Addicted to Love: Overcoming the Trap of Co-Dependency
By Dr Becky Spelman
Being addicted to love is a relatively unheard of term within the spectrum of addiction. In fact, it’s not officially recognised in the DSM-5 as a recognised disorder. However, the world of mental health is such a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape, it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. It’s possible to become addicted to a great many things. And given the overtly emotional nature love as a concept – it should come as no surprise that it’s just as feasible for someone to be a love addict as it is for some to succumb to the need to smoke or gamble.
Love Addiction vs Sex Addiction vs Erotomania (One in the Same?)
Love addiction is not the same as sex addiction. But there can quite clearly be some overlap between two as far as creating an avatar of your typical sufferer. But they remain separate. Sex addiction is very much rooted in the physical nature of our sexuality, while love addiction is focused more on the need for romanticism on a near-continuous basis. And although erotomania does lean more heavily into the symptoms set of love addiction, it’s a condition that’s defined exclusively by the infatuation with celebrity figures.
How Do You Actually Define Love Addiction?
Love addiction, which can also be referred to as pathological love is a “pattern of behaviour characterised by a maladaptive, pervasive and excessive interest towards one or more romantic partners, resulting in lack of control, the renounce of other interests and behaviour, and other negative consequences.” It’s an elaborate form of escapism that sees the individual placing their needs in the hands of those they’re infatuated with in an effort to find happiness. In essence, it’s the transference of responsibility to another person in hopes that they’ll find safety with their chosen saviour.
And this dynamic can extend to any type of inter-personal relationship. It doesn’t to be exclusively romantic. It could include family, friends, children, a guru or religious figure and even celebrities who they’ve never met before. In trying to get all of their needs met, the love addict creates a set of expectation, which when they aren’t met, causes them to feel resentful and resort to manipulative tactics in order to meet their agenda. In this light, some of the tendencies aren’t too dissimilar from those of borderline personality disorder (BPD), and there needs to be a clear distinction made so the right approach can be taken within a treatment setting.
Signs of Love Addiction
Mistaking intense sexual experiences for genuine love.
Constantly looking for the perfect romantic relationship.
The need to constantly please a partner for fear of abandonment.
Feeling desperately lonely when not in a committed relationship.
Experiencing extreme emotional turmoil being alone/single.
Continually choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable and/or abusive just so they can be with ‘someone.’
Choosing partners, who they themselves require a great amount of attention but are unable or unwilling to meet your needs.
Choosing to engage in activities that contradict your values in order to get closer to someone or keep a partner.
Making extreme compromises such as cutting off family or friends to focus solely on their relationship.
Using sex as a means of manipulation to entice a potential partner.
Sacrificing family, career or social events to make the relationship work.
Returning to previously failed relationships in hopes of making them work, despite saying they would never do so again.
Love Addiction and the Trap of Co-Dependency
Love addiction and co-dependency essentially two sides of the same coin – albeit separated by a slight generational difference in vernacular. They each reference the same set of dysfunctional behaviours that can see both men and women give away their power in the hopes of gaining something they feel they cannot readily provide for themselves. This creates a cycle in which old unresolved traumas are played out – most often beginning in childhood – relating to the attachment styles that the individual in question was exposed to in their family life.
The most common source of co-dependency is abandonment by primary caregivers. Adult love addicts come to the conclusion as a child that their emotional needs, i.e. acceptance, validation and connection, were not being met. As a by-product, this then affects their self-esteem later in life. It results in a near-constant fear of rejection by everyone in their inner circle and those who may become potential partners and friends in the future. What this means is there is an underlying – subconscious – fear intimacy. And to the love addict, the intensity within a relationship is often mistaken for intimacy.
Overcoming Your Love Addiction
Coming to terms with your love addiction ultimately means coming to terms with your past. It will require taking stock of your previous relationships, both romantically and platonically so you can identify the patterns that are playing out within each. As you become more aware of your love history and how your needs went unmet, you can develop a greater ability to see the real side of those you’ve been in relationships with. Once you gain this clarity, you can make better decisions about those you let into your life. And the best way to do this is to ask yourself, ‘are you playing the same role you did in your current relationships as you did in childhood?’ How many parallels can draw between these two parts of your life? Try this as a quick exercise:
Take a sheet of lined paper and divide it in two. One side title it childhood and on the other title it adulthood.
Write down all the behaviours/qualities/personality you can think of that have an impact on your relationships.
This will require your honesty for it to be an effective exercise. You don’t need to show this to anyone. So don’t hold back.
Once you have this information in black and white, what patterns can you identify? Can you see a through-line from your childhood to your current adult life?
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
***If you’re struggling with Love Addiction and think you might benefit from speaking to someone, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.
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