Find a Therapist at

Find a Therapist or Treatment Center

   for Consumers
Find a Therapist
Find a Treatment Center
About Therapy
Research a Condition
Research a Medication
Support Groups
National Hotlines
Featured Articles
What's New

   for Providers
List Your Practice
List Your Treatment Center
Publish an Article
My Account


» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Relational Problems » Featured Article

By Daniel A. Linder, MFT

Daniel A. Linder, MFT

Note: The following article, “Breaking-up,” is best suited for those in the throes of a ‘bad’ relationship, who know it’s ‘bad,’ may want to get out, but feel stuck and are looking for an exit strategy.   

Mindfulness is a running theme. “Breaking-up” is about understanding what you are trying to accomplish, what you need to and what it takes to get there.  It’s intended as an instructional map that shows you the way out of unhealthy relationships and into healthy, emotionally nourishing ones. It’s empowerment through awareness, understanding and action.

“An addiction is a relationship with a means of relief of pain from unconscious unmet emotional needs.”  (The Relationship Model of Addiction™ (TRMA™).

Let’s be clear. We’re ascribing all relationships with “means of relief,” which include substances, activities and people (as is the case with codependency), as ‘bad’ relationship. “Bad” meaning unhealthy; that is, addictive, dependency or need-based relationships are inherently unhealthy.
What makes “bad” relationships bad?  Generally speaking:

  • They are driven by the need to relieve the pain from unconscious, unmet emotional needs. The main reason you are in this relationship is that you are starving emotionally and are in a great deal of pain.

  • While they may work to make someone who is in a lot of pain feel better, no real nourishment is provided.

  • There is no relationship with Self; there is no one home, no center-point, no self-awareness, out of touch. They tend to be “other-centered,” that is, a lot more of your attention and energy is outer directed, not one’s Self.

  • They are notorious for being all-consuming, similar to “secret love affairs.” There is a steady diminishment of functioning and ever-mounting problems. All other relationships become secondary, while all other priorities diminish in importance.

  • Your “connectivity quotient” plummets. You can’t get your need for love met. You can’t connect or be truly intimate as long as you’re in this relationship.

Whereas “good,” healthy or emotionally nourishing relationships are driven by your need for love, connection and intimacy. “Good” relationships provide emotional nourishment that feeds growth and make intimate connections with others.

Healthy relationships consist of “two separate, autonomous, whole and alive Selves” and will therefore tend to be “self-centered,” that is, more attention/energy and involvement on one’s Self than on the (means of relief).

People who have been adequately nourished in their family of origin and nourished in their current relationships tend not to be desperate for relief and not get into relationships with means of relief.

Step I – Recognition

Recognition is about seeing the relationship for what it is – a “bad” relationship. As is the case with any “bad” relationship, in order for you to have a shred of hope of turning your life around and being in healthier relationships, you must get out. You must “break-up.”

As you begin to understand that the relationship is a “bad” one and what makes it “bad” for you and how it’s effecting you, you will naturally become more motivated to “break-up.”

You learn:

  • That the relationship with the means of relief is unconsciously driven by the need to relieve pain from unmet emotional needs (from past and current relationships). No real nourishment is provided, only temporary relief or feeling better.

  • That objectification occurs, that is, relating to the “other” (substances, activities, people, etc.) as a means of relief. If you’re starving, you’ll eat anything. You won’t be discriminating, oblivious to the "nutritional" value of what you’re getting into.

  • Your understand that desperation to relieve pain, feel better, make up for what is missing, gets in the way of loving and connecting with real people in real relationships. You can’t connect when there is nothing there to connect with. When desperation is looming and you are gasping for air, the necessary conscious, emotional and energetic presence to connect will be lacking.

  • You recognize the degree your life revolved around this relationship, you’ve lost track of what matters most to you, become isolated and removed from life and relationships.

  • Realize that perceptual distortion, otherwise known as denial, makes it impossible to objectively assess the level of involvement, progressive impact and intangible effects over time. Your judgment had gotten impaired.

  • The light of conscious awareness provides a reality check that illuminates manifestations of denial, deception and delusion. It’s as if you’ve awakened from a slumber.   

Step II – Connecting the Relationship with Pain     

TRMA and The Three Stages of Recovery (“Breaking-up” is I) are based on the premise that the need for love and need to relieve pain are basic human needs. The need for love is primary and when we don’t get our need for love met, there is going to be pain, and depending on the level of pain, the need for relief takes over our motivation, whether aware of what is motivating us, or not.

