by Jim Hall MS (A summary by Pat Evert)
- Love and Addiction
Love addicts rely on someone outside of themself to fill an inner void – sabotaging relationships. How is it possible that love and addiction can co-exist? Emotional closeness are experiences more often beset with painful emotional highs and lows than gifted with real intimacy or love. Addiction is characterized by the repeated, compulsive seeking to reach euphoric states in the brain, despite negative consequences. The addiction becomes vital for the addict’s peace of mind or continued existence – and nothing else will do. When a person goes to another with the aim of filling an inner void, the relationship quickly becomes the center of his or her life. The core of addiction comes from an internal emptiness that continually calls out to be filled up. The normal process of falling into love addiction begins through an initially innocent moment of attraction and automatically idealizes the other to the point of divinity. They then project in the other all kinds of illusions, believing the other to be the only one that can bring happiness. They will feel so insecure about themselves, that they become attached to the object of their affection. It is typically not normal desire of a union, but a hungry, insatiable power, that distorts the person’s perception of reality. In fact, Love addiction, is not truly an addiction to love – although it feels very real to addictive lovers – it is a delusion of love. Because of its obsessive and dependent nature— the relationship is immature and epitomizes a pseudo-love relationship. “Addiction” and “Healthy/Mature love” are polar opposites from each other. Addictive relationships lack virtually any kind of intimacy. Intimacy is a core component of healthy relationships – and is central to trust, security and feelings of safety and well-being.
The love addict very strongly fears abandonment while the Avoidant strongly fears engulfment or loss of control or identity. Love addicts are obsessed with getting a sexual, romantic, or relationship “fix” rather than truly connecting and relating to a real human being. Everything else is put on hold in service to the needs and wants of their lover. The Avoidant partner is compulsively counter-dependent – emotionally unavailable; disconnected and fear engulfed by their love addict partner. They enter relationships with walls – where they will let nothing or no one in – which makes healthy relationships impossible. People who think for themselves, have healthy emotional boundaries, solve their own problems, and care adequately for themselves are not interesting to Avoidants. They have low self-esteem and feel if they become truly known (display emotional intimacy) – no one would ever love, accept, and value who they are.
The consequences of addictive loving are most revealed when a relationship ends in a breakup. Since the relationship has been the person’s one essential contact point with life, or their only identity was the relationship. Love addiction is an extremely painful relational pattern of loving that leads to the loss of self. Addictive love is based on an illusion of love – creating intensity, highs and lows, obsessive, compulsive needs.
Ultimately, Love addiction leads to the loss of:
- Fulfilling Love Relationships
- The Love Addict
They become attached and obsessed to one significant relationship/person as an attempt to fill an internal void. Love addicts can be recognized by staying in a relationship no matter how unhappy or miserable they are. Obsession is the most common depiction tied to love addicts. They have an insatiable longing to either possess or be possessed by the target of their obsession. What the love addict really becomes addicted too is the fantasy of the person they fall in love with. In their fantasy state, they make up who they want their partner to be – not noticing who their partner truly is. They convince themselves their partner has all the power to fulfill their intense desire for love and acceptance. They will compromise their values and do anything in order to stay and prevent losing a relationship—and often panic, become depressed and anxious when things aren’t going well. To try and attain more and more of their “drug” in relationships – to try to get closer and closer to their partner resulting in enmeshment and smothering their partner.
This causes their partners to distance even further – which triggers the love addicts fear of abandonment. When the love addict loses his partner through a break up or separation – they experience a sense of losing themselves. Losing a relationship for love addicts goes beyond a broken heart. When a relationship ends, love addicts often experience withdrawal from the separation of their drug (partner). Love addicts… pay a high price.
Love addicts are reliant on someone outside of themselves to take care of them, since they have difficulty in taking care of themselves in healthy ways. By abandoning their authentic self as they constantly search outside of themselves for someone to save their soul…
- Five Core Characteristics of Love Addicts
Fear of abandonment – The Fear of Abandonment and being alone is the love addict’s greatest fear… and also one of the greatest emotional triggers in relationships. Such leads to uncomfortable emotions of the fear of never being loved and valued.
Denial – When love addicts are “pretending” that their partner and relationship are different then they really are – they are in denial. Very often what other people (family members, friends, and others) see, love addicts will deny. Instead of taking responsibility for choosing to be with the partner and accepting the reality of their partner – they may judge, dictate, and find fault in their partner while ignoring their own wrongs. Blaming and playing a martyr keeps one stuck in a “victim” position. The problem with the victim stance is it leaves one powerless—feeling they don’t have choices as an adult.
