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February 2011



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By Therese J. Borchard

In his book, How to Break Your Addiction to a Person, Howard Halpern first explains what an addictive relationship is, then gives guidelines for recognizing if you’re involved in one. Then, he offers several techniques on how to end an unhealthy relationship (or an emotional affair).

I’ve compiled and adapted all of his suggestions into the following dozen techniques, excerpting what I found to be the most important passages for each.

1. Keep a Relationship Log

Keep track of the events and happenings of the relationship, but above all, and in as honest detail as you can, set down your feelings about the contacts with your partner. The reasons this can be extraordinarily helpful are (a) It compels you to notice what is going on and how you feel about it, (b) It can help you to look back through it and see the shape of the relationship, what it has really been like and felt like, what have been its patterns over time, and (c) It can curb your tendencies to distort the relationship by either twisting events, repainting your feeling and forgetting either the unpleasant or the pleasant.

2. Find the Patterns

It can be eye-opening to see if there is a pattern in the people you have tended to get involved with and the types of relationships you have formed, so unless your current partner is the only love relationship you have had, I suggest you do a Relationship Review.

First, list the names of each person with whom you had a romantic attachment, going as far back as you can. Then set down the Physical Attributes of each–his or her height, build, hair color, movement, voice, general attractiveness, etc. Then write down the Personality Characteristics of each person on your list. What do you feel is the most striking feature of his personality? What adjectives best describe him: Introverted or extroverted? Passive or active? Warm or cold? Intimate or distant? Self-confident or self-effacing? Successful or ineffectual? Hearty or frail?

Even more important than similarities in the physical and personality characteristics of people with whom you have had close relationships are the Relationship Characteristics, the repeated patterns of interaction in which you have been involved. To get some idea if your relationships have had repeated patterns, it can be useful, under the name of each person with whom you have had a relationship, to write the answers to questions such as these:

  • *Exactly how did the relationship start? Who was the initiator? The pursuer?
  • *Was one of you more dominant? Who seemed to control when and where you would get together, and how you would spend your time?
  • *What was the emotional tone of the relationship for you? Loving? Angry? Contented? Depressed? Anxious? Boring? Insecure? Romantic? Desperate? Or what?
  • *Emotionally, did you get your needs satisfied?
  • *How did your relationship end? Who ended it? Why? What were the feelings of each of you about its ending?

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