Considering the aforementioned premise, it naturally follows that after recognition, the next step is going back to the relationship’s beginning. What was going on emotionally when this relationship was taking hold? By making the connection between the pain from unmet emotional needs and a relationship that offers relief, you will see why you are in it and are so afraid to be without it.   

Step III – Withdrawal

Withdrawal is another hurdle along the way. In any addictive, dependency or need-based relationship, it’s not likely or possible for you to pull back, disengage or take any action step towards “breaking-up” without an (emotional) fall out occurring, which I aptly refer to as emotional withdrawal. No free rides. You’re not going to “break-up” a relationship of this magnitude without at least a modicum of pain.

The severity of pain of emotional withdrawal varies according the extent of dependency and the duration of the relationship.  

The process of “weaning away” from your crutch, aka - means of relief – can be, and often is devastatingly difficult. It’s when you’re looking for something outside of yourself, an infusion of guidance and energy and courage, there is none. It’s when you suddenly find yourself all alone in the face of an overwhelming reality and torrents of emotion.

Conscious aloneness is always an adjustment, and when “breaking-up,” it’s even more of an adjustment. There is going to be a huge void that must be crossed. Doubts about ever being able to live and cope on your own two feet can and often come bubbling up. Sometimes the only thing that keeps you going is trusting the process, perhaps a “spiritual confidence” – when you have no idea how close you are to making the hugest discovery of your life… your Self.

Step IV – “Good-bye”

“Good-bye” is your curtain call, your “last hurrah.” When you say “good-bye,” whether you say to yourself or to the means, the relationship changes. A shift occurs, not necessarily a permanent one, but more likely sustained moments. It’s like being released from prison, when freedom takes on a whole new meaning and a new life.
Implied is physical action or communication, i.e. pull back, disengage, re-direct, say, “I’m out. Good-bye.” You have to let go, walk away and exit the relationship proactively.

It helps to understand that when you “break-up” one relationship, you’re creating a space for another to begin; ending a "bad" relationship makes room for a new, healthy, nourishing one - with your Self – THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP OF ALL. You’re saying, “good-bye to relationships with means of relief and “hello” to your new best friend.

Consider a journal type exercise to accelerate the process – to write a “Good-bye” Letter to your means of relief, that includes your rationale, challenges and rewards; saying “Good-bye” to what you no longer want, while identifying what you do want.

Step V – Discovery your Self

“Breaking-up” marks the end of the relationship with a means of relief and the beginning of the relationship with your Self. You’ve discovered a treasure trove of rich and abundant resources lying within. As you continue developing the relationship with Self, you awaken to what your ultimate purpose is and what matters most in your life and relationships – love, connection intimacy. No longer will you be driven by the need for relief.

It’s a natural progression. You must “break-up” before you can begin developing the relationship with Self. In order to create intimate relationships, there must be “two separate, autonomous, conscious and alive Selves.” In order for “conception” (of a relationship) to occur, or to “co-create,” there must be vitality in the "connectors." Just like when a child is conceived, there must be a healthy sperm with a healthy egg.

Self is the Highest Power - the source of creative power and connection. When you are self-aware and in touch, as you are when you’ve developed a relationship with your Self, you are able to share your thoughts, feelings and desires – be known be heard, be seen, understood – to get your need to love and be loved met.

About the Author...

Daniel is a “Self and Relationship-based therapist,” licensed MFT, an addiction specialist and relationship trainer with 30+ yrs of experience working with individuals, couples, families and groups, and is the creator of The Relationship Model of Addiction. Daniel’s Intensive Relationship Training includes e-books, lectures, webinars and workshops. His Dating to Relate workshops launched in 1993 and were the first dating therapy groups of any kind. He is the author of Dating, A Guide to Creating Intimate Relationships; Intimacy, The Essence of True Love and The Relationship Model of Addiction and Recovery; as well as numerous other related articles.

Last Update: 7/16/2016

Home  |  Provider Directory  |  Mental Health Library  |  Resource Center  |  For Providers
Find a Therapist  |  Find a Treatment Center  |  List Your Practice  |  List Your Treatment Center
About Us  |  Contact Us  |  User Agreement  |  Privacy Policy  |  Site Map
This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here. The information provided on this site is for educational or informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or behavioral health care advice. The information is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care provider. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about your health.
Copyright © 2000-2019, Inc. All rights reserved.
Welcome Guestbook What's New Site Map Find a Therapist Find a Treatment Center About Therapy Frequently Asked Questions Disorders & Conditions Medications Treatment Approaches Featured Articles News Archive Mental Health Dictionary Support Groups National Hotlines Web Directory Mental Health Books Related Web Sites For Providers Provider Login Back to top of page