Impaired self-worth and toxic shame – Love addicts have difficulty experiencing and valuing the self; difficulty honoring one’s own needs, and desires; and see themselves as being less than their partners. Genuine self-esteem cuts beneath externals to inherent worth and value, not comparing how we measure up. Self-esteem goes neither one up nor one down. Love addicts impaired self-esteem is fueled by the internal sense of toxic shame – a feeling of inner worthlessness and despair about ever being good enough. Inner toxic shame makes them feel like they are somehow a disgrace, an embarrassment, defamed, and not deserving of love.
The core of shame motivates a person to avoid the self, hide and disappear in the eyes of others and to go through life hidden away. The toxic shame fuels the love addict’s inner critic. The inner critic is dictated by lies and distortions. Yet it takes over and is constantly in operation with running dialogues and irrationalities.
- I must always be adequate, competent, or I am unworthy
- I must be loved by someone to have value inherently
- If my partner doesn’t love me, I must be unworthy
- If I express my truth, I will be rejected
- If I’m rejected, I will never be accepted
Ironically, as much as love addicts want so deeply to be connected and loved – a large part of them unconsciously fears intimacy. Intimacy = to see into me. Emotional intimacy is allowing another to see into us, to know whom we truly are. Love addicts don’t want to reveal the authentic self – for they already have a distorted image of themselves and believe they will be rejected. Intimacy is the core of genuine love. Intimacy is the core of any healthy and fulfilling relationship. When emotional intimacy is lacking in relationships – real love can rarely be present. It is in being authentic to those close to us and ourselves when intimacy is most present.
Love addicts mistake intensity in their relationships for intimacy. The love addict hopes all efforts and giving up all their power to another will be rewarded. By placating – they “bow down” to please and are only focused on fulfilling their partner’s needs while ignoring their own. Because they feel they have no power, they give up power to their partner, and say yes to almost everything. The love addict becomes the “people pleaser.”
Unrealistic expectations – In their desperate need for love and nurturing, love addicts enter intimate relationships with unrealistic expectations that one person will meet all of their needs and wants. They fall for the Hollywood-inspired fantasy that their perfect lover should love and do all things no matter what. They expect more from a relationship than any relationship can deliver. They become hurt and disappointed by their partner’s failure to meet unrealistic demands. Then anger and resentment boil up inside, but is never expressed and handled in healthy ways. Unrealistic expectations sooner or later would cause any person, avoidant or not, to become emotionally bankrupt and rightfully resentful and push them away. To believe and expect that one person should be responsible for taking care of an adult and meet all of one’s needs – is not realistic and unfair. It is important to value and accept our partners and friends for who they are. It is in our best interest not to spend our energy trying to change them to fit an image of what we believe we need and what they can provide for us.
Impaired boundaries – Love addicts have weak and blurred/invisible boundaries. They lose their sense of individuality, enmesh, smother, and try to merge with their partners in unhealthy manners – all of which display toxic boundaries. They have great difficulty identifying where their needs and emotions begin and where their partner’s end. If their partner feels content, they feel content. If their partner feels gloomy, they feel gloomy. If they sense that their partner wants them to be a certain way – that is what they become. Enmeshment comes when we use an individual for our identity, sense of value, worth, well-being, purpose, and security. These blurred boundaries violate others in an emotional sense – and will always push people away. It destroys any chance of connection to another. Boundaries give one the right to say yes or no. Boundaries protect you from others who attempt to violate, control, or manipulate you. They protect you from letting others define your beliefs or emotions. Love addicts internalize almost EVERYTHING in what others say, do, or think about them. Love addicts allow external matters to dictate their life. As a result, love addicts become an easy target for violators and emotionally dysfunctional people to take advantage of them.
- Allowing others to disrespect and abuse you
- Allowing others to control your life
- No limits with self and others; afraid to say no
- Indecisive; unclear; fear of being wrong or looking bad
When we lack a sense of our own identity and the boundaries of the self that protect and define us as individuals, we tend to draw our identities, our sense of self worth from others – a partner or significant other. Love addicts make an unconscious decision that they NOT stand up for themselves out of an inner sense of shame and the fear of being rejected and abandoned. Without learning the powerful concept of healthy personal boundaries, addictive love progresses, further diminishing self worth.
