When Love Is Sick


It’s common to refer to falling in love as a ‘sickness.’ You know the craziness of falling in love. Consumed with passion, people in the throes of this love sickness are bound to do crazy stuff to possess their beloved. Sounds like a good time (or a good movie) but it’s not what I’m talking about in this article.

The love sickness I’m talking about here is a bit different and a bit more serious. This is the sickness of loving somebody in an unhealthy love relationship. ‘Sick love’ is a love relationship where the consequence of being in the relationship is some form of individual limitation, restriction, or worse, an emotional or physical injury. 

To help you identify a ‘sick’ love relationship, it would probably have one or more, of the following characteristics:

You’re in a relationship with someone who is always controlling you against your will.

You’re in a relationship with a person who always choses to be chronically dependent and dysfunctional.

You’re with someone who is chronically distant whom you hardly ever see.

You’re in a relationship with a person who is verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive.

You’re with someone who is repeatedly dishonest.

You’re with someone who always exploits you for money or for something else you can give or do for him or her.

You’re with someone who is basically unavailable because of a commitment to somebody else.

If you find yourself in one of these ‘love’ relationships, you have three options:  1. stay in the relationship the way it is and sacrifice yourself; 2. try fixing the relationship with or without the cooperation of your partner, and; 3. get out.

Personally I wouldn’t recommend option #1. If for nothing else than a quality of life concern, staying in a sick love relationship ‘just because’ is no way to live. The kind of self-sacrifice needed will no doubt have a pretty damaging effect on your self-esteem and  over time become the psychological reason why you’ll have a harder time leaving the relationship in the future.

Unfortunately, sick love relationships often attract people who have difficulty setting appropriate limits on bad behavior. ‘Victims’ of sick love tend to take much more than they should and wake up from a ‘nightmare’ relationship only after a considerable amount of time has passed.

Option #3 can be a bit dicey as well. For starters, forget trying to fix a sick relationship alone. If you are the only one trying to improve things that’s a bad sign. Trust me. It’s better to cut your losses and move on. If you and your partner have agreed to work on improving the relationship together I would give that a ‘suspicious’ try. I say suspicious because too many times I’ve worked with the ‘victims’ of sick love that have bought ‘promises’ without true intentions to change. Only to be hurt and disappointed over and over again.

Leaving a sick love relationship is sad and usually involves the necessity of grieving the loss and untangling the aftereffects of being mistreated over time. Unfortunately you just don’t get to walk away unscathed. Although the aftereffects can be healed and additional learning can change a person’s love life for the better going forward. You have to be patient and take better care of your internal ‘you.’

One little fly in the ointment, however, when you leave, expect that your partner will want you back with a vengeance. There is something attractive about witnessing someone get stronger and leave a sick relationship. As if the ‘sickness’ itself will try to lure you back to the way it used to be. Out of habit perhaps, maybe even desperation, the point is, unless and until you’ve seen real proven changes, expect to go back to the way it was if you venture back out of loneliness.

Best advice I can give to the brave souls dedicated to getting themselves out of sick love relationships is: get single again and make that state of mind stronger for a better love life later on.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan


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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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