at all the time. There will be times where you may get called out for doing something that you didn’t even realize you were doing!

A good relationship/marriage is not always easy, but if you allow it to-marriage can help you become a better person. If you’re not ready to be an open communicator and a faithful partner, then it’s not for you. Remember, if you are feeling the need to stray from your relationship or you already are being unfaithful, this is surely a sign that you and your relationship are not in a healthy place. If both of you are cheating, then why continue being with each other!?

5.  Abuse is present.

Any kind of abuse–emotional, mental, physical, and/or economic/financial–is never acceptable.

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Making degrading statements to your partner, withholding finances so that your partner must beg you for money to buy groceries, and or having someone physically harm you in any way is surely the biggest indicator that you are in an unhealthy relationship. Abuse can manifest itself in so many ways–from being controlling, jealous, and possessive, to name-calling, and hitting–not one form of abuse fits all.

Typically abuse is insidious, creeping in slowly and by that time, you may already be “hooked”—fallen in love and or at the point where you feel too old to find anyone else, feel like you’ve already invested so much time in this relationship it’s pointless to leave. Maybe you have been told by your partner that “no one will ever love you”. If any of these apply to you, you must know that it is never too late.

I wish that men and women would leave at the first sign of abuse, yet sadly, this is hardly ever the case. Months and even years often pass with the cycle of abuse occurring and each time the person is getting deeper and deeper into the relationship.

You deserve peace, happiness, and a healthy relationship in your life.

If you are encountering any kind of abuse and need further assistance, please reach out to the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for support.

Tying it all together…

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A relationship is a partnership. If you’re not considering one another in your life’s plans, not communicating, not fighting fairly, cheating, and any kind of abuse is occurring, these are clear indications that your relationship is not healthy.

I completely believe in the power of change and improvement, but a relationship can only get better if both parties are willing to put in work. Of course, you can only control yourself so there is always the possibility that by you making positive changes, it will spur your partner on to be healthier, but this is not always the case.

If you’re newly dating someone and these issues are coming up, then it’s time for you to make a choice! You can remove yourself from an unhealthy relationship before you get too deep into it. or you can invest even more time into the relationship to see if it “gets better”.

The longer you stay in, the harder it is to get out.

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Allow yourself to be treated the way that you should. You may have gone through some horrific situations as a child or teenager, but as an adult, you finally have more control in what and who you allow in your life. Take advantage of this. And in the end, if you need to be by yourself for a while then so be it.

Consider this: It’s better to be alone than in an unhealthy relationship…

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Empowering you to have healthy relationships in your life today and everyday,

Rachel Ann