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Addictive Relationships:
Tread Very Carefully


ou might be aware that addictive relationships are quite common. And both genders are susceptible to becoming addicted to bad relationships.

In fact, the chances are good that you've run into these relationships before. Have you ever had a woman crying on your shoulder about some jerk who's been treating her badly? And after that she goes right back to him? She's in an addictive relationship.

And if you've been in a relationship where you put up with frequent psychological abuse and yet you stayed with her...

Then you were in one

What causes psychologically addictive relationships? The primary cause is what psychologists would call "intermittent patterns of reinforcement".

addictive relationships are like gambling addictions
Addictive relationships are
like gambling addictions

You can use Las Vegas as an example of how this works. If you play the slot machines, do you make money on every pull of the handle? No. If you did, the casino would soon go out of business. Do you lose money on every pull of the handle? Again, no. If you did, you would soon tire of the game and walk away (taking your money with you).

On many pulls, you'll lose money. But on a few pulls, you'll make money. And occasionally you might even make a lot of money. That's what gets gamblers hooked … the variability of the payoff combined with the unpredictability of the outcome.

And just as some gamblers develop addictive relationships with slot machines and gaming tables, so also do some men and women develop addictive relationships with each other.

How does it happen?

Addiction works similarly in relationships which swing between hot and cold. The larger and more unpredictable those swings, the likelier that addiction will happen. That's the formula: one person sometimes treating the other person well but other times treating that person badly.

We've also noticed that addiction seems more likely (and becomes more intense) when the addicting partner would be considered the better "catch" than the addicted partner.

“… the idea of a woman becoming addicted to you may sound like a good idea (as a way to hold onto her) …”

So if you're a guy who has a lot of trouble attracting women and also experiences great trouble in hanging on to them once they do go out with you, the idea of a woman becoming addicted to you may sound like a good idea (as a way to hold onto her).

But it isn't. We've been there and done that. And it's a real nightmare.

However, most guys don't have the personality to get themselves into that position. Most of us are decent human beings, and it just wouldn't be like us to treat other people shabbily (especially someone who's sleeping with us). We don't have the right temperament for it.

The risk for most guys is
instead the reverse one

...that they'll be the one who becomes addicted to bad relationships. Why?

  • Because wide mood swings come more easily to the average woman than the average man.
  • Because women are granted more leeway by society to behave erratically than men.
  • And because women hold the trump card (access to sex), men will often tolerate a lot more mistreatment from women than most women would tolerate from the average man.

Should you be concerned about getting trapped in addictive relationships? Absolutely!

It's no picnic for a guy to have a woman addicted to him, but it's even more unpleasant to be the addicted partner. A lot of guys go through this, especially in their first physical relationship, and it's sheer torture.

How do you protect yourself from
getting into addictive relationships?

There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk:

  • Improve your own "game". Whether it's at the flirting or seduction stage, guys who have the most difficulty in attracting new women are also the guys who are easiest to addict. After all, they're more likely to put up with mistreatment from the girl they have now rather than to dump her and find a replacement.
  • Be unpredictable yourself. When she starts to treat you badly, don't do what most shy guys do (which is to try to calm her down by pacifying her). Instead, look disinterested, tell her "This is getting really boring" and then head for the door. Exit the premises for a few hours.
  • Decline the "makeup sex" afterward. Very few guys will do that, but that tactic has quite an effect. We'll say "No thanks, you're not looking very appealing at the moment" and then we'll reach for the remote and flip on the ball game.

If you try those tactics and she still continues to treat you very erratically, then dump her and find someone else. Cut your losses and move on.

And why not aim for something a lot better than addictive relationships by checking out our main Relationship Advice for Men page right now?