I am not a huge fan of the term “love addiction,” because it implies that it is wrong to love, which is far from true. It’s the same way that the term “sex addiction” implies that sex is wrong. Both terms fail to capture the essence of the issues.
At the root of love addiction is an insecure attachment, where negative patterns of behavior are used to seek love and attention from another person instead of from oneself.
When the love addict is unable to receive the love they desire, they become emotionally dysregulated, which sets off alarm bells and leads to more negative behavior to cope with those difficult feelings.
How Do Insecure Attachments Happen?
Insecure attachments develop when a child’s primary caregiver doesn’t provide the love, attunement, attention, and caretaking needed for the child’s healthy development.
This foundation was either inconsistently provided or absent. To survive and thrive, the infant/child learned to be outwardly focused to have their needs met. Often, this meant meeting the needs of the caretaker to receive something in return.
The love addict is left with a deep void of wanting attention and love. Attachment patterns are so powerful that awareness alone isn’t enough to change behavior. If you’ve been taught that the only way to have your needs met is to meet the needs of someone else, it is difficult to understand why this same behavior doesn’t serve you in adult relationships. You don’t know any different.
This constant need to find a love supply is a lot of work, and a consistent source is almost impossible to sustain. A love addict often finds oneself in counseling out of despair, addiction, a toxic relationship, or confusion about why they keep attracting emotionally unavailable or unhealthy partners.
The ability to self-soothe and have a sense that they can find love within themselves is a foreign belief. They’ve learned that they must find love from another. Often, this need is so great that the love addict lacks healthy boundaries to get their love supply met. Attachment needs often trump honoring one’s authentic self or values.
What Are the Signs of Love Addiction?
- Creating a fantasy of who you want your partner to be and/or placing unrealistic expectations on them
- Focusing primarily on the things that support your fantasy partner and ignoring or minimizing your partner’s actions and facts that don’t align with your fantasy
- Becoming increasingly uncomfortable when your partner pulls away (time spent together, phone calls, texting, etc.)
- Manipulating or using seduction to compel the partner to conform to your fantasy partner
- Obsessing or ruminating about the partner, which often leads to self-sabotaging behavior
- If the partner shows signs of abandonment the love addict will often try and find another source of love and attention with someone else immediately
Intense fear of abandonment sets off an internal alarm that creates more fear, anxiety, worry, obsession, and an overwhelming sense of needing to restore one’s sense of safety and security.
It is challenging to make healthy choices when your entire nervous system is telling you to do the opposite. Working with a therapist to identify unhealthy patterns and behaviors can help the love addict recognize when their rational mind is taking a backseat to their fantasy.
How Do You Heal from a Love Addiction?
- Awareness: Learn your relationship patterns.
- Understanding: What are your early attachment styles and behaviors? What are you seeking and what drives your behaviors?
- Accountability: Recognize your role in negative patterns and cycles. How do you manipulate, control, fix, ruminate and obsess to get your needs met from others?
- Goals: Identify healthy goals and behaviors that align with your authentic self.
- Intention: Be willing to work to intentionally change your behavior and sit with discomfort.
- Boundaries: Identify and set healthy boundaries that align with your authentic self.
- Consistency: Creating new patterns of behavior requires intentional and consistent awareness, understanding, and accountability.
- Spirituality: The belief that the universe, your higher power, or something greater than yourself will support you.
Many love addicts feel like a victim in their relationships. This is because they’ve been conditioned to believe that if they do more, then they’ll get what they need. However, they’re surprised when what they get is far from what they want or need.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” –Brene Brown
For more information regarding love addiction please contact:
Hilary Rosenberg at Hilary@millenniumhope.com.