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Women Who Return To Abusive Relationships Are Addicted

Women Who Return To Abusive Relationships Are Addicted
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I sat on the couch with my counselor and finally got the courage to confess my truth.

“I don’t think I will ever love anyone like I love him,” I said through my broken hearted tears.

She looked at me and broke the awkward silence in the room, “THANK GOD!”

Why do women go back to abuse? Why, when all warning signs say, “No!”, “Don’t!”, “Stop!” we don’t just walk, but instead run back to the chaos as fast as we can?

Some people speculate that women go back to abuse because we are gluttons for punishment. Others murmur that we go back because we are drama queens and the relationship is our stage. Some people even conclude that we go back out of sheer stupidity.

But gluttony, drama, nor stupidity are not the reasons a woman returns to abuse. The mysterious answer behind the proverbial question is that women who return to abuse have an addiction problem. That’s right – women who are repeat offenders in abusive relationships are addicts: unaware, super-addicted, out-of-control addicts. Only rather than being addicted to a substance, we are, instead, addicted to a person. That is why our addiction is properly coined ‘Love Addiction’.
lovers-400585_640IS IT REAL?

It is odd (as well as a little creepy) to think that we can become addicted to a person. That is, until you understand addictions.

Addictions are caused when we try to heal a deep pain by indulging in “something” (other than what authentically works) to heal our pain. Some people try to end their pain by indulging in alcohol or drugs; some in food; some in religion; some in work. For a Love Addict the drug of choice is a person. And the pain we are trying to cure is our intense need to be loved, and the only way we can do that is to avoid rejection. We need to avoid rejection because rejection to a Love Addict is like kryptonite to Superman. The very scent of it can weaken us to the knees. Or in this case, make us run back to the pains of abuse.


At the heart of every Love Addict is a belief that says “I am not lovable”. We were injected with that fatal message (most likely) in our childhood when someone did something, or neglected to do something, that gave us the impression that, “we are not loved”. That, for the record, is one of the reasons the desperate stench of abuse smells good to us. It smells good because we think painful ‘love’ is all we deserve.


Toxic love, which is what Love Addiction is based in, is not normal love. Our love is over-the-top, obsessive love. It’s “I can’t breathe unless they are approving of me”. Or “I might just die (again) if you leave me” love. That, however, is why we desperately run back. We run back because “love”, which is like Valium to the anxious soul of the Love Addict, rests in our abusers hands. Our life, our survival, the only sense of Self we can see is under their ability to ‘love’ us, or not.

If outsiders think our behavior is insane, trust me, so does the Love Addict. We see the push-and-pull of the relationship. We, too, ask our self, “Why can’t we just walk away?!”

The reason we cannot walk away, though, is because without us realizing it, our abuser has become our human needle; our Drug Lord of Love. The person who owns our self-value and self-worth and who in the name of love, can reject us into deep lows with a single glare, or send us to euphoric highs with one simple smile.


There is a tremendous amount of power had, when crazy behaviors suddenly have a name. For those who confusingly run back to abusive love, the name of our strange behavior is Love Addiction; a condition based in the need for love, yet where healing can only be found in discovering authentic love for self.

The hole in your soul caused by Love Addiction is not found by running back to the hands that harm you. Healing and wholeness can only be found by having the courage to run back into your own life. By learning the lessons about self-love and by finding the tools to answer the painful question, ”Would somebody please love me?” with the sober answer of “Yes. And that someone is Me.”


About Dr. Tracy Kemble

Dr. Tracy Kemble (Ph.D.) is a survivor of domestic abuse and is now a leading expert on the subject and is backed by over 20 years of recovery programs that have helped change thousands of lives around the world. She has a Ph.D. in Psychology, and is a Laws of Attraction specialist. She is also the author of four books, a speaker, columnist, and television / radio personality. Learn more about her W.I.N. Foundation by visiting this link. 


22 Responses to “Women Who Return To Abusive Relationships Are Addicted”

  1. norma rothrock says:

    I don’t think a person is consensual about the addiction at all times. The person being harmed in the abusive relationship doesn’t often know what an addiction is. It’s unfair to claim they’re addicted to abuse when they don’t know how to break the cycle of violence. If they refuse to learn what the cycle of violence is, then maybe tell them more info so they can understand how an addiction can happen. There’s so much terminology an abuse victim has to learn that it becomes mind-boggling for those who aren’t at all familiar with want an abuser wants to do to them. Telling a person they’re addicted to abuse isn’t a very effective way to help someone stop being abused. Maybe the scare tactic will work with some, but it wouldn’t have worked with me & I would not label any one I help overcome violence by blaming them for being “addicted.” Sad label……

  2. Marianne says:

    Hi Norma,
    My understanding of the article is that the victim is addicted to the person (their abuser), not the abuse, and therefore a love addiction arises where the abused tries to heal a deep wound(s) through their abuser when in reality love of self is the only way to find healing. I related to a lot of what was said in the article. I actually think your belief that abused women can’t understand the terminology used when discussing abuse is far more damaging then anything said in the article. Recovering from abuse is a process. Many leave their abuser yet still try to have some kind of relationship. This article gives great insight as to why.

