5 Signs You’re Addicted to Unhealthy, Chaotic Relationships
Peaceful stability can be hard to deal with if you’re not used to it
For the first time in my life, I’m in a healthy stable relationship. And it’s hard. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.
I grew up in a chaotic, violent household followed by some painful unsuccessful relationships, which has always made me crave stability and safety more than anything — when I see a man, the most important qualities I look for are kindness, calmness and maturity.
And yet once I have that long-term, I can’t help but miss the chaos. “Am I simply addicted to bad chaotic relationships although they’re the one thing that repels me the most?” I keep asking myself.
Turns out, that’s exactly what might be going on. Lisa Firestone, PhD. writes on Psychology Today:
“The experiences that make us who we are also influence who we choose as a partner. While most of us claim to be looking for true love, with real compatibility, and no drama, there are often unconscious influences, thoughts, and behaviors leading us to just the opposite.”
She also says:
“Many of us pick partners who help us stay within our comfort zone, even if that zone turns out to not be all that desirable. People seek what is familiar. If our past was filled with feelings of rejection or inadequacy, we are drawn to scenarios in which we feel the same way as adults.”
The good news is that we can do something about this. Everyone can get over their past and reprogram how their mind works to a certain degree. As hard as it is, it can be done.
But change isn’t the first step. The first step is recognising if you’re actually addicted to chaotic unhealthy relationships in the first place, which then lets you dissect your behaviour and work on it further.
These are the signs that your brain automatically clings onto chaos.
You constantly look for problems
Look, there are problems and then there are problems.
The latter is usually something serious you both need to talk about and work on. The first can be little things that all happen in your head or have no real importance whatsoever.
Once my relationship finds itself on some stable ground and we go for weeks without any bickering or arguments, my mind starts to swirl. There must be something bad about this. This doesn’t feel right.
I can come up with all sorts of things just to find an issue.
“Hmm, we haven’t had an intellectually stimulating conversation in a while, look, he keeps playing his stupid video games again, the letter he wrote me feels like he didn’t put enough effort in.”
(“He writes you letters, girl, most men wouldn’t even do that so why are you complaining?” said my friend one time, which made me laugh at how ridiculous I was acting.)
If your relationship is going splendid and you can’t help but feel like something about the easiness of it is wrong, you might be addicted to chaos. Finding problems and then fighting about them brings excitement into the dynamics, which makes you feel good temporarily — until you realise that you screwed up again.
Fighting is never a good kind of excitement, no matter what your subconsciousness whispers to you.
You get bored easily
The honeymoon days are long gone, and you keep dreaming about spicing your love life with passion. There’s nothing wrong with that. Monotony can suck sometimes, and couples should always look for ways to keep the connection alive.
But this boredom is different. You find it hard to find happiness in the grey zone of daily life because you never witnessed two adults who’d be happy together just sitting and drinking coffee after 10 years of living in the same house.
No, that’s not enough for you— there has to be drama. If you don’t get candle-lit dinners, 5-hour long discussions and sunset-kissed laughter at least once a week, you crave passionate arguments, crying in the bathtub and a broken heart.
That’s at least properly dramatic. It means something’s happening. It means you have stuff to feel.
The thing is, this desire to be excited by your partner all the time is unsustainable. Being with someone every day means you become a part of each other’s daily routine — a thing that’s hardly romantic and movie-like.
Well, except for when you paint the walls together. That’s the “normal” thing movies do show. But most real people wouldn’t really want to spray the paint all over their faces just for the romance of it because it’d be a pain in the ass to scrub it all off, so even that doesn’t align with how things really are.
Stability can be boring at times. The key is to fall in love with the greyness of it. Because real love lies in sharing that monotony with each other.
You catastrophise constantly
I catastrophise so much.
“He’s on his phone again! Oh no, one day he won’t have time for me and the kids because he’ll spend all his time on WhatsApp!”
It’s ridiculous. My brain takes every little thing my boyfriend does and turns it into a worst-case scenario. His little obsession with a certain video game at 21 means we’ll get a divorce because of it in twenty years.
Mind you, I don’t do this on purpose, and I don’t actually believe it. The scenarios just happen in my head without my realising it until I find myself standing still at the sink ten minutes later, staring into nothingness, traumatised from what I’d just made myself live through in an imaginary world.
When I confided in my partner about this, he said:
“I think you make up the worst-case scenario because you want to feel prepared. You want to be in control, you don’t want to be caught off guard. It makes sense considering you’ve experienced surprising horrible events in the past.”
Sometimes I wonder if he shouldn’t have ditched engineering for being the world’s best therapist instead.
If you’re used to chaos and you’re not getting it in your relationship, your brain can create future scenarios about it. It’s a very toxic way of dealing with things, and I suggest you always catch yourself when you’re doing it and bring your awareness to the present moment.
It also often means I’m suppressing some of my emotions. So let yourself process what you feel.
You do all you can to get a powerful reaction
It’s happened in the past that I looked at my boyfriend and subconsciously thought, “I want a strong emotional reaction.” And then I did all I could to get it — in the end, it didn’t matter if it was a loving reaction or an angry reaction as long as it was powerful.
Long-term stability means that expressions of love are often reduced to little gestures — doing the dishes, saying “love you” as you walk out the door in the morning, holding hands.
That’s not enough for chaos addicts, though. Powerful reactions are what we crave with all our might because they show us that our partner still cares for us strongly.
Sometimes it feels good to be fighting with my partner just because I feel all his focus on me and me only — my ego is satisfied as my partner feels sicker and sicker from fighting.
It’s selfish, it’s self-centred, it’s deeply unhealthy. And it can make your relationship crumble underneath you if you keep at it long-term.
My advice? Ask them nicely if they want to cuddle and focus solely on you for a bit. That usually calms the attention-seeking monster.
Of course, that’s only treating the symptoms. Getting to the core of the issue is a whole other story.
A part of you doesn’t believe this can be good forever
As much as you’re set on making this work and as happy as your partner makes you, a part of you just can’t believe it can last. Not because you don’t trust your partner to keep making you happy but rather because you’ve never seen lasting happiness.
This is a tough one. Never having witnessed imperfect happiness means that you always subconsciously prepare yourself for perfect misery — surely, something bad will happen.
If we don’t stop loving each other, if we don’t cheat like most couples I’ve known do, if we don’t divorce… then one of us will happen to be in a terrible accident and die!
The bottom line
Naturally, the reasonable part of you that’s in charge most of the time knows it’s all rubbish. It knows you can make it work. It has hope and it’s determined to try.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on the secret middle-of-the-night-crisis part, though.
It can be hard to spot the types of behaviour I explained above because they can be subtle and subconscious, which means that you mostly feel like a normal human being who doesn’t need any therapy.
But if you relate to most of the signs I described, you might consider working on your chaos addiction. There are many things you can do to tackle this issue yourself — meditation, self-awareness, journaling, or taking care of your inner child. Personally, I’m planning on starting therapy soon.
Rewiring your brain to healthy happiness is a challenge but it means you might be finally able to find peace and stable love, not only in your relationships but from within.
And that’s a challenge worth trying.