What is a love addiction?

Have you heard of love addiction?

I first learned about love addiction at a sex therapy training I took years ago. We were talking about sex addiction and someone asked about the difference between love and sex addiction to the instructor. The brief explanation was that the love addicts tend to be obsessed on the specific person, while sex addicts pursue any sexual opportunity that are available for them. I was very intrigued by it. So when I came home after the training, I found number of related articles. And after reading them I remember thinking about a few friends I had in the past, who might’ve had a love addiction.

Since then, I haven’t been thinking about a love addiction much until recently I had a number of professional encounters with love addicts.

As I’ve been utilizing attachment theory and EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) in my practice for the past a few years, I already had an understanding of etiology of a love addiction. But now I was sitting directly in front of someone who’s been suffering for years of depression, feeling extremely lonely and hopeless due to the addiction. When we realized that the addiction was still ongoing (they were in couples treatment), I had to refer out these clients to love addition specialists for an individual therapy. But in the short period time I worked with them I was able to connect with their desperate need for a deep connection and the pain caused by their inability to attain or maintain it.

A love addiction (or any other addiction) can cause severe impairment in many different aspects of an individual’s areas of function, such as home, work, school, social, and recreational. Working with couples, I get a lot of then who seek help with infidelity issues. And it is needless to say how love addiction will hinder these couples’ work.

Even if you don’t have infidelity issues, to avoid interference in couples treatment, if you or/and your partner suffer from a love addiction (or any other kinds of addiction), it is important to get individual addiction treatment before you start couples work (ideally) or at least concurrently.

 

So for those of you who do not know what love addiction is, let’s go over some of the behavioral patterns of people with love addiction commonly present.

Love addicts…

  • Constantly jump from one relationship to the other (usually very short term).
  • Feel miserable and desperate when not in a relationship.
  • Get into another relationship while still in a relationship.
  • Have a history of choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable, often abusive emotionally and/or physically, and incapable of providing the love and care they need.
  • Use romantic relationships to escape from emotional distress (either consciously or unconsciously).
  • Mistake initial infatuation and sexual intensity for love and intimacy.
  • Fail to maintain an existing relationship once the newness and excitement (limerence) have worn off.
  • Fail to meet important commitments in work, family life, and/or other important areas of life due to constantly looking for a new and better relationship or “fixing” the existing broken relationship.
  • Choose a partner who needs a lot of help and care to serve as a caretaker when in a committed relationships.

If you relate to many of these behavioral patterns, you might have a love addiction.

 

So what does it mean to be addicted to love?

You might be thinking, aren’t we all addicted to love? Yes, we can all get addicted to love at times (as I mention on my home page). But the difference between love addicts and people without love addiction is that love addicts crave love as cocaine addicts would crave cocaine. They use the feeling of “being in love” to cope with deeply seated feelings of insecurities, shame, fear, and low self-esteem and further more depression and/or anxiety that resulted from those feelings. Most of the love addicts have a history of some form of childhood trauma, such as neglect, abandonment, emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse, or inconsistent or critical parenting. So as you can imagine, what they know as love is quite different than what you would imagine from a healthy relationship.

Love or true intimacy for them is limerence, which is “a state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limerence).” So the high or euphoria you get when you first start a relationship with someone is their idea of love. Therefore when that high wears off they are gone from the relationship aswell. They think, “she/he wasn’t the right person. Next!” Then they are back on the endless search of someone who will make them feel whole and complete.

As a result, even though the love addicts are frequently provided of opportunities for true intimacy, they leave the relationship feeling “suffocated or bored” in stable and healthy relationships. As they are much more invested in feeling the intense experience of “falling in love,” they spend most of their time in life on a hunt for “the right one.” When they find the person who they want to commit to, the chosen partner tend to be someone who will make them feel alone and rejected. Because unconsciously that is what they want even though that is not what they need. And the love addicts feel unhappy, detached, irritable, restless, and discontent when they are in a relationship, because the chase and rush, limerence has faded.

One of my clients with a love addiction told me that every time when he was able to make a deeper emotional connection with a partner he pulled away. And when he thought that he found the perfect woman, he lost interest in her completely because he “felt suffocated.” So every time he started feeling safe and loved he left his partner and he fell back into the deeper depression. He also said that when he found himself in a committed relationship, being so in love, he realized that he was dating his mother (his mother severely abused and neglected him as a child). He unconsciously found someone who would make him feel ashamed and deny of all his needs just like his mother.

So what do I do if I think I have a love addiction?

It is counter indicative to couples therapy if one or both partners are actively engaging in any addictive behaviors as I mentioned above. So I recommend that you or your partner get an addiction treatment before we start couples work. Here are some of the love addiction treatment centers you can consult with to get help.

Center for Healthy Sex –They also have a Love Addiction test on their website.

Novus Mindful Life

Addiction.com

 

 

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