- The Avoidant Partner
Avoidants are counter-dependent. Counter-dependency is the fear of displaying dependence, and a far-reaching need for independence. Because of their counter-dependency, Avoidants share five chief core characteristics that contribute to their relational dysfunction.
Fear of Intimacy – getting too close is to be engulfed and suffocated, avoidants have an extreme fear of intimacy (more so than typical love addicts do). They view themselves as self-sufficient and invulnerable to feelings associated with being closely attached to others. Fear of intimacy/vulnerability will lead them to avoid intimate behaviors such as holding hands, mutual gazing, cuddling, kissing, and express less affection during sexual activities. There fear of intimacy is apparent when they become over controlling and critical when helping their romantic partner, but then pull away when their partners need support or comfort. This is because for a person to provide support and real caring for another often requires a level of vulnerability. When someone tries to get too close, avoidant literally, feel engulfed. Avoidants will not allow the self to ‘be known’- feeling that they are not whole, and would be rejected or abandoned by others if they were “found out” is a great fear.
Engulfment is a sense of a complete loss of self – Smothered, suffocated, possessed and dominated. Engulfment correlates to the fear of being used, controlled, and taken advantage of. When they feel engulfed by the love addict’s neediness – It creates intense anxiety and it can feel like death to them – they fear having one’s independence taken way. Therefore, they unwittingly modulate closeness and distance. They may want closeness, but only a little bit, and only in safe doses on their terms.
Boundary impairment – because they fear getting too close, avoidants use emotional walls or rigid boundaries to keep others at a distance (opposite of blurred boundaries of love addicts). Instead of displaying vulnerability or becoming intimate with another person – avoidants display boundaries that are rigid and unyielding – with thick “armored walls.” Emotional walls are in contrast to the invisible and enmeshing boundaries love addicts display. With rigid walled up boundaries, avoidants:
- Fear being taken advantage of, hurt or vulnerable
- Avoid intimacy by staying busy with hobbies or creating chaos, avoiding people.
- Sexual withdrawl; excuses.
Focus outside relationships – Avoidants focus intensity by staying very busy outside of the relationship – another core defensive maneuver to avoid connecting. They easily become bored and restless.
Mistake love as duty– view loving as acts of duty, being overly responsible to take care of needy partner – this also brings them a sense of power and control. Growing up, the avoidant developed a false expectation that they are responsible and have a duty to take care of needy people. They possess a need to be needed. Often they feel a need to take on excessive responsibility through performing tasks, providing financial security, and work, etc. though all other relational qualities of connecting and intimacy are deficient. They feel superior when the love addicted partner is needy and they thrive on the power it gives him or her. But, in due course – the avoidant grows distressed and resentful of all the ‘work’ it takes by trying to fulfill the demands and neediness from their love addict partner – they then feel suffocated and lifeless.
Grandiosity/Sense of entitlement– many avoidants display grandiose or narcissistic traits in relationships including having a dependency to be admired and the center of attention. In relationships, they will feel and act superior in contrast to the love addict – looking down on them, especially when the love addict’s dependency is strong. They lack empathy for their partner; while having a reliance/dependency on others to look up to them. In relationships, avoidants will come off as being “better than.” The love addict feeds this belief since they see themselves as “less than.” For the avoidant – the love addict is the perfect partner, since the love addict puts them up high on a pedestal and sees them as being more powerful. They put on a façade (also their wall) of who they are—can be very charming, charismatic, and present a false self of power, of “having it all together”- in order to draw and seduce people into liking them. This is especially pleasing to love addicts. Classically they display a pseudo superior attitude towards others; may have an inability to reciprocate loving-kindness or generosity. They will hold you to a high standard and exhibit disdain for what they consider weakness or vulnerability – especially when the love addict’s clingy behaviors crop up.
- Emotionally unavailable
- Charming, outgoing, and present a false self through rigid boundaries
- Distances/avoids by focusing outside of relationship
- Commonly compulsive and addicted to something outside of relationship
- Self image presented to others is important
- Behind independence, and reliability is shame and low self esteem
To sum up: The avoidant is just as wounded emotionally as the love addict is – and only the wounded attract the wounded. They are attention junkies and are attracted to the neediness of their love addict partner – in the sense that they are dependent on their partner looking up to them as omnipotent and supreme. Internally, they believe if others were to know the truth of themselves (inner-self), abandonment and rejection would be a guaranteed result. This person creates a sense of personal safety by avoiding risk; status quo in a relationship seems much safer for them. He or she strives to be autonomous and emotionally self-sufficient, dismissing any interpersonal needs. Love addicts are often confused and shocked when the love avoidant inevitably creates walls and emotionally distances since they come on so strong in the initial stages – and usually have a sense that the relationship with the avoidant never seems quite right – something seems off, but never can put a finger on what it is.
