Image this….you have just been on a first date and are recapping the evening with your bestfriend. You are beaming with excitement and statements like, “It was love at first sight,” or “I’ve found my soul mate,” fly out of your mouth. Sound familiar? Ever said things like this? If so, you might be a love addict. Before shame washes over you…you are not alone. As with most addiction-related behaviors, love addiction has it’s roots in codependency. Pia Mellody, a leading expert on love addiction and codependency, asserts that “not all codependents are love addicts, but all love addicts are codependent.” Some estimates suggest that over 90 percent of the American population demonstrates codependent behavior. Knowing this statistic helps to make sense of the growing number of love addicts struggling among us. Again…you are not alone!
So what is love addiction anyway?
Love addiction is a “compulsive, chronic craving and/or pursuit of love in an effort to get our sense of security and worth from another person.” Although love addiction most commonly presents in romantic relationships, a person can also relate as a love addict in other kinds of relationships, such as: with a parent, one’s children, a parent-in-law, a counselor, a close friend, a religious leader, a twelve-step sponsor, or a guru. I experienced love addiction in several friendships. These friendships would go very deep, very fast. We became “best” friends in a few short weeks. It is important to note that real intimacy in both sexual and non-sexual relationships takes time to develop. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows accompany most love addicted relationships. Hearing statements that range from “I have never felt so loved and connected to anyone in my entire life” to “I will die if I cannot be with them” are not uncommon.
Characteristics of Love Addiction
Although there are many characteristics attached to love addiction, the three main characteristics include:
- Love addicts assign a disproportionate amount of time, attention, and value above themselves to the person to whom they are addicted, and this focus often has an obsessive quality about it
- Love addicts have unrealistic expectations for unconditional positive regard from the other person in the relationship
- Love addicts neglect to care for or value themselves while they’re in the relationship
In my friendships, we would spend all day remaining connected through phone and text. We would know where each other was and what we were doing all day, everyday. As hard as it is to admit, my friend’s needs became more important than mine or my families. To say there was an obsessive quality to it is an understatement. Below the surface, her care for me and continuous affirmation of my value to her was paramount. If I felt even a hint of her distancing from me, panic would set in.
Fear of Abandonment
The underlying fear driving love addiction is a fear of abandonment. We are created for belonging. When we grow up in a family system that does not foster a deep sense of belonging within the self and within the family, we fail to develop the ability to experience true love. Brene’ Brown says, “Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” As with all of us, the love addict desperately wants to be truly known and loved. Growing up in environments where there was an inadequate or inconsistent nurturing impacts an individual’s ability to develop self-esteem. In addition to a lack of self-esteem, a lack of positive role models for healthy relationships and the influence of cultural images of perfect romantic love and “happily ever after endings” also contribute to the development of love addiction.
As with any addiction, in order to break these patterns one has to admit they exist. Most love addicted relationships fail to flourish and eventually end. Because these relationships provides a sense of safety and give the individual their worth, hustling to enter a new relationship usually occurs. I went from one love addicted friendship to another for years. When one blew up another formed. This continued to happen until I became aware of the cycle. Awareness is the key to growth and freedom. Love addiction IS a real thing and it is many miles away from true love. We are created to love and be loved. If you are waking up to your love addiction patterns, get some help. There are great books and individuals who can help identify these patterns and bring the healing needed to break them.
Below you will find the link to a love addiction quiz along with Pia Mellody’s books on love addiction and codependency:
C. Paige Smith, M.A., LPCC
Paige Smith has a Masters of Arts in Clinical Mental Health from Denver Seminary and is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate in the State of Colorado. As part of her studies, Paige was an intern at Where Grace Abounds. She is passionate about understanding and knowing individuals as biological, psychological, social, and spiritual beings. She believes that these factors are always interacting with one another and each needs consideration when seeking optimal health. From this perspective, she works to help her clients understand their complex nature and experience holistic healing. Paige strives to create a warm and inviting space for all of her clients through acceptance, authenticity, and support. Her desire to walk alongside those hurting is evident through her caring and understanding presence.
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