Relationship addiction: The symptoms, underlying issues, and their treatment – Interview with Lori Jean Glass
Are you a relationship addict?
Codependency, love addiction, and love avoidance are painful disorders. They all stand in the way of our happiness. So, when you have suffered enough, it is time to change. What does change require? Change means thinking differently, behaving differently, and altering outdated values about romantic love being the most important thing in our lives.
Recovery for those whose relationship is addictive involves seeking help. It can start with the courage of one partner who STOPS the pattern and seeks support. However, the addictive cycle cannot go on without a “fix.” So, what does relationship addiction look like? And how is it treated?
Help for relationship addiction
Today, we’ve been lucky enough to get an exclusive Q&A with relationship expert, Lori Jean Glass, to learn more. Besides being the Program Director at Five Sisters Ranch, a relational treatment facility in Napa Valley, CA…she speaks from experience. She’s been through relationship addiction and come out of it a stronger, healthier individual.
More on her credentials? Lori Jean is a trained interventionist, as well as an educator, mentor and coach for people suffering in relationships. She is a true advocate for the treatment of love/relationship addiction, as someone who’s been there. She facilitates trainings for treatment centers to help clinicians see new perspectives when diagnosing and treating process addictions such as love addiction, love avoidance, sex addiction and codependency. She’ll help answer questions like:
- How can we identify relationship addiction?
- What does treatment look like and how long does it take?
- How do our early relationships with our parents influence how we seek love as adults?
- How do we resolve the heart wounds we receive as children?
Today, Lori shares her knowledge on relationship addiction, its symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Please use the comments section below if you have a question at the end. We will do our best to provide you with a personal and prompt answer.
ADDICTION BLOG: You’ve said it before, but can you briefly define love and relationship addiction for our audience?
LORI JEAN GLASS: Love addiction is hard to define because by nature, we all want love… Most people who suffer from love addiction have a hard time calling it “love” addiction – because most love addicts have never really experienced healthy love.
Love and Relationship addiction is when you are using a relationship to fill that empty hole inside that was created by childhood attachment wounds and traumatic events. The addiction is fed with the need for unconditional love in the relationship which will alter mood and relieve emotional pain. It a pathological relationship to a mood altering experience.
ADDICTION BLOG: What are the main symptoms of a love/relationship addiction?
LORI JEAN GLASS: Symptoms of Love and Relationship addiction include:
- unrealistic expectations of the relationship
- mistaking intensity for intimacy
- tolerance for high-risk behavior
- need for unconditional positive regard to relieve emotional pain
ADDICTION BLOG: What are some of the undeniable signs that you need to get help?
LORI JEAN GLASS: It is time to get help when the consequences of the addiction are obviously getting in the way of you showing up for your life – family, work, social, or otherwise. Examples include if you are:
- unable to sleep because you are waiting for a text, call, or some form of communication from your partner
- missing work to spend time with your partner because you will do anything to spend time with them even if it means putting your job on the line by not showing up for work
- trading sex for love
- having an affair with someone who is not your partner or spouse and unable to stop it when you want to
These are all good times to intervene and get help. For some, they wait too long and lose jobs, children, some love addicts end up in jail because of irrational behavior that ends up in breaking the law, violent behavior, or other illegal activity.
ADDICTION BLOG: How many people do you think currently suffer from relationship addiction?
LORI JEAN GLASS: So so so many.
The internet is birthing love and fantasy addicts daily. It’s what a buffet is to a food addict…there is always someone to hunt down for texting – then sexting – then meeting up with and then become obsessed with.
There are also many people who take “divorce” lightly and when a young child’s parents break-up and go searching for partners or a new life, often the child is left with this “unmet” longing. Many people in relationships mistake intensity for intimacy.
ADDICTION BLOG: You’ve said in past interviews that the most important way to change relationship addiction is to be aware of our own unique relationship patterns. Can you talk a little bit about how our early childhood relationship(s) with our parent(s) affects how we seek love as adults?
LORI JEAN GLASS: My father drowned when I was 3. This was the imprint of what I call my Abandonment Button. Unfortunately, my Mom handled this trauma by drinking to tolerate her pain. So, I basically lost both parents. Eventually, my Mom died when I was in high school which activated my Abandonment Button again.
So, when I would get into a relationship, even if I didn’t particularly really love the person, I could not leave or tolerate them leaving me – it would activate that abandonment button. I would go to any lengths to make sure they didn’t leave me… the drive inside of me to keep them kept me in a relational black out. I was incapable for seeing the reality of the relationship. It is similar to a drunk in a blackout… The fantasy of what I longed for would keep me in.
