So what is love addiction, exactly? Love addiction is any unhealthy attachment to people, euphoria, romance or sex in an attempt to get unmet needs fulfilled, avoid fear or emotional pain, solve problems, fill our loneliness, heal past trauma and maintain balance. The paradox is that love addiction is an attempt to gain control of our lives, and in so doing, we go out of control by giving personal power to someone outside ourselves. When a person’s object of love is also the object of his or her romantic and sexual desires, intense behaviors occur when the object of love withdraws or threatens to withdraw.
Because none of us got everything we needed in just the way we needed it in past relationships and since we are meant to be in relationship, we are all prone to love addiction.
Why love addiction is so common.
Our obsession with love pervades every aspect of our lives, from romance novels to rock and pop song lyrics and even great works of fiction, poetry, drama and art. Our culture idealizes, dramatizes and models a dependency that says we cannot live without a person, romance or sex. We have been groomed to look outside ourselves for happiness and love.
We are also neuro-chemically vulnerable. Biology provides us with the three sensations of pleasure —arousal, fantasy and satiation — controlled by hundreds of chemicals such as phenylethylamine (PEA), dopamine and oxytocin. Though these chemicals are meant to enhance our love life, we can become dependent on these “feel-good” chemicals and medicate our ills with them or continue the search for the high.
Psychologically, love addiction survives on unconscious beliefs, such as, I will take care of your needs, fears and inadequacies so you will take care of mine; if you fail me, I will do whatever it takes to keep you around; and since I do not know how to be intimate, or fear intimacy because of past hurts, I will allow only so much closeness. Love addicts fear abandonment or betrayal and often hang on to abusive relationships for years.
These are the steps to getting out of love addiction:
- Believe that healthy love is possible.
- Be willing to assess your love life honestly.
- Connect the unhealthy aspects of your love life with limiting inner beliefs.
- Change your beliefs to those that encourage healthy love .
- Let go of or heal what you fear.
- Experience yourself as unconditional love and live it.
In summary, obsessive, dependent, erotic love often is a misplaced attempt to achieve that fusion with someone else that we so deeply desire. We want to end the feelings of isolation caused by our learned restraints against true intimacy. Aroused by the experience of love, one often is willing to suspend those restraints in order to merge with another. If the merger is dependent and immature, the result is love addiction. Life energy is directed at the pursuit of gratification rather than growth. If mature, the love will grow and expand.
In the coming months of my “Everything You Want to Know About Love Addiction” blog I’ll go through each of the steps to end a love addiction in more depth, to offer you specific advice I use with my own clients to help them move into recovery. I hope you’ll join me!