"Love addiction" is about pseudo love, about the external, stereotypic appearance of love. It is not about love. While a love addict may look as if she is pursuing intimacy with a vengeance, she is, in fact, running away from intimacy as fast as she can. Love addiction is about unhealthy dependency and about poor self esteem. It is about a fear of abandonment and about an impaired sense of identify. It is about holding on to a relationship(s) at all costs. It is not about loving too much.
So what is a love or relationship addiction and who is a love addict? There seem to be two basic types of love addicts. The first type of addict is a woman who is addicted to the ideal of simply being in a relationship or any relationship at all. This woman does not function well when alone. The second type of love addict is the woman who is addicted to a particular relationship or a particular partner. This woman is able to function well when she is not romantically involved, but gets hooked on a certain partner and becomes less functional when involved with that partner.
It is important to know that love addiction is not infatuation; it is not the limerance phase of a relationship. Sometimes a love addiction initially looks like an infatuation or the simple act of "falling in love". The difference is that a woman who is simply "in love" knows she has her own life to live with or without any partner(s). She retains a sense of her own identity and personal power and does not look to her partners for a purpose and meaning, this is not true of a woman in an addictive relationship.
What are some of the symptoms of a tendency toward love addiction. Sex and love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) prints a pamphlet of 40 questions for self diagnosis aimed at possible sex and love addition. Some of these questions are:
Do you believe that not having a relationship, being single, will make your life unbearable?
Do you feel that your life would have no meaning without a love relationship?
Do you find yourself in a relationship you cannot end or unable to let someone go who wants to end things with you?
Do you ever find yourself unable to stop seeing a specific person even though you know that seeing this person is destructive to you?
Have you ever tried to control how often you would see someone?
Do you find you have a pattern of repeating bad relationships?
A yes answer to any questions indicates the possibly of addiction love.
Love or relationship addiction, like all addictions, a reliance upon someone or something external to the self in order to get emotional needs fulfilled, to avoid pain or fear and to maintain emotional balance. Something deep inside "addictive lovers makes them believe that they need to be attached to someone in order to survive and be whole" (Schaef, p.3). These love addicts are terrified of being alone; they can be suicidal when a relationship ends, they cling too long to unhealthy or even dangerous relationships rather than face their fears and pains.
I believe that most love addictions have their root in survival skills adopted to cope with childhood neglect, abuse, victimization involves any form of neglect, abuse or betrayal which leave a child's basic needs for love, security and safely unmet. Such victimization and neglect leaves a child with an inner core of emptiness. It leaves her with a longing for love and security that becomes the driving force which underlies this addiction. Susan's father was an alcoholic and was physically abusive to her and her mother. Her mother was unable to protect herself or Susan from this violence. Susan was victimized by this violence.
When a child's fundamental needs are not met, she is left feeling angry, terrified, abandoned and sad. Such a child comes to believe that her feelings are bad since there is no consistent response to them and since they may often be ridiculed or ignored. This child is often shamed for having any needs at all.
Eventually this belief that her needs and feelings are bad shifts to the belief that she herself is bad. And thus this child becomes a shame based person who feels defective at the very core of her being. Because her parents abandoned her emotionally, if not physically, she believes she will always be abandoned. After all, who would stay with a truly defective person?
Each of us develops our own set of skills to deal with this chronic fear of abandonment. Survival skills are necessary to counteract anxiety, shame, fear and sadness which the addicts' negative core beliefs generate. A love addict seeks to alleviate pain, anxiety, anger through a chronic search for security.
"I will die if I am alone", is the addict's core belief. "I will be happy if I find someone to love me," then become the addict's core operational belief.
The core belief along with the operational belief can easily lead to a full blown addiction. If you genuinely believe that you will die if you do not have a partner who loves you, then having a relationship becomes the most important factor in life, and you will do anything to find a partner and survive. That is addiction.
All of us have been primed to some extent to develop addictive qualities in our love partnerships. This is especially true of women. Women are still socialized to value relationships over work or power. Relationships and affiliations appear to be critical for women, in general, to have a sense of personal satisfaction and fulfillment. This is true even when a woman is not a love addict. Often we are abandoned by family and friends. Many, many of us do have a history of early victimization.
The gaining of self knowledge is fundamental to intimacy. Facing our inner shame and emptiness is essential. Learning healthy ways to deal with this pain and learning new and honest behaviors are a must. Changing the locus of security from an external person to an internal core is our intimate safety. "In order to pursue an addiction, individuals must progressively abandon themselves," (Schaef, p.101). In order to pursue health, happiness and intimacy in a non addictive way we must progressively claim and reclaim or own self, our own soul. This is a lifelong task. But when we pursue intimacy with ourself, then we will be successful in our pursuit of intimacy with family, friends, lovers and God.