Love Me, for I Love Me Not: All About Love Addiction
Love addiction is a catch-22. Love addicts put all their time and effort into searching for the perfect relationship, yet their love addiction is what prevents them from attaining it. Find out here what love addiction is, how to tell if you are a love addict, and what you can do about it…
Love addiction stems from a lack of self-worth and deep desire for acceptance. Love addicts make many of their life decisions based on their search for the perfect relationship. In fact, they may have already passed up many opportunities to have that genuinely loving and fulfilling relationship, in favour of a string of other, more dramatic, co-dependent connections. Does this sound familiar to you?
Are You a Love Addict?
1. Do you often think that if you could just find “the one,” or your “soul mate,” you would finally be truly happy?
2. Do you tend to get into relationships with partners you know are not good for you, because your desire for a relationship outweighs the potential drawbacks?
3. Do you pursue the idea of “fixing” the person you are in a relationship with instead of acknowledging that he or she is not right for you?
4. Do you repeatedly return to unhealthy relationships that you promised yourself you would leave for good?
5. Do you feel intense anxiety at the thought of being single?
6. Do you take actions to avoid being single despite negative consequences for yourself?
7. Do you depend on your partner to make you feel loved and lovable?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, you may be a love addict. But just what does this mean?
What is Love Addiction?
Love addiction often stems from a history of neglect or rejection, usually beginning in childhood. Humans are biologically designed to require love. You may have heard of the 1940s American psychological experiment on withholding affection from babies. Babies whose basic needs were attended to and who were nurtured remained healthy, but babies whose basic needs were attended to but not given any form of affection, died.
Our body chemistry is actually designed to keep us connected to other humans. Feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are released, and interpersonal connections are reinforced when we bond with others (i.e. during sex or a deep conversation with a good friend). Conversely, the opposite physical reaction takes place when we feel disconnected with someone.
As children we are dependent on our parents, and our brain chemistry reinforces this bond. However, the parents we rely on for our emotional well-being and validation, whom we naturally seek to please, may fall short of placing us at the centre of their world. If this happens and a child is not sufficiently nurtured, or is neglected or overly criticised, they may begin to get messages that they are not accepted, flawed, or that love is conditional.
They may then develop “someday my prince or princess will come” fantasies as a form of escape, and carry these delusions with them into adulthood as they begin to seek out a partner. Love addicts crave the good feelings they get when they feel loved but often have issues with trust and intimacy. Intimacy requires letting someone see your true self, with all of its flaws. This is a scary prospect for many people and especially for someone who does not accept his or her true, flawed self.
Love addicts operate out of fear that they will be left or rejected, and they want someone in their life to love them. They may become seductive, manipulative and good at getting attention, for attention is a love addict’s high.
Love addicts hate being alone. They feel the constant need to be in a relationship and will go to great lengths to pursue it.
In love addiction, love takes on pathological and dangerous qualities, as addicts constantly pursue true love but never experience it. They may compulsively use sex (even with multiple partners) to compensate for being single. They may find themselves frequently getting into new relationships, mistaking their initial intensity for passion and true love, and repeatedly ending the relationship a few months later as soon as the honeymoon phase has subsided.
Because of their bottomless need for love in their life, love addicts are unable to assess their partners’ motivation for the relationship and therefore unable to identify unhealthy partners. They choose companions who are emotionally unavailable (such as the love avoidant) or abusive. They may go back to these unhealthy relationships over and over again despite knowing that is not right for them. Love addicts become stuck in these toxic relationship cycles, losing touch with their boundaries, interests, goals and social circles – getting wrapped up in their partner’s identity, as they lose sight of their own.
Love addicts are deeply unhappy with themselves, so they use others to prop themselves up in the world. They tend to try to make others happy first because they are so desperate to be loved. While being kind, thoughtful and generous with others are great qualities, if this behaviour is excessive and leads someone to victimise themselves, it is unhealthy and unsustainable. If you do not love yourself, how can you love somebody else?
Love addiction is a high which, like all addictions, is chemically based on the brain’s need for dopamine, the feel-good chemical. People who have insufficiently balanced brain chemistry or who are depressed are looking for a high to make themselves feel good – searching for consolation from an external source. They embark upon relationships that are dramatic and intense, which can be physiologically exhausting.
In the beginning, feel-good hormones are surging through their bodies, but after the first few months they dry up. Love addicts find themselves trying to cause drama or looking outside of their relationship for stimulation or attention.
Sex and relationships make a love addict feel excited, alive, worthy and loved. Being single makes them feel lonely and unlovable.
The Real True Love
Love is not an object outside of yourself. It comes from within. Love addiction, like all addictions, is an attempt to reach for external sources of gratification in order to fill an internal void. This, of course, is not sustainable and is a recipe for cyclical dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
Healthy attachments form when you love someone but allow them to be their own person. In co-dependent relationships, both partners are so enmeshed in the relationship that they lose sight of themselves. In this way, co-dependent breakups can be devastating beyond the realm of normal heartbreak, since co-dependent partners are not just losing their relationship but feel as if they are losing themselves.
Healthy relationships are interdependent, not co-dependent. They exist when each partner is complete within themselves, and both partners contribute mutually to nurturing their relationship. Good relationships require intimacy and vulnerability, which can only happen in the presence of self-love.
Finding Freedom from Love Addiction
The roots of love addiction go deep, and it can be difficult to overcome it on your own. Recognising it is the first step, and having the support of a reputable treatment programme greatly increases your chances of success.
The Cabin Sydney offers a highly effective and innovative outpatient programme that gets to the root of addiction, including process addictions (such as love addiction, sex, and gambling). The staff at The Cabin Sydney are highly trained and licensed professionals comprising of addiction experts and psychologists with many years of experience in treating addiction. Many of them also have first-hand experience with addiction, giving them an understanding of our clients that only those who have been through recovery can truly grasp.
If your love addiction is preventing you from forming the meaningful relationships that you deserve, contact us today to find out how we can help.