What Is Love Addiction?
Love addiction is sometimes difficult to identify. Our culture makes it particularly difficult, because there are many models of “love” presented to us that are based on dysfunctional models. These models keep the individuals in the relationship trapped in attitudes and behaviors that limit, rather than expand, their ability to define and express their wants and needs in a mature way. Instead we end up choosing many of the following attitudes and behaviors.
Attitudes and Behaviors Common to Love Addiction
- Expect that our partners will just somehow know what we want and need. And then meet those wants and needs for us, without discussion.
- Expect that our partners will be unconditionally loving and supportive, regardless of their personal circumstances, and regardless of how we are behaving.
- Demand that our partners love us on our terms, exactly the way we want to be loved, without any thought for their wants and needs for love.
- Accept neglectful and abusive behavior from our partners. Rationalize and justify their behavior because we cannot let the relationship go. Continue to try to make the person into who we want them to be instead of accepting who they really are.
- Manipulate and control our partners when they do not respond the way we want them to instead of communicate our wants and needs in a direct manner and then allow them to respond in the way they choose.
- Become helpless so our partners are forced to be there for us.
- Become sexy so our partners will pay attention to us.
- Bring drama into our interactions so our partners will pay attention to us.
- Fantasize about the way the relationship could have been, or how it will be. Spend a lot of our time indulging in these fantasies.
- Spend a lot of time preparing ourselves for our partners. Shop for just the right clothes, spend a lot of time getting our hair, makeup, nails, or other details just right. Rather than just make sure we are well groomed and then show up as ourselves.
- Try to make ourselves into the person we think our partner wants. Change our style, preferences, and other details about ourselves to try to become our partner’s perfect partner.
- Spend too much time thinking about what our partner is doing.
There are many other ways that love addiction shows up, and in some cases it becomes extreme, particularly if a partner rejects us and we go into withdrawal. In some rare cases, love addicts have broken laws and seriously hurt or even killed people because they lost control of themselves in the grip of their addiction.
Cycle of Addiction
Like any other addiction, the addict is powerless when acting out and experiences great shame and guilt for their behavior. This shame and guilt feeds the cycle, causing the addict to feel bad about themselves and reinforcing old beliefs that were introduced in childhood. When we feel bad about ourselves, we are more easily triggered. Once we are triggered we seek relief from the pain associated with the trigger. Until we have other coping mechanisms, our addictive behaviors are usually our habit, so we continue in this vicious cycle. Recovery is learning how to break the cycle and choose new beliefs about ourselves as well as new behaviors when we feel triggered.
There is Hope
There is hope. There are 12 Step meetings for love addicts. There are programs that support you in learning new skills and developing new attitudes and beliefs about yourself and your life. You are not alone. Learn to strengthen and use Your Love Voice and discover a new way of being in your life and relationships.