The deep emotional attachment associated with love addiction may appear to others as a sign of growing pains that will fizzle out over time as you mature, engage in other relationships, and determine through experience what characteristics in another person are better suited for you.
But in reality, you’ve been displaying a patterned behavior that stems from childhood or early adolescent traumas like abandonment and rejection. These series of events have led you on a chase you believe to be after intimacy, yet when the newness and excitement of each relationship wears away and it’s time for real bonding, you and your partners never develop beyond this initial emotionally-charged state because you have no role models for committed relationships.
If you’re battling with love addiction, it’s time to create a new path. Specialists trained in dealing with this type of addiction have tools for healthy relationship-building and emotional-mental freedom.
Life as a Love Addict
The life of a love addict is one of loneliness and rejection. Rather than elevating to a truly intimate experience, you are more tied to the honeymoon phase where there are intense feelings, excitement, and lots of time spent building an emotional foundation.
You grapple to hold tight to this phase, allowing your life to become consumed by the person. You may abandon priorities like work and family. Decisions are based on their likes, or what you interpret them to be. You are also ever-pleasing and overcompensate out of fear they will leave.
When you’re not around them, anxiety comes in. You check in constantly because your mind is unsettled if you don’t know where they are or who they are with. All of this attention adds up to lost time, energy, self-value, identity, and effort.
Once the fantasy dissolves, you are left with little more than discontentment, detachment, restlessness, moodiness, and depression. If he doesn’t leave, you’ll stay unhappily and continue disruptive patterns until the relationship reaches it breaking point and he disappears, consequently reinforcing your ideas of abandonment.
The feeling of loneliness and the inability to process this loss can then go a few ways: You quickly supplement him with someone new or dive into a flurry of demonstrative feelings that can lead to serious consequences.
Love Addiction Isn’t Always Sexual, But it is Always a Rollercoaster Ride
Love addiction isn’t always romantic or sexual. It can be with a friend, child, celebrity, mentor, or any individual you make or deem a solid crutch. This person essentially plays the role of support and care person, with the expectation being that he or she will solve your problems, take care of you and be accessible at all times.
When these expectations aren’t met—and they rarely ever are because they are unrealistic and unachievable—your emotions flare, causing resentment, deep sadness, anger and outbursts. Unstable and unable to control yourself, you may resort to psychotic antics like:
- Harming the person or someone close to them
- Attempting suicide
- Destroying property and valuables
If your love interest returns or someone else takes their place, you might find stability, but not in the way you might assume. Instead of using healthy coping skills required for meaningful relationships, you return to the same obsessive behavior, which to you feels normal.
Chronic love addicts often find themselves involved in multiple committed relationships, with each person offering something the other cannot. It could be a way of assuring that if one leaves another is in wait.
What Causes Love Addiction?
We are all a product of our past, and the same is true for the love addict.
“Inadequate or inconsistent nurturing, low self-esteem, absence of positive role models for committed relationships and indoctrination with cultural images of perfect romantic love and happily ever after endings” are at the root, said licensed marriage and family therapist Ann Smith in Psychology Today’s How to Break the Pattern of Love Addiction.
These factors led to a lack of feeling loved, validated, and connected—starting in childhood and maturing into adulthood.
Character Traits Love Addicts Seek in Partners
Love addicts don’t seek Mr. Right, they just seek Mr. Right Now. This means you aren’t fielding your candidates and looking for traits that can qualify him as a true partner. Instead, you wind up with mates who are like you:
- Emotionally unavailable and/or physically or verbally abusive
- Demanding of time, attention, and caretaking
- Needing to know all whereabouts
- Using sex to tolerate challenging emotions and experiences
- Using sex and manipulation to keep the partner around longer
One or both of you also find it difficult to leave these unhealthy relationships or repeatedly return despite the pain.
Treating Love Addiction
Help for love addicts can be found in a mode of therapies, as well as 12-Step programs like Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. All of these methods are designed to help you authenticate yourself so you discover mature love.
Treatment will challenge you to find yourself—the person you are outside of relationships—and recognize not only where your addiction comes from, but what feeds it. Specialist can then work with you build your self-esteem and provide you tools to develop healthy relationship patterns and coping skills. In this way, they can then create an individual treatment plan that helps you avoid previous relationship snares.
Reaching this level of awareness and accountability, however, takes a combination of the following:
- Family therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Shame reduction methods
- Mindfulness techniques
- Writing emersion
These therapies can be performed in-facility or on an outpatient basis depending on the circumstances. But where you are in or out, expect to have withdrawal symptoms as severing ties from the love interest and external elements (e.g. social media or dating sites) may hamper progress. The support of 12-Step meetings will give you the framework and community to move through the symptoms so you can do the healing work of recovery.