“Love is all you need.” For the person addicted to love, this becomes more than a popular lyric. It becomes literal truth. What is love addiction, and why are some men and women addicted to love? How can the problem be identified, and how can those addicted be helped?
A Psychological Addiction
Love addiction is a psychological addiction, a result of unfulfilled childhood needs. Children whose needs remain unrecognized may adjust by learning to limit their expectations. This limitation process may take the form of core beliefs such as, “My needs don’t count,” “Getting close will hurt” and “I’m not lovable.” Such beliefs do not satisfy childhood needs, leaving them still to be met later in life. As adults, addictive lovers remain dependent upon others to care for them, protect them and solve their problems.
Those with love addiction are characteristically familiar with desperate hopes and seemingly unending fears. Fearing rejection, pain, unfamiliar experiences, and having no faith in their ability–or even their right–to inspire love, they wait, wish, and hope for love, perhaps their least familiar experience.
According to Pia Melody author of Facing Love Addiction there is a distinct pattern of love addiction. There is the love addict and love avoidant. Both of which do a distinct and toxic dance with each other in which the love addict pursues and wants the love avoidant to love them back, to be with them, to pay attention to them etc. and the love avoidant who is afraid of engulfment, turns away from the love addict. At times the love addict may then turn away, and the love avoidant turns back to chase them, but they are rarely facing each other, they are rarely in the same place, committed to the same relationship.
Characteristics of Love Addiction
- Is all consuming and obsessive.
- Is inhibited.
- Avoids risk or change.
- Lacks true intimacy.
- Is manipulative, strikes deals.
- Is dependent and submissive.
- Demands the loved one’s devotion.
Effects of Love Addiction
Love Addiction can become an obsession with finding the world in one lover. A person’s own growth and development has been hindered early in life, and addicted lovers attach themselves to their lover’s identity. Often, this dependency results in their drawing unearned pride from their lover’s accomplishments. Sometimes it leads to their demanding, for themselves, undeserved recognition for their lover’s achievements.
Fearful of change, addictive lovers will neglect individual development of self and find the ultimate security in believing they can become indistinguishable from their partner. Sometimes the fear of change is so great all individual development of abilities, interests, and desires is suppressed. Stagnation is a common characteristic of addictive love relationships.
The desperate need for security leads to emotional scheming. Addictive lovers are inclined to think that doing things for their partner will secure their love. The resulting opportunities for disappointment and resentment are sufficient to make such scheming pointless. But addictive lovers are obsessed with impossible needs and unrealistic expectations. Love demands honesty and integrity.
Love Addicts Anonymous (LAA) is a 12-step program for individuals that admit to being powerless over distorted thoughts, feelings and behavior when it comes to love, fantasies and relationships. The love addiction assessment consists of 40 Questions to help determine if someone is a love addict. If you can answer yes to more than a few of the following questions, you would be considered a love addict. Love addiction can come in different forms and if all questions do not apply it can still indicate behaviors of addictive love.
- You are very needy when it comes to relationships.
- You fall in love very easily and too quickly.
- When you fall in love, you can’t stop fantasizing—even to do important things. You can’t help yourself.
- Sometimes, when you are lonely and looking for companionship, you lower your standards and settle for less than you want or deserve.
- When you are in a relationship, you tend to smother your partner.
- More than once, you have gotten involved with someone who is unable to commit—hoping he or she will change.
- Once you have bonded with someone, you can’t let go.
- When you are attracted to someone, you will ignore all the warning signs that this person is not good for you.
- Initial attraction is more important to you than anything else when it comes to falling in love and choosing a partner. Falling in love over time does not appeal to you and is not an option.
- When you are in love, you trust people who are not trustworthy. The rest of the time you have a hard time trusting people.We all do crazy things for love, sometimes we humiliate or demean ourselves, but love addiction is a pattern of engaging in relationships that are unhealthy.
Visit http://loveaddicts.org/40questions.html for the full love addiction assessment.
Other characteristics of love addiction are (which apply to both men and women) from the book, Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood:
1. Typically, we come from a dysfunctional home in which our emotional needs were not met.
2. Having received little real nurturing ourselves, we try to fill this unmet need vicariously by becoming a caregiver, especially to people who appear in some way needy.
3. Because we were never able to change our parent(s) into the warm, loving caretaker(s) we longed for, we respond deeply to the familiar type of emotionally unavailable people whom we can again try to change, through our love.
4. Terrified of abandonment, we will do anything to keep relationships from dissolving.
5. Almost nothing is too much trouble, takes too much time, or is too expensive if it will “help” the people we are involved with.
6. Accustomed to lack of love in personal relationships, we are willing to wait, hope, and try harder to please.
7. We are willing to take far more than 50 percent of the responsibility, guilt and blame in any relationship.
8. Our self-esteem is critically low, and deep inside we do not believe we deserve to be happy. Rather, we believe we must earn the right to enjoy life.
9. We have a desperate need to control people and our relationships, having experienced little security in childhood. We mask our efforts to control people and situations as “being helpful.”
10. In a relationship, we are much more in touch with our dream of how it could be than the reality of our situation.
11. We are addicted to people and emotional pain.
12. We may be predisposed emotionally and often biochemically to becoming addicted to drugs, alcohol, and/or certain foods, particularly sugary ones.
13. By being drawn to people with problems that need fixing, or by being enmeshed in situations that are chaotic, uncertain, and emotionally painful, we avoid focusing on our responsibility to ourselves.
14. We may have a tendency toward episodes of depression, which we try to forestall through the excitement provided by an unstable relationship.
15. We are not attracted to people who are kind, stable, reliable and interested in us. We find such “nice” people boring.
For more information on love addiction treatment options or support groups in Los Angeles, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org