They seek to overcome their weaknesses by projecting an image of control, omniscience, success, self-sufficiency, and superiority. They are “lone wolves” and difficult team players. The avoidants lifestyle, reactions, disorder, prevents the development of a mature love of real sharing, of empathy. They view intimacy as strange, unnecessary, and use strategies to avoid intimacy at all costs. They are nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, love partners want them to be more intimate than they feel comfortable being. The contempt and resentment they develop in a relationship is the masked contempt they feel for themselves. Avoidants have a deep inner sense of shame and inadequacy. Love addicts frequently personalize and internalize behaviors of their Avoidant partners…
The truth love addicts need to comprehend is that – “It’s not about you.” In the addictive love relationship – the avoidant and love addict trigger and set off each other’s core issues. It is what creates a valiant but destructive and idealistic dance resulting in the dramatic push-pull dynamic in the love addictive relationship. This is a critical point to understand – their behaviors, abuse, rejection, or controlling tactics are NOT ABOUT YOU. And we can turn that around as well – love addicts behaviors and reactions are NOT about the Avoidant partner. It all has to do with the CORE
issues both bring to the table (relationship). As you begin to work on the recovery aspect – it will all begin to sink in – and clarity behind all the toxic patterns – will become crystal clear – AND FREEING.
- The Nine Love Addict Types
The Typical Love Addict – generally has an inner sense of defectiveness, unlovability, and emptiness. They become obsessed with attaining or keeping the perfect person who will make life meaningful; and give them the unconditional love they are desperate for. Their obsession becomes fantasy and denial and become infatuated in relationships. Essentially their identity is formed only through their relationship with their partner. They give their power up to their partner and view their partner as being “strong,” “independent,” or “amazing”; while seeing themselves as ‘less-than.’
The Typical Love Addict is attracted and draws emotionally unavailable Avoidant partners who cannot or will not love back. Because of impaired boundaries, they are in constant pursuit to merge with their partner; therefore, they become clingy and smother their partners. They abandon themselves and focus only on their partner’s wants and needs—they try to earn love and attention that will guarantee they will not be abandoned and alone. They placate and use manipulating maneuvers to try to get their partner to change and meet their unrealistic relationship expectations. The Typical Love Addict wants to be cared for and treasured by another, and is always disappointed – since no one can satisfy their insatiable desires. They’re constantly chasing euphoric feelings by engaging in compulsive fantasy, imagining ideal love, feeling and wanting instant closeness and a complete connection.
The Romantic Love Addict – are “romantic junkie-jumpers.” They compulsively hop from one infatuated relationship to another in an attempt to keep their “supply” going. They are addicted to the fantasy created in their minds and have unrealistic expectations that one day they will find “the right one” who somehow will keep the “intensity” going all the time—which is an impossible task for anyone. Romantic Love Addicts fall hard and fast and delude themselves they are in love. Feelings of deep “love” and the euphoric phase, inevitably fritter away. Romantic Love Addicts can easily let go of a romantic partner in search of another romantic partner to get their new fix – while the Typical Love Addict cannot.
Anorexic Love Addict – moves from one emotional polar extreme to the other with no in-between. Their reality becomes either all black or all white. In other words, it is either all love or no love at all. They expect relationships to meet all unrealistic emotional needs and fantasies. In their distorted perception, the experience of feeling betrayed and rejected again and again is too much to take. The Anorexic Love Addict compulsively decides to avoid intimacy… the AVOIDANCE of giving or receiving sexual or emotional intimate contact. It becomes the rigid and compulsive avoidance of relationships. They convince themselves fulfilling love is impossible – based on their painful experiences in relationships. It is a state of living in fear, and shuts out genuine possibilities of intimacy and living life authentically.
Non-Romantic Love Addict – Non-Romantic Love Addicts can become obsessively addicted to anyone – an acquaintance, friend, priest, teacher, co-worker, child, or celebrity. Even if the Non-Romantic love addict is in a committed relationship or married – they can become emotionally attached and addicted to someone outside without romantic or sexual intentions – including someone of the same sex. Yes—this is real. They become addicted to their presence because of some fantasy they create in their mind of a person’s “magical qualities.” This non-romantic fantasy cause them to feel the “rush, high, bliss” like that of any other drug. Non-Romantic Love Addicts obsession will ultimately and rightly push the obsessive target person away as they start overwhelming them with and smothering attempts.
