A while back, I found myself at a hotel pool party in Los Angeles, crying black mascara tears into my vodka soda. I just had a dramatic, very public fight with my girlfriend at the time.
Then, a random girl I had never seen before came up to me.
She was smoking a long, skinny cigarette and had a sympathetic face and large, kind eyes. She handed me a cigarette and a pink plastic lighter.
"Why do you do this to yourself?" she asked, smoking her cigarette slowly and swaggy like James Dean. "I saw your fight with your girlfriend. It was brutal."
"I love her." Silent tears streamed down my puffy face.
"Are you sure? Or are you just addicted to drama?"
And just like that, she walked away, flicking a trail of ash behind her and leaving me, my mascara tears and twisted thoughts alone.
I stared into my reflection in the fake-looking, blue pool water. I could hear the music blaring from the outdoor bar where the party was.
But I didn't want to party. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream and rage out, and then, have amazing makeup sex with my girlfriend.
That was our routine. I mean, wasn't that the routine of all passionate couples? Didn't real love mean teetering between feeling sky-high bliss and soul-sucking lows?
Didn't real love mean teetering between feeling sky-high bliss and soul-sucking lows?
The surface part of my brain yelled, "Yes! Everything you're doing is totally justified! You're in love, and love is dark and complicated! I mean, this is what happens when two creative, passionate people get together!"
But the deep part of my brain whispered, "Actually, this doesn't sound healthy at all."
Fortunately, a few months (and lots of personal work with a therapist) later, it was very clear I was never in love with my partner. I was simply addicted to drama.
Here are some classic signs you're not actually in love; you're just addicted to the drama of your relationship:
1. You don't feel loved all the time; you just feel loved after a fight.
When I was addicted to the drama in my relationship, I lived for the cuddles and the "amazing" makeup sex we had after a screaming match.
I felt an adrenaline surge after crying, yelling and having my feelings crushed to the ground, only to be held tenderly and told I was loved, cherished and desired a little while later.
I felt the most alive in my relationship during those toxic moments. I felt the most in love. I lived for those 20 minutes of pure bliss we would experience after a fight.
But that's not love, babe. That's being addicted to drama. That's being stuck in a toxic cycle.
When you experience real, safe, authentic love, you feel loved all the time, not just after that person has hurt you and made you feel like the scum of the earth.
Real love is so powerful and bright on it's own.
Real love is so powerful and bright on its own, it doesn't need to be contrasted against bleak darkness for you to see it's there.
2. You describe your relationship as "passionate," not "stable."
This is the most common sign I see when my friends (or myself) are addicted to only drama.
I think because our generation grew up with so many tumultuous couples in the media, like Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, all those forever-fighting TV couples on soapy shows like "Melrose Place" and all the supermodels and rockers of the early 2000s.
They all had notoriously tempestuous relationships, but they were all beautiful and claimed that their shared love was so intense, it was just too much to handle sometimes.
Oh, I wanted that! I wanted to be beautiful and to feel a burning passion for another human being that was so overpowering, it couldn't help but erupt in fiery flames. I sorely believed if you didn't have a feisty relationship, you weren't really in love.
I'm wiser now. So let your lesbian big sister put this dangerous rumor to rest once and for all: Fighting is not passion.
Fighting is not passion.
Fighting is often emotional abuse, and it's not healthy or normal to constantly scream at a person you love. In fact, you shouldn't ever want to scream in the face of the person you love.
Real love is tender. Real love shows up for you when you need it. Real love is stable. Real love doesn't keep you guessing.
Real love is tender. Real love shows up for you when you need it. Real love is stable.
Chances are, if you're calling your argumentative, toxic relationship "passionate," you're living in a fantasy, baby. You're using pretty words to justify an ugly dynamic.
So break the cycle before all these "passionate" fights break your precious spirit. Trust me, they will eventually.
3. You're not walking on firm ground; you're walking on eggshells.
I used to think this unsteady, anxious feeling I always had lurking in my gut was just butterflies.
"Oh, I'm so into her! She keeps me on my toes," I'd smugly say to my best friend, who would look at me worried but wouldn't say a word because she was stuck in her own dramatic relationship.
Now, I realize the fluttery feeling constantly holding court in my chest was not butterflies or giddiness. It was anxiety.
I was dating someone who was wildly unpredictable, and it made me nervous. I never knew if she was going to call me and accuse me of flirting with an ex or if she was going to tell me I was the love of her life.
When you don't know what to expect from someone, of course you're going to spend your entire relationship walking on eggshells. That way of life can be addictive to suckers for big feelings like you and me.
When you don't know what to expect from someone, you're going to spend your life walking on eggshells.
But you know what? That's not love. Unpredictable people aren't exciting; they're manipulative. And it gets fucking old.
Life is too short to have an unstable foundation, and the person you're in a relationship with is, in many ways, the foundation of your world.
If that foundation is shaky, your entire life will feel like it's on the verge of an earthquake.
If you're subsisting on weak floorboards, you'll feel shaky all the time. You'll feel shaky in your job, shaky socially and, worst of all, shaky in your self-esteem.
4. You don't want them, but you feel like you would die without them.
Being addicted to a person is a lot like being addicted to a drug. And as someone who has been addicted to both, I feel I have the authority to speak about this.
When you're addicted, you know whatever you're addicted to is destroying you and stopping you from excelling and reaching your full potential in life.
But the thought of never using it again — the thought of never seeing it again — fills you with extreme, debilitating anxiety.
When you're addicted to something, you don't feel like you can exist without it, even if it's toxic for you. When you're in a dramatic relationship, you think you can't live without this person, even though they hurt you.
Healthy relationships don't have a baseline of fear. Dramatic ones, on the other hand, are entirely fear-based.
But real love doesn't hurt. Real love empowers you. It's a welcomed addition to your life, but it doesn't feel like this frantic, "I can't live without you" thing.
You don't feel like you can exist without it, even if it's toxic for you.
Instead, it feels like, "I love you so much, and you make me feel strong, so I know I'll always be OK."
5. You once had a full life, and now you've neglected everything outside of your relationship.
Battling another person is exhausting. It's draining to cry all the time — to have your feelings crushed and live in a state of epic uncertainty. How can you possibly have the energy to do other things?
When you're constantly fighting with someone, you don't really have room anything else.
Take a good look at your life. Have you lost touch with your close friends because you're so consumed by your partner? Instead of reading your favorite book, are you always on the phone fighting with your partner?
I've been there. I stopped doing so many things I cared about and neglected all the little things that made me happy.
The drama took over every aspect of my life, and I thought love was just exhausting. Now, I realize real love energizes you! It inspires you to create, be a better friend and invest in time for yourself.
I thought love was just exhausting. Now I realize real love energizes you.
So remember, if this is how your relationship is making you feel, you're not in love. And it's time to break free and channel all the energy you've invested in this relationship back into your self.
Become your own stable foundation, and you'll never have to worry that you're going to fall through the floorboards.
Because you built those floorboards yourself. And they're strong AF.