People often misunderstand love addiction as being addicted to the feeling of love. Love addiction, however, has nothing to do with love. People become addicted to the fantasy that someone can actually make them feel whole (fill a "void"). People who get addicted to love or addicted to being in a relationship, typically come from a household where they experienced a fundamental failure in attachment, specifically to their mother. Many love addicts also grew up with emotional, physical, sexual, psychological abuse and/or neglect. So they learned early on to create a fantasy world of how they would like their life to be; one in which they are rescued by their partner. For women who get addicted to men, they create a fantasy of the "knight in shining armor." For men who get addicted to women, they create a fantasy of a "super woman." In same sex relationships, their partner becomes a fantasy of "super-partner."
The following are some characteristics of a love addict:
1. Craving a "buzz" from romance, attention from a partner, or even sex 2. Believing the fantasy that "someday my prince or princess will rescue me" 3. Trying to figure out what your partner is thinking 4. Snooping through your partner's phone, email, FB, etc. for information 5. Looking to see who your partner will find attractive 6. Neglecting your own needs for the needs and wants of your partner including hobbies, friendships, how you dress, where you work 7. Tolerating the intolerable in relationship for fear of being abandoned (a love addicts worst conscious fear is abandonment) 8. Trying to control your partner 9. Selling out on your wants and needs to ensure your partner is satisfied 10. Saying yes when you want to say no 11. Stalking behaviors 12. Resenting your partner when the fantasy unravels
Someone that is addicted to love and relationships tends to go from one relationship to the next in hopes that their fantasy life will be fulfilled, and in an attempt to relieve any pain from their previous relationship. It becomes an escape (unfortunately they learn that they are still trapped in an addiction).
I often see clients, many times women, who report both love and sex addiction. They get caught in a web of having sex as a means of either controlling their partner (this may not be conscious) and/or thinking it is love and a way of being connected in relationships.
How do you heal from love/relationship addiction?
1. Structure and Support is key: going to therapy and working through attachment issues, any trauma, other addictions is essential. 2. Ending destructive friendships and relationships is often a part of healing. This is a hard step since ending the relationship means ending one's addiction, so withdrawal follows (which can be a challenge for some folks, but worth it). 3. Ceasing destructive behavior that causes you shame and despair (these are called "bottom line behaviors"). 4. If you share custody, are still married, or there are religious or other issues related to staying in a toxic relationship, it is important that you and he/her both get help (therapy, couples therapy, SLAA meetings). 5. Educate yourself on love addiction by reading books such as Pia Mellody's Facing Love Addiction and/or Ready to Heal by Kelly McDaniel (for women). 5.Learning healthy boundaries and practicing them 6.Learning tools for self soothing and reality testing when fear arises 7.Abstinence from sexual intimacy, including having clear boundaries re: relationships for 90 days has been an effective tools for my clients.
More abstinence will help your brain clear out any destructive pathways and make way for lasting healing. This may not be an option if you are in a committed relationship; however, if both you and your partner can learn keys to having non-sexual intimacy and healthy connection outside of connecting through sex, sexual intimacy will be healthier longterm.
As you start to use the above tools consistently, you will create new neural pathways in your brain that will help you form lasting healthy relationships, and you will be able to make room for feelings that you have not dealt with for a long time.