When people think of addictions it is usually alcohol, drugs, or sex that first pops into their minds. They often think of these addictions that have 12 step support groups and that you hear about quite a bit. People need to know though that you can be addicted to lots of different things, not just the mainstream addictions you hear about. It is just as easy, if not easier to be addicted to work, relationships, or even hobbies. Of course these addictions do not have a 12 step program and are not diagnosable by a diagnostic manual, but that does not mean that they do not create issues in lives and marriages.
So how do you know if you suffer from one of these addictions? There are three criteria that need to be met. First, you use whatever addiction you are using as an escape from dealing with problems or feelings. If you stay longer at work because you are not happy in your marriage instead of dealing with your marriage, that could be addictive. If you spend lots of time on your hobbies because deep down you are depressed in the rest of your life and you are not sure how to deal with it, this again could be an addictive sign. If you are someone that does not like to feel feelings it is easy to escape to not feel them.
The second criteria is that the addiction causes harm in your life. I use the word harm loosely, but it definitely causes problems. Due to your work addiction you continually have too much on your plate at work and miss your sons little league games. You are spending a ton of time having a texting relationship with a person of the opposite sex and not connecting with your spouse. You have spent some much on your hobby that your family is now struggling financially and having a difficult time paying the bills. These are just a few examples of how addictive behavior can be harmful in your life and relationships.
The third criteria is that there shame involved. Generally there is enough shame involved that there is a desire to stop at times, even if the desire is fleeting. Again, if you work so much you continually miss your children’s activities or fun things you want to do in your life there can be shame and guilt associated with that. Coming home and hearing about your son’s homerun that you missed and seeing the pain in his eyes that you missed it can trigger shame feelings. Often in a relationship addiction there is a strong desire to stop the relationship (even if just talking or texting) with the person. There is shame knowing that if your spouse found out they would definitely feel the relationship was inappropriate. There is definite shame knowing that your family is struggling to pay the bills because you spent too much money on your hobby again.
If you are relating to these criteria the next question may be, “What’s next?” With any addiction our brain works overtime to try to make the addiction seem okay to us so that we can continue using. We rationalize, minimize, compare, and even blame to try to talk ourselves into the fact that our addiction is okay. The first step, as cliché as it may sound, is to admit that you have a problem and to admit you cannot just stop. You need help! You need to learn to be honest and humble about your addiction and in your relationship. This is not easy to do alone. We are here to help!