The experience of falling in love is one of life’s joys. It brings feelings of delight, passion, connection and hope for a happy future. It can lead to a lifetime of loving contentment. For some people, the “high” that comes from this experience is so compelling that they use it to fill the gaps in their lives, much as they might use a drug. Being in love, for them, can resemble an addiction and dealing with this effectively usually requires help form a professional therapist.
Symptoms of Relationship Addiction:
Relationship addicts, also known as love addicts, have an overwhelming need to bond with someone. This goes beyond a healthy need to connect with others. Unfortunately, this need for an instant attachment tends to overwhelm other people and pushes them away. And it leads to poor decisions by the addict about whom to let into one’s life.
Throughout the course of a relationship, the addict spends a great deal of time thinking about the other person and fantasizing about how perfect things will be. If the relationship ends, the fantasy about getting together again may continue. While a healthy love relationship also involves fantasies, addictive fantasies have an obsessive quality about them. These fantasies tend to take over one’s day. The need to fantasize takes priority over socializing with others, work, taking care of normal daily routines – and at the extreme fantasies can become expectations that must come true.
The Need for Excitement
Addicts generally crave getting “high”. Relationship addicts see an ordinary relationship as boring because it lacks a sense of constant excitement. So relating for the addict involves creating drama. They might pick fights just to experience a rush of excitement. An ordinary argument becomes a war. They see reality in terms of their own needs, so they easily read between the lines – “No matter what she says, I know she really loves me.” A love addict doesn’t understand that a normal relationship involves a series of highs and lows and that in real life the lows do not mean that the relationship has ended.
Exaggerated Anxiety and Jealousy about the Relationship
Relationship addicts typically have fears left over from childhood experiences such as being neglected, rejected or abandoned. Their greatest fear in adulthood is feeling lonely because this reminds them of the childhood pain and they will go to extremes in their relationships to avoid feeling this way again. They also need to feel attached and find it difficult to live independently – in their relationship they constantly look for things that are not going well. They frequently accuse or nag their partner and become possessive and experience anxiety or even panic when their partner is not present.
Ineffective Expression of Emotions
Because of childhood experiences the relationship addict can be confused and overwhelmed by emotions. For example, he might feel that anger leads to rejection or abandonment so he doesn’t express anger. Feelings get suppressed. Relationship addicts have a great tolerance for suffering and will endure substantial pain to avoid the possibility of losing their partner. Because he suppresses his normal, flexible emotional expression, he may revert to all or nothing thinking and feeling. He loves or hates; is vigilant or complacent; feels courageous or afraid.
Loose Personal Boundaries
Because many relationship addicts have self-esteem issues they have weak personal boundaries. They lose their sense of individuality and become enmeshed with their partner. They don’t know where their needs and emotions begin and where their partner’s end. If their partner feels happy, they feel happy. If their partner is sad, they feel sad. If they sense that their partner wants them to be a certain way, that’s what they become. They have difficulty saying “no”. Unfortunately this can lead to the addict being disrespected or manipulated.
The healthy love relationship consists of two independent people who come together and make a commitment to each other. Each partner is free to live as they choose within the boundaries of their commitment. Partners encourage each other to follow the beat of their own drum. The relationship enhances each partner’s ability to experience a full life with love, security and support.
If you feel you or your partner is a relationship addict or others have say they’ve seen any of these symptoms in your relationship, consider meeting with a professional couple counselor. If you struggle with old thoughts and feelings from childhood while you work through your relationship issues, consider getting individual counseling for yourself.
- “How to Break Your Addiction to a Person” by Howard. M. Halpern
- “Facing Love Addiction” by Pia Melody
- “Addiction to Love” by Susan Peabody
- “Building Better Relationships – A Guidebook for Men”
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