Avoidant Love Addict – Yes, the Avoidant partner is also a love addict – but in a different way from other love addicts. Avoidant Love Addicts become dependent on their partner’s neediness. They rely on feeling empowered from a person (their love addict partner) who looks up to them, puts them up on a pedestal, which provides a kind of narcissistic supply. Being wanted, needed, and worshiped is their drug. This makes the Avoidant Love Addict feel very special, but also gives them a sense of having control and self-worth.
Abusive Love Addict – the Abusive Love Addict attempts to control almost all aspects of the relationship and their partner’s lives. They control by diminishing their partner not only with violent acts – but also with psychological means; i.e., bullying, manipulation and fear. It is a sad case when anyone feels so much rage and entitlement to physically abuse their partner in relationship… it’s even sadder when Abusive Love Addicts take their behaviors to the excessive extreme of suicide and murder – exemplifying the severe nature of love addiction.
Battered Love Addict – Battered Love Addicts are the type who routinely tolerate and continue relationships with Abusive Love Addict partners. Besides being addicted to their partner, more often than not – Battered Love Addicts feel trapped and unable to separate themselves from their abusive partners. Unfortunately, Battered Love Addicts continue to “forgive” and hope things will change, rarely they do.
Sex and Love Addict – The sex addict’s fantasies and compulsive behaviors are primarily focused on SEX— sexual fantasy is what they use to validate the ‘self’ and escape emotional pain. There are actually Love Addicts who are also Sex Addicts. The Sex and Love Addict type is highly preoccupied with sex and sexual fantasies with only ONE particular person, usually a romantic partner. They aren’t in love with their partner so much as they are in love with the sexual acts with their partner. Any perceived sexual rejection by a Sex and Love Addict’s partner commonly triggers painful emotions causing them to feel abandoned, lonely, shamed, and in despair.
The Sex and Love Addict will experience seemingly unending and agonizing sexual obsession. In their judgment, sexual connection with someone else is never the “magical” sex with the ex partner that provided the “high”— an emotional escape.
Parental Love Addict – is unlike other love addict types given that it is unrelated to romantic love relationships. The Parental Love Addict is a parent who loves too much. They don’t love a romantic partner too much — No, they love their own child too much. Parental Love Addicts become enmeshed in their children’s daily lives. They see their children as extensions of themselves. Intensely over involved with their children they have a great need to make their children anything that makes them (the parent) feel secure. The Parental Love Addict may quickly take on any and all problems or issues their children find difficult to manage. They want their children to “like” them at the cost of providing healthy parenting. They placate, give too much, and do too much leaving the child feeling inadequate or invalid, even suffocated. They enmesh themselves in the day-to-day drama of their child’s life – resulting in the child receiving mixed messages with mixed results of responsibility. They “over-parent” and overprotect their children in an effort to dispel anxiety over being “perfect” parents as they’re more concerned with externals, and anxiously compare their children to others. I believe many Parental Love Addicts are lonely and isolated, sometimes suffering from connection with their husband, wife or lover, as well as other people in relationships. Because they’re so obsessed with their children to escape themselves—they feel a loss of self, neglecting personal interests—wants, and needs – and end up using their child to fill an empty place within, as a foremost emotional connection.
Sometimes the dependent parent is Avoidant in their Romantic relationships. They avoid intimate connection and are emotionally unavailable in romantic situations, emotionally they feel safe and willing to be vulnerable and known to their children because children will not reject and abandon them – so it does not matter if they can see who they truly are.
The majority of love addicts are primarily the Typical Love Addict or Avoidant love Addict with bits and pieces of other types. Whatever love addict type – all lack the emotional skill set to maintain long-term healthy intimate relationships. And all share the same destructive consequences — a continuous and painful pattern of self-sabotage, shame, loss of intimacy, loving that is toxic.
- The Love Addiction Relationship Cycle
In a healthy relationship—a couple cycles between engaging in intimate closeness and then mutually withdrawing to integrate into their respective senses of self. In other words, they engage in healthy equilibrium through periods of connection, disconnection and reconnection resembling a healthy dance. It’s the natural ebb and flow of partnership. But as the Love Addiction Cycle progresses, anxiety over the level of closeness or distance drives both the pursuer (love addict) and distancer (avoidant) in a push and pull yo-yo dance, sooner or later resulting in both partners feeling distressed, depressed, and extremely miserable in the relationship, particularly the love addict. This poisonous dependency cycle is a perpetuating roller coaster ride, that is both exhilarating and agonizing for both partners.