    • Skye says:

      I find it surprising that the article doesnt mention stockholm syndrome which i essentially what’s at the core of women returning to abusive relationships. Traumatic bonding has taken place. Not saying that some victims of abuse don’t have confidence issues but…this article seems to place the blame plainly on the victim when the abuser was the person who systematically trapped them and wore down their esteem and established a web of control.

  3. Jenn says:

    I totally agree with your article. The secret is to heal your own soul and then you won’t be attracted to abusive relationships. This is great advice, thank you!

  4. Mrs. Smith says:

    Hello Ladies
    I said the same thing that the writer said. I am addicted to my abuser. After almost 30 years of being abused I gathered enough self esteem to leave my abuser. But he wasn’t done with me yet. He stalked me. Than he told me what I wanted to hear. Ladies you know the lines. Baby I love you.. you’re the best thing that ever happened to me… I can’t live without you. And my favourite let get counsel. And just like many of you I gave in. Than he, having my trust asked me to sit in his truck and talk to him. He abducted me. I knew that night I would die if I didn’t get away and stay away. I fault with him till he slowed down some. I jumped out his truck and ran as fast as I could screaming as loud as I could. God saved me by sending the biggest man I’ve ever seen out to help me. If you don’t think it’s and addiction? Just know that I still loved him and wanted to protect him. I was convinced that his life was more important than mine. The problem with that is so many abused women do. I had to have lots of counsel/rehab to fight my addiction. And still like every addict I take my sobriety one day at a time. Will I ever go back? Not if I want to live. Ladies you are important. Please choose life.

    • Faye Dickerson says:

      I can relate to the article as I was reading it I saw myself in so many ways. I definitely agree with you when I left my abuser after 16 years I had left 100 times before and finally I made it out and I wanted to go back for 101. Thank God I did not! I chose life and everyday I have to be aware of my behaviors and choices that I do not return to another abusers arms. Thank you

  5. I had an abuse boyfriend who had to be drunk all day and everyday. His abuse got worst. I broke it off with him, he accepted with no problem. Now it’s been 2 days since our last time I saw in which he was at his worse. Now why am I crying and missing him after he beat me in my face belittle me in front of neighbors and my son. He even accuse me of wanting my son sexually that’s the existence of his jealousy.I even posted his picture on Facebook and told of abuse that u kept bottle up. I thought I could be strong but instead I miss him. That’s really messed up.

    • Kaz says:

      My friend, I sure am so sorry that your partner has treated you in this way. I know your pain and it can feel unbearable. We want to hold onto the fairytale romance, we want them to love and adore us and make us feel like we are walking on air… like it felt when they first charmed us. We miss their company, their touch, their love. But truth is, despite any late apologies you may receive if you are lucky, it was over that very first time he dared hurting you. How dare he do that to you. Letting go is a process, I’ve learned… I advise you to do that as soon as possible and with finality. Remember the things he has said/done to you? You, like me, need to face the reality, which is he does NOT value us highly enough. If he has a narcisstic personality disorder he will never be cured and therefore isn’t capable of caring. Instead of missing him, feel relieved you escaped spending many more years with someone far less than you deserve. Release him.

  6. Kaz says:

    Sadly I am going through this. I absolutely can relate to this article. I’m a well-educated woman. An empath.Suffered huge rejection from my family after a traumatic longtime marriage split and so when a charming handsome well-known entertainer with a huge ego decided he loved me I was smitten and felt distracted from my pain. Turns out he is an alcoholic and according to one of his/ our very experienced counsellors at the rehab he has started attending, he exhibits all the signs of having Borderline Narcissist Personality Disorder. Words cannot describe the pain of having someone you love and someone you love being loved by.. becoming highly abusive, verbally and physically, and at the drop of a hat. Naturally I react to his abuse in shock, tears, and horror but my anguish always falls on deaf ears and a total lack of empathy. I boot him out, feel relieved momentarily then sink quickly into a fear of being alone as well as an extreme grief that he could ever want to hurt me. I become almost paralized with grief and fustration at his inability to reason nor feel ashamed of what he is doing to the one he claims to love so much. The more pain and anguish I appear to be in the more ruthless he becomes. I have taken him back dozens and dozens of times, hoping he will see the light and fall at my feet in shame. He never will. I have had many wonderful people give so much time in advising/supporting me but they soon grow wary of me as I keep taking him back and enduring more agony. I know now from this article that yep I’m a love addict.

    • Maryanne says:

      Omg.. this is mt life, minus entertainer and alcohol. My ” addiction” is an accuser and verbal abuser. The more he hhrts me the better he feels about himself. I am also a love addict aka co- dependan. I want desperatelyto stop this cycle, yet I keep taking him back. My support system has grown weary as well. I feel alone, frustrated, insecure, hopeless, and the list goes on. I’m hoping with further education and maybe a supportive environment of strangers I can get over this viscous cycle before somerhing really terrible happens. Know that your not along so many of us are going through this.