ADDICTION BLOG: So why do we keep seeking the wrong men/women? Are we destined to repeat the same patterns throughout life?
LORI JEAN GLASS: For some, yes. Without the awareness or help, we are drawn to what we know. If we grow up in a hectic environment, typically we are comfortable in hectic environments – even if we don’t like them. The tolerance is built in.
For some it is what I call “Waiting For Christmas” … we are longing for the perfect day – still trying hard to get it right and will go to any lengths for that one day when we feel the love…the one day it feels “right”… the one day that is peaceful… However, healthy people feel “boring” to someone who grew up with a lot of drama and trauma.
I believe that people can and do change… In regards to your question, I certainly hope we are not destined to repeat the same patterns throughout life! However without help, we may be subject to just that… That is why I talk openly about love addiction and have so much passion for helping others. I can’t imagine living life from that desperate, dark place that used to keep me sick.
ADDICTION BLOG: Can we heal the wounds that we’ve experienced as children? How? And how important is this healing to relationship addiction and recovery?
LORI JEAN GLASS: YES, we can heal the wounds and YES, people can and do change.
It is not a straight line and it is a process. This type of recovery must be personalized. This is not something that you can change by reading a book and applying someone else’s path to yours.
The first step is like all addictions…the recognition of the powerlessness and the WILLINGNESS to change. When people go through relationship withdrawal, it is hard. I have a system that I teach clinicians and addicts in regards to withdrawal that works. In most all cases, one needs to be willing to be alone and stay out of relationship for a period of time unless they are in a committed relationship that is blowing up because of an addictive affair and both participants are willing to “work” on the relationship.
Deep family of origin work is needed and then the ability to know how to dissipate the survival patterns that no longer serve you. Inviting people to know how to access their own highest good and approach relationships as a healthy adult is where the magic happens.
It may sound like a “Hallmark” card, however, it is achievable and perhaps the most beautiful process I have ever witnessed in someone. We are no longer victims to the imperfections of others. We become empowered and know how to properly vet relationships so we can be safe with our own choices…as healthy adults.
ADDICTION BLOG: Can you talk a little about the program that you run at Five Sisters Ranch and what participants DO during a 12 day intensive?
LORI JEAN GLASS: The 12 Day Intensive is designed for 6 women to start and finish the program together. This helps to create trust and bond during the process.
We spend the first week in a “deconstructive” mode. We discover why residents choose who they choose in relationships, their attitude toward intimacy and sex, what expectations are put on relationships, and help them fully understand where the unhealthy patterns come from. This is discovered through individual therapy, group therapy, experiential therapies and conversations and connections made throughout the day. We process an extensive relational timeline and help define the individual patterns.
The second week is what we call “repair and restore”. This process is to help individuals have a relational plan which can be implemented in all relationships. Defining appropriate boundaries and creating invitations for change for the residents personal relationships.
The days start with Yoga and mediation and also have equine therapy, art, sound healing, music and song therapy, and other experiential therapies. The website can give you a more complete description and I encourage you to check it out!
ADDICTION BLOG: If someone cannot attend an intensive, what are some other treatment options?
LORI JEAN GLASS: Therapy with a therapist who understands how to work with attachment. Relationship coaches that specialize in love addiction can also be helpful, 12 step programs – SLAA, LAA, CODA, ALANON are all good choices.
ADDICTION BLOG: What is your hope and vision for women (and men) who are relationship addicts?
LORI JEAN GLASS: To get relational freedom. To be able to choose how to navigate in all relationships; friends, lovers, children, family, work, in a healthy non self-destructive way. To manage their own feelings and experience healthy intimacy. To be able to walk through life relatively comfortable. To not have to always say, “I’m sorry” for my crazy behavior – to not ever board Crazy Train… which is what I call those crazy relationships that spin you out of control!
“My Wish” – Rascal Flatts song sums it up
ADDICTION BLOG: What do you think the future has in store for relationship addiction treatment?
LORI JEAN GLASS: I hope the future brings more choices for healing hearts that hurt. I do believe that more and more primary treatment centers who are treating substance addiction are addressing this issue. For so many this is the underlying cause that leads to drugs and alcohol and relapse.
ADDICTION BLOG: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
LORI JEAN GLASS: Thank you for taking the time to read through this. If you, yourself, or someone you know is struggling with love/relationship addiction, please seek help. Please feel free to contact me directly if you would like more information. I am open and happy to help.