Breaking The Addiction
Apologies for the radio silence. I’ve spent the past week taking a much needed break by the sea. Pure heaven. In the peace and quiet of a small Cornish bay, I’ve found myself thinking about my next post, reading and thinking about addictions and getting clean. Any 12 step programme or treatment facility will tell you that any re-engagement with an addictive substance, by a recovering addict, will cause an automatic re-addiction. The same applies to an addiction to love or to a specific person.
High risk relationships, like one in which you are repeatedly crashing and soaring, (breaking up and getting back together) affect the same parts of the brain as a drug addiction. Mashek (2010) concluded that the similarities between addictive substances and love-sex based attachments rely upon the same psychological, chemical and neuroanatomical substrates. The goal for recovering addicts is a cessation of usage of the addictive substance, similarly when one is trying to break free from an emotional manipulator, you need to approach it the same way.
When you need to step back from an unhealthy relationship and employ No Contact (NC) after the breakup, irrational fears and beliefs can often provide the trigger for you to either break NC or decide that there’s no point in starting it at all. I hear from many clients who have been going back and forth with an ex; some for a few months… and others for a few decades. Variations of the irrational fears and beliefs highlighted below keep them on the disappointment cycle. It is only once you stop treating the irrational as rational and recognise where you may be opening yourself up to more pain and keeping further away from a healthy relationship, that you can finally stop the torture and begin to use boundaries for self-care and breaking the pattern.
1. If I cut contact, it will make them realise what they’ve lost.
If they have to lose you to value you, the relationship isn’t going to work no matter which way you slice it. You should not have to be like the umbrella that someone keeps misplacing for this person to notice the absence of you from their life.
When you cut contact in an attempt to what essentially boils down to coercing him/her into the position that you want, it’s an attempt to mess with supply and demand. If you cut contact in order to make him/her want you more, you’re believing that the way to prevent your relationship from ending is to end it, although this means that you then have to keep ending it or at least threatening to, in order to generate the demand. Exhausting work. It’s also important to point out that unavailable people respond to loss of control by chasing you…and get back in control by pulling back and managing down your expectations or exiting.
The lesson: Breaking up whether it’s done via the traditional route or you have to do NC, is to end a relationship. Don’t use it as a means of attempting to force people to do what you want.
2. If I’m eliciting responses / crumbs of attention it means that they’re thinking about me.
This is how you end up chasing them crumbs and being chained to your phone checking for texts and emails. People who require NC often engage in this low-level contact and dribbling crumbs of attention with about as much effort as ordering a pizza. They’re very of the moment and what you actually need for a loving relationship is for the other party to show that they want you by being in a relationship with you and treating you with love, care and respect.
The lesson: Having a full-on relationship instead of trying to stay in someone’s mind is always the better option, something you’re not going to discover in a new relationship if you keep chasing crumbs. Also there are better ways to be remembered than emails and texts – someone doesn’t have to forget about you if they’re in the relationship with you.
3. Cutting them off will make them change or trigger remorse, which will in turn make them give me the relationship I want / that they promised me.
It might make them give it to you for a short period of time, but it’s important to remember that the type of person that requires NC equates desiring you with feeling out of control of you. Next thing you know, you’re getting hearts, flowers, and violins and a sudden change in behaviour and think, Oh, they really get my pain this time…, and you get back together and then shazam, it’s a matter of hours, days, or weeks before the rot starts to set in again. NC is to end a relationship not to force someone into giving what people in even moderately healthy relationships give without coercion.
The lesson: If the only way that you think that you can get them to feel remorse or change is to end it, this relationship is not worthy of your time. They are not a child. Stop trying to raise an adult from the ground up!
4. Once I feel a bit better, we can be friends again.
This ‘ole chestnut is the fastest way to send one of those lazy texts or emails to reach out, only to find yourself being burned again. How much better you feel is subjective. The idea of grieving a relationship is not to make way for their friendship, it is for you to make way for you so that you can move on. Far too much emphasis is put on finding a way to be friends again. Friendship is organic! If you’re going to be friends, it will happen without being forced and when you’re both back in neutral territory. That said, if there are very shady reasons for why you have to cut them off in the first place, I wouldn’t exactly be breaking your neck to be friends.
Be your own friend first. Focus on you. If you try to be friends before you are enough of the way along in the healing process to be too impacted if they don’t behave as you’d like, you will reopen your wound. If you’ve got friendship on your mind, it’s likely a sign that you need to refocus your energy.
The lesson: Friendship is what happens, 1) when you’re over them and 2) they have shown themselves to be friendship worthy, neither of which the object of NC is at this time.
5. They don’t realise how much I was affected and how inappropriate their behaviour was/is.
Yes they do. They might claim not to realise it consciously, but the fact is that only someone who is incredibly emotionally immature and a responsibility dodger, would have no clue about how, 1) inappropriate their behaviour was / is or, 2) how affected you are. If you genuinely believe that they don’t recognise this, you have no business trying to have an adult relationship with them.
We cannot bumble through life as if our actions have no impact on others. Transacting from your Adult ego state means being aware and acting with integrity, empathy, compassion, responsibility, and accountability. Let me assure you that if you mistreated them, you’d soon know all about it! They know. Stop treating them like a child.
If they can’t empathise without you dragging them to it like a horse to water, you can’t have a relationship with this person.
NC is the way of communicating that the relationship is over and that their behaviour has affected you, but it doesn’t mean that they’re going to do anything with the realisation. If you’re making excuses for someone, then you’re absolving them of responsibility. This will deal a fatal blow to any ideas that you have for a healthy relationship with them.