Are you addicted to love?
Do you ever as if each new relationship you enter so full of hope, turns out to be a disaster? Do you find that you only meet problematic partners: those who are addicted, not interested, narcissistic or not safe? Does it always end up with you trying hard to save the relationship, and them abandoning you? Do you keep asking yourself, is this love or is it an addiction?
As an expert with 30 years of experience in behavioral addictions, I can tell you how to tell the difference. Your problems may not be just the result of poor choices. It is possible that what you experience is relationship or love addiction.
A love addict is someone who is obsessively searching for romantic fulfillment, constantly preoccupied to the point of obsession with falling in love or being in love, and as unable to stop it as the junkies are unable to stop using (For more on the topic see blog: Is it true that addicts cannot just stop their use?)
Relationship addiction is characterized by preoccupation and obsession with relationships with either hurtful, exploitive, narcissistic, violent, dangerous, immature, aloof, or addicted partners.
Relationship addicts subconsciously reenact the pain of abandonment they experienced in their childhood attachments. Their relationships are traumatic, full of painful betrayals, dramatic conflicts, and passionate reconciliations—but also surprisingly stable, because the codependents so fear abandonment, they are unable to terminate unhealthy relationships. Not believing they are worthy of love, but fearing abandonment most of all, they settle for being needed. They become caretakers of others and often neglect their own needs altogether. To feel complete, they need another’s approval and recognition. (Coming soon: 5 ways to tell the difference between love and relationship addiction).
A description of typical behaviors (See Exercise 1 in my book Serenity: How to recognize, understand and recover from behavioral addictions): Do you repeat or have ever repeated the following behaviors:
Choosing emotionally unavailable, married, sociopathic persons and addicts for partners;
Staying with such partners despite their physical, psychological, and sexual abuse;
Continuing to try to control and change their chosen partner, so their relationship would improve;
Constantly thinking about their love relationship and expecting their partner to change and make their life perfect;
Taking pride in staying in destructive relationships because their partners need them;
Taking care of others, but not taking care of themselves;
Losing their feeling of identity if abandoned by their partner;
Feeling desperate and alone when not in a relationship;
Staying in destructive relationships for fear of abandonment;
Giving up important hobbies, friendships, or sports they do not share with their partner;
Missing out on important commitments (with family, work, or elsewhere) to fix an existing relationship;
The inability to enjoy close relationships, even though they want to;
Constantly struggling to maintain the sexual/romantic intensity of a current relationship;