Because of the love addict having a shame-based relationship with the self, losing a relationship partner triggers deep feelings of toxic shame. Love addicts tend to take everything there partner has said and done very personally. The inner shame causes even more intense feelings of extreme abandonment, self-blame, and self-attacks causing more emotional pain. He blames, accuses only self for why the relationship ended, why their partner left… idealizing the partner more intensely than ever. We may think back to times when he/she said we are weak, not good enough, undeserving—and internalize the lies feeding the shame ever so deeper. We may make up why he/she left with our own distortions, our own verbal abuse, “I wasn’t enough,” “I didn’t love well enough” – as reason why the relationship ended – and internalize this further shaming ourselves.
- The Root Causes of Love Addiction
The first contributor has to do with the ingrained societal messages which formed our dysfunctional beliefs about love, romance, and relationships. But the primary root cause – Addictive lovers typically had some level of abandonment and inner wounding while growing up in a less-than healthy (dysfunctional) family environment.
We have carried over unresolved abandonment wounds to our adult lives. Underneath layers of shame, you will find that abandonment is at the foundation. Dysfunctional families are shame-based because a child is not usually receiving the consistent nurturing, attention, and love required for healthy development. When this occurs, a child is emotionally abandoned. When a child grows up in a shame-based family environment, they often receive messages of the following:
1. Control: “You must never lose control or bad things will invariably happen”.
2. Perfection: “It is important to always be ‘right’ and always DO the ‘right’ thing.
3. No Talk: “Keep shameful experiences, behavior, and feelings a secret. Never talk openly about them”.
4. Denial: “Never acknowledge feelings and needs, especially ones that make you more vulnerable”.
5. Disqualifications: “When things don’t go as expected, someone must always be blamed. If you can’t blame others you must blame yourself”.
6. Unreliability: “Never expect things to go the way you want them to. Be prepared for the unpredictable. You can NEVER feel secure in relationships”.
7. Incompleteness: “Don’t even try to bring personal interactions to completion or resolution. It just won’t happen”
When a child’s expression of her thoughts and feelings is not heard nor responded to, she experiences a profound sense of powerlessness and a profound sense of abandonment. The love addict in childhood often has experiences of being invalidated, invisible, resulting in an internal sense of shame and inadequacy. Often a parent was consistently unavailable. They become the “nice one,” the one who “never gets into trouble”, or “the people pleaser” in the attempts to gain nurturance and love. The love addict in childhood learns to be clingy and needy in order to win some love and attention.
The avoidant individuals, in childhood, usually experience abandonment by role reversals from a parent. They experience a parent that projects strong insecurities and “uses” the child for their benefit; therefore the avoidant child becomes the “little adult,” developing a false sense of self based on performance. In essence, the child becomes responsible for meeting the needs of the parent, instead of the parent meeting the child’s needs. They are taken advantage of by the parent with virtually no regard for the child’s emotional development. This results in the child experiencing feelings of being smothered and engulfed by the parent.
- Men in Love Addiction
Men are much less likely compared to a woman to seek help or call a counselor when they are in crisis. Men too often hide in shame when they experience emotional pain. I want the reader to understand there are thousands, if not millions of males and females suffering in silence from love addiction. I am convinced men are as likely as women to become the obsessively dependent in romantic relationships, and women are as likely to be Avoidant; fearing potential closeness and intimacy in relationships. Love avoidance and love dependence are the opposite sides of the same coin and part of the saga of love addiction. How do men cope or display their love addiction issues?
They suppress; they try to push it away, ignore and look the other way—again trying in earnest to hide their authentic humanness. Men keep emotionally isolated, hidden, and unwilling to risk reaching out. This shows up in the following statistics:
- Suicide: 8th leading cause of death in men; 4 times more likely than women
- Alcohol: 3 times alcoholic rate in men than women
- Much Higher rates of all addictions (porn, gambling, sex, work, etc.)
- Much Higher Murder/Homicide rates
Men in love addiction need to know they aren’t alone. Men can now choose to destroy the LIE that we aren’t REAL men if we express vulnerability and reach out for help. Being a real man, being who we truly are without shame is what strength is all about. Men are deciding more and more to love themselves and destroy the denial and shame they have lived with. Men are making the choice to end the abandonment and neglect of the “self.”