      In peace, Maryanne

  7. Marcia says:

    Our daughter has gone back to her abuser 14 times. She finally divorced him last year, found a wonderful guy who was kind patient and understanding and loved her deeply. But once again she found her way back to him! He abuses her physically mentally and sexually. My heart aches for her and I wish I could do something to help her before it’s too late. so often when she is with her abuser, they live on the streets. She has a son from a previous relationship that we are raising, she gives up everything to be with the abuser. She also suffers bipolar disorder and wonder if that also makes it harder for her to stay away. I am glad that I found this article, enlightened me with a little bit of understanding of this addiction she has for him.

  8. Justin says:

    They return because they love that person more than themselves, they feel they can’t be without them and one day they might change. Its not just women, I had a lover before who constantly broke my heart, i eventually left her and it was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life. But a few years later, I am with the perfect woman who makes me happy, and not just the other way around.

  9. Pam says:

    Great article. When the emotional abuse started thr first time. I spoke up and didnt respond to texts,phone calls, etc. The abuser drove to my job and left a beautuful card. Yep, that did it. Stayed in an emotionally abusive, ghosting behavioral off and on relationship for two years. Then, God showed me that he was doing that to another women both at the same time. I/we “tried to be friends and support one another. She turned on me and went back to our abuser. So double betrayal for me. Lesson learned. When people show you who they are – believe them. You must Love yourself, was the biggest and most valuable lesson learned. #Southpaw

  10. Gayle says:

    Our 35 year old daughter has been in and out of an abusive relationship with a horrible narcisssit. He is a drifter, pothead, evil, manipulative loser. Hadn’t held a job in 15 years or a drivers license. Has tried to kill her more than once. Has threatened both of our lives. She has several orders of protection against him and one for stalking, but “he is the love of my life.” The saddest thing of all, is that she has a sweet and precious 2 year old son, who will be ruined and abused by this sadistic man, if she chooses to return to him. She lost her son for addictive reasons for nearly one year. She is close again to returning to her abuser. She has undergone a year of counseling and monitoring. How else can we help her? If she returns to him, he will not only ruin her, but he will ruin our grandson….

  11. Synnove says:

    I was ask why I returned to a boyfriend who beat me mutli times ? I said that is a good question.

  12. Kristine Fink says:

    I think the wonen who get caught by an abuser to BEGIN with are only those who dont know how to live with adversaries to begin with. We can never feel okay while kniwing theres that abuser out there who is FUMING at us because we left, so we go back always trying to ‘mend’ the huge imbalance we feel. Theres also no trust we have in developing new healthy relationships – we always suspect and look for EVERY and all evidence that new people are ‘just’ as wicked as our evil old abuser, only theyre hiding it till it will come out later – so we choose the lesser of two evils – just go back to the OLD abuser we already know instead of going thru the sane trauma all over again with another. My mother in law was the same. Shestill defends the same abuser that beat her bloody and created trash children. I married her son. He carries on the same trash legacy. I dont feel a way out.

  13. Kristine Fink says:

    Id also like to comment that abused women are addicts to a ‘counterfit’ love – its a fake type we are confused with. REAL love is patient, kind, longsuffering, etc – but we want that ‘aggressive, jealous, possessive, dramatic COUNTERFIT love because we arent used to feeling cared for or loved any other way, and dont know how to fakely produce the feeling either (unless its drugs, but Ive never tried, so I dont know).
    Feeling loved in any NORMAL relationship with no controlling and no manipulation is foreign to abused people. Notice how many abused people also enjoy highly restrictive and controlling churches too – the high structure and manipulativeness is a substitute (and a counterfit, too) to real love.

  14. Jim K. says:

    My mother is 92. After 60 years of marriage to an alcoholic abuser she’s going back to him again. She left him many times and always returned. Once she left for over a year. She even bought a condo and got a job during that time. She still returned. There’s no hope for her. They deserve each other. She had four kids from a previous marriage when her first husband died at age 30. The youngest was 1 month, oldest 7. All the kids are screwed up. 4 kids, 9 marriages. This last time he stood over her comatose body in a hospital. She had tried to kill herself with pills. He wanted to let her die and didn’t tell us kids she was close to death because he didn’t want us to rush to her side. He said since there was nothing we could do he didn’t want to upset us. They had a DNR and a MOIST agreement. He wanted her dead. But she came through. We kids got her to an assisted living facility in another state. That lasted 4 weeks. She’s going back to him…again…and hopefully for the last time. We kids are emotionally empty. We don’t care anymore. Sometimes there is no hope. This is one of those times.

  15. Freedom says:

    This article changed my life! I’m sure there are those who can’t get out an abusive relationship due to finances or other issues but for me… I have a love addiction. Thank you thank yoy thank you Dr. Tracy for putting a name to my condition. It was truly powerful and a lightbulb went off in my brain. He is never going to change and I am not sacrificing my life for his life. I just filed for divorce and he has finally moved his things out. I actually feel a freedom I haven’t felt in many years. It’s going to be very hard but I’m determined to stay away and regain my life back.

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