Karen quickly ran up the back stairs, anxious to avoid Sarah. Sarah asked incessantly about Mark and how the relationship was going and what they were doing and where they were headed. At first, Karen was happy to share, to revel in her relationship with Mark along Sarah, who seems as excited as Karen was. But now things weren’t going to well.
Mark was becoming increasingly distant. The things he used to like he didn’t seem to like as much anymore. Just this past week, he’d actually gotten upset that she’d made him dinner on Tuesday, saying he’d told her he’d be watching the game with his brother that night. He accused her of always doing that — not paying attention to what he told her and planning her own activities. All the work she had put into dinner didn’t seem to matter to him; he had gone to watch the game with his brother, even though she’d offered to bring the meal to his house. The thought of Mark doing things and having fun without her was unsettling. She wanted to do everything with him and desperately wanted him to feel the same way. Why didn’t he?
Every human relationship has ups and downs because people do not stay on an even keel at all times. That is impossible. However, in relationship dependency, as in other types of addictions, the ups and downs of life become artificially steep. In substance abuse, the effect of the substance on the limbic system and dopamine production creates drug-enhanced highs and system-suppressed lows. With relationship dependency, the stability of the relationship is compromised by the person’s dependency traits.
Instability in the relationship becomes as assured as the house winning in a gambling addiction. The dependent person sets up conditions for pleasure that are impossible to maintain, guaranteeing failure and the distress that accompanies those failures.
If you struggle with dependency issues in relationships, you may jump to dire conclusions when a relationship hits a rough patch. A forgotten activity becomes a metaphoric slap in the face. An offhand comment becomes the prelude to a breakup. A trivial difference of opinion becomes proof the person is preparing to leave. Just as you determine the conditions that create pleasure, you also determine the conditions that constitute disaster.
When disaster seems imminent and assured, your behaviors may escalate and you may feel yourself spinning out of control. You may find yourself losing the relationship and returning to emotional and even physical pain.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.