- Healthy Love Relationships
Readers, you need to imbed in your minds that long-term healthy and fulfilling relationships do exist—and they ARE possible for all of us. To love and honor yourself is the most prominent component for a healthy relationship to occur. If someone can’t love and honor themselves in healthy manners, how on earth are they able to love another human being properly? The emotional health and maturity of the two individuals will determine how they communicate and display affection and respect for one another. Unless we have reached an emotionally mature state, and unless we have faith in the persistence of our self, our feeling of identity is threatened and we become dependent on other people whose approval then becomes the basis for our feeling of identity. If a person claims “love” with only one other person and is indifferent to the self it is not love but a symbiotic attachment, hence, addictive love. Knowing oneself knows how to take care of self without “needing” someone to experience internal worth. They know the importance of one’s own needs and wants and not expecting another to fulfill them. When a person has high self esteem (not grandiose – which is a cover up to damaged self; and not feeling less than others), they feel a sense of inherent value and inner worth—and therefore, being emotionally intimate, being authentic isn’t such a scary thing.
When we are secure in our knowledge of ourselves— we are unafraid of communicating to our partners the truth of who we are. We don’t have to disguise our motives or to make up lies or to attack or defend. We are willing to be seen in our faulted and wonderful humanity, and we expect that this presentation of our humanity is just what our intimate partner wants. The chance of having a fulfilling long lasting love relationship dramatically rises when two emotionally healthy, mature individuals come together. There are five essential freedoms for personal power that all of us need to be more fully functioning, mature, and emotionally healthy.
- The freedom to see and hear what is, instead of what should be, was or will be.
- The freedom to say what one feels and thinks, instead of what one should.
- The freedom to feel what one feels, instead of what one ought.
- The freedom to ask for what one wants, instead of always waiting for permission.
- The freedom to take risks in one’s own behalf, instead of choosing to be only “secure” and not “rocking the boat.”
These freedoms are just another way to describe how we need to allow and accept ourselves for who we are—self love, the greatest gift you can give to self… it is then we can love and accept love from another person. They are honest with each other and themselves. Fantasy and denial is not used to “make up” who they want or expect their partner to be. What they eventually want is to realize who the other person truly is, through an unambiguous translucent glass. They realize that becoming friends is as important as becoming lovers. Being passionately attracted they want very much to become better friends. Each is comfortable to be authentic – with the self and the other. “I am getting to really like this person, but I don’t need him/her.” Love addicts want to move quickly and so reveal everything – thoughts, emotions, past events, etc. (a boundary problem). Self-disclosure is patiently revealed – realizing it takes time to get to know one another. If you’re in a current addictive relationship in which you moved quickly (likely so), this doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. For some couples, creating a healthy functional relationship is still possible, given the desire and commitment to do the work it takes, by both people. Addictive lovers give up their core values in the name of ‘love’ and ‘sacrifice’—and are unsure of their values, wants and needs. A critical component to a successful relationship is determining if you and your significant other have similar core values and desires. If you go into the relationship seeing these red flags and think, “being with this person is worth giving them all up”; or “I’ll deal with it later” – as many love addicts realize, it is a recipe for disaster. Core values and desires that need attention and that healthy lovers are interested in finding out about are issues such as – sexual issues, finances, careers, how problems are worked out, how you like to spend leisure time, the importance you place on honesty, integrity, fidelity, friendships, commitment, trust, and styles of handling anger and communicating and respect – and most of all believing in and wanting a long term relationship where two are growing together. For example, many come to believe inaccurately that in happy, stable long-term relationships: They never get angry or when angry, don’t talk about it, or they should always be content.
Gratification in romance doesn’t come from the expectation that the other must quickly make them feel good, and make them feel good all the time. Healthy couples experience long-term gratification through intimacy, personal growth, and the sharing of each other’s life experiences. Never allow yourselves to try and change someone to something they’re not. Not putting a person on a pedestal, expecting more from him/her and the relationship than it can deliver. There are healthy expectations of growth and gratification. Addictive love wants instant gratification. Addictive love is demanding. In addictive love – control is utilized to get wants and needs met any way possible. At the CORE of being realistic is that healthy relationships contain:
- Genuine Love
- Honest communication/sharing
A healthy couple strives for inter-dependence, having a healthy state of independence, not too needy, and not too unavailable/avoidant. A healthy state of independence is when a couple basically knows who he or she is and has an identity. And so they are able to give to a relationship without losing themselves. They allow a life outside of the relationship because of their love and individual respect for each other, rather than trying to control a person through neediness or avoidance because of unmet emotional needs.
