I’m just kidding right? Are people actually addicted to love? Well…yes, but it’s complicated. “A love addict is someone who chooses people to love who cannot or will not love them back”, from the book “Facing Love Addiction” by Pia Mellody. This book does a great job explaining what love addiction is and how to recover from it. I will be summarizing some of the concepts Pia Mellody presents in her book.
Love Addicts are dealing with two different fears. The first one is very obvious, the fear of being abandoned or left. This causes them to hold onto the relationship with an iron grip. The unconscious fear that is also involved is the fear of real intimacy. When Love Addicts reach a certain level of closeness, they panic and will do something to create distance in the relationship. This is often because in childhood they were abandoned in some way and never reached a level of closeness with a caregiver.
This leads to a dilemma in relationships. Love Addicts crave closeness but are unable to tolerate healthy intimacy. This leads them to often unconsciously choose a partner that is unable to be intimate with them. This person is called a Love Avoidant.
A Love Avoidant is the opposite of a Love Addict in their fears. A Love Avoidant is afraid of intimacy. Their unconscious fear is abandonment. This is often because a Love Avoidant grew up in a home where they were enmeshed with a caregiver. This means the caregiver sucked the emotional energy from them instead of giving to them. They also feel abandoned because they were too busy taking care of the parent and no one was there to take care of them. They now are afraid of getting too close to someone because they might lose control but yet still want to feel loved.
You can see why there is an attraction to each other. This is how the cycle works. In this scenario the Love Addict will be female, the Love Avoidant will be male.
1. The Love Addict enters the relationship because she is attracted to the seduction and apparent “power” of the Love Avoidant. The Love Avoidant enters the relationship because he will feel guilty if he says no.
2. The Love Addict feels high as the fantasy of finding “the one” is triggered. She feels relief from the pain of loneliness, emptiness, and not mattering to her partner. The Love Avoidant attempts to be relational behind a wall of seduction to avoid feeling vulnerable and to make the partner feel loved and special.
3. The Love Addict shows more neediness and denies reality of the Love Avoidant’s walls. The Love Avoidant feels engulfed anyway and puts up a wall of resentment or anger and becomes critical of his partner.
4. The Love Addict develops awareness of her partner’s walls and behavior outside the relationship and her denial crumbles. The Love Avoidant uses resentment or the sense of being a victim to gain the emotional distance he needs from his partner.
5. The Love Addict enters withdrawal and obsesses about how to get the Love Avoidant to return or how to get even. The Love Avoidant continues to seek intensity outside the relationship in order to feel “alive” and have a life of his own.
6. The Love Addict compulsively acts out obsessive plans to get her partner to return. If that doesn’t work she will try to leave. The Love Avoidant returns to the relationship out of guilt or out of fear of being left.
7. The cycle repeats for both sides.
A Love Addict who feels the seductive pursuit of the Love Avoidant experiences an emotional “high”. When the Love Addict gets too close it creates fear in the Love Avoidant. When he bolts and runs, it creates fear in the Love Addict. Then the Love Addict chases the Love Avoidant out of fear the Love Avoidant starts to feel powerful or in control. This may cause him to start pursuing the Love Addict again. If the Love Addict stops chasing this will trigger fear in the Love Avoidant and he will return at this point. The moment the one being chased turns and they’re facing each other, they’re both experiencing positive energy at the same time. It is what keeps them together. As the relationship continues, that time of mutual positive energy gets shorter and shorter until it’s reduced to a split second before they’re back to fighting again and creating negative energy.
Even though a lot of people consider not being able to leave someone as normal or being in love, it is actually a very dysfunctional form of obsession. Many people feel the right partner will complete a missing part of them, finally making them feel whole. This is a fantasy. You have to learn to love, protect, and care for yourself. You can realize your own sense of self-worth and feel complete on your own. A healthy relationship is not based on needing someone and feeling worthy only because this person “loves” you. A healthy relationship allows each person to nurture the other in a way that promotes their personal growth and taking responsibility for themselves to increase their self-esteem. When you love yourself and increase your self-confidence it will drive out the fears that cause unhealthy patterns. I will write more in another post about how to work on self love.
If this post described you, I recommend reading “Facing Love Addiction” by Pia Mellody for more information.