My first blog post for Addiction.com, “Love Addiction: What Is It? Who Gets It? Why?”, ended with the promise to describe six steps to move from addictive love to healthy belonging. My last post gave a summary of step one: Believe that healthy love is possible. Here is step two:
Be willing to assess your love life honestly.
It’s easy to mistake addictive love for healthy love because it is so common. I distinguish between three types of addictive love: love addiction, romance addiction and sex addiction. Though a relationship can have all three, this blog will discuss love addiction. (Romance addiction will be covered in a separate blog post.)
Love addiction refers to the times we become dependent on the object of love. This can be a romantic partner, a life partner and even a friend or family member. Love addiction is a misguided attempt to get unmet needs fulfilled, avoid what we fear and live out self-fulfilling prophecies such as “no one will love me as I am,” “men are never there when you need them most” and ” it’s not safe to trust.” We attach ourselves to another person and take care of them emotionally at our own emotional expense, or we try to control them to meet our emotional needs at their expense. Dependent love — love addiction — thrives on the myth that “I will take care of your fears and inadequacies so you will stick around and take care of mine.”
Do You Know the Warning Signs?
In order to create a healthy relationship, we must first recognize the unhealthy signs, own them and make a commitment to change unhealthy patterns.
Realize that the motivations behind love addiction are unconscious. Thus it is important to open our eyes and assess our primary relationships by honestly answering yes or no to the following questions:
- Do you feel as though you take care of others even though it hurts you?
- Are you afraid or hesitant to talk about problems?
- Do you say yes when you want to say no?
- Do you rationalize or keep hidden the things you don’t like in the relationship?
- Do you feel like you both want and don’t want to be in the relationship?
- Have you thought of ending the relationship and been too afraid?
- Do you or the other person get close and then pull back?
- Does how the other person feels change your mood? Your self-esteem?
- Does the other person’s behavior change your mood? Your self-esteem?
- Does what the other person thinks about you change your behavior?
- Do you or the other person rescue, persecute or feel like a victim?
- Do you power struggle or compete for control?
- Do you try to change the other or the other person try to change you?
- Do you disregard your values, wants and needs to please someone?
- Do you fear change or the unknown?
- Do you experience repeated negative feelings in the relationship?
- Does the relationship zap you of your life energy?
- Are you stagnating?
- Do you tolerate or inflict abuse?
- Do you feel stuck?
Any “yes” answers indicate some degree of unhealthy dependency or love addiction. But please let go of blame or guilt. Most relationships give evidence of some of these signs. Many “yes” responses, though, indicate that your relationship is in trouble and you should seek help. Go back to step one and review the signs of real love and compare those to your relationship.