Healthy couples are able to be vulnerable, to risk exposing inner selves to each other, to bare ones deepest feelings, desires and thoughts. Because healthy couples don’t have a fear of being abandoned. Furthermore, they don’t need to present a false self, to put on a façade of being someone their not, since each accepts the other just as they are. In addictive love, people relate through damaged boundaries, by smothering, making demands, putting up walls, blaming, persecuting, withholding, etc. – all of which impede intimacy. Because addictive lovers fear being authentic, don’t value themselves enough – they hide the self, block communicating, emotional honesty. To compound matters, addictive lovers are also much more likely to make negative remarks, and are less likely to be forgiving. To resolve problems often requires honest expressions and communications. Moreover, it takes listening and respecting each other’s views in order to negotiate and resolve conflicts. If one feels that the other has violated their space, emotional boundary, or freedom in some way – it is up to that person to stand up, and take ownership of the right to share, express, and communicate to the other—this is personal responsibility, power, and individuality—which strongly promotes healthy love and intimacy.
A relationship should enhance each partner’s life not alter it. In healthy relationship, partners are happy with one another much more than unhappy. In addictive relationships, there are glimpses of happiness, but there is a high price to pay. This encourages us to be ourselves, to be honest from the beginning with all parts of self, including our faults. Unfortunately, even healthy relationships may not be long term for a variety of reasons. It could be one partner has changed so significantly that compatibility is gone; or one makes new commitments that the other cannot accept in his/her life for one reason or another. Genuine love has ingredients of openness, trust, and freedom to be you without fear of rejection or shame and abuse.
- Recovery: Discovering You
Given the chance, recovery will grant you a paradigm shift of improved healthy relationships, a discerning realization of your intrinsic value and self worth. Our compulsive focus and fear of abandonment has confirmed the cunning deceit that we were “not enough.” Without recovery, I could never have known that the source of most of my pain…was not them… it was myself. I had 100% responsibility in all my choices. I always gave all my power to let others define my life. I learned how to focus on myself and my own feelings, my right to honor and value myself – both strengths and weakness. I learned how to protect myself through healthy boundaries, before I let others walk all over me and settled for crumbs. I learned to love and appreciate all of myself – and NOT wait for a man to love, respect and appreciate me; to fill a void only I am responsible to fill.
Recovery = Awakening – We literally are awakened from a restless sleep that has numbed our feelings and left us emotionally and spiritually groggy and exhausted. It is coming to a place where you could love yourself. Unlike substance or alcohol addictions, we cannot simply abstain from relationships when recovering from love addiction. You learn to honor and accept what was, then let go of the wounded aspect of the self carried over from an early age. The toxic shame and wounding came from your parents (or caregivers), you owned it, internalized it as a child, but it is not yours and never was. Recovery is the process of rediscovering the right to love yourself for the authentic human being you are. This allows you to grow; where your emotional state is not dependent on others; and deals with all aspects of life’s reality, a reality that (ironically) sets us free. Your self worth begins to resurface. You start to be less concerned about what others think about you, and are more concerned about how you are valuing yourself. You will begin to redefine and discover yourself in new and unexpected ways. You begin to realize attempting to rescue people from their problems is a lose-lose situation, you realize they are responsible for their lives, not you. You gain an understanding of your emotional needs and that of your partner – encouraging each other to take chances of intimate sharing, contact, communication, and honesty.
The large part of recovering from love addiction is not about looking outside, but within. As much as many of us have convinced ourselves and have a difficult time letting go of, the problem has little or nothing to do with the object of one’s affection. However, a person who overcomes their pattern of addictive loving is profoundly different than who or what he or she was prior to recovery. Recovery takes patience and persistence. It is surrendering and trusting the process, one-day at a time. The more we engage in the process and stick it out, the more we grow, the healthier we become. Remember, NOT healing is more difficult than healing.
Addiction limits your ability to feel content.
It limits your ability to function and live up to your potential.
It limits your experience of authenticity, openness and freedom.
It limits your ability to truly love yourself and others
What do you have to lose but your misery? In the following, are important steps to start your journey to recovery, to breaking the destructive cycles of love addiction.
The Oyster (YOU) has the power to change this irritant to something new and beautiful inside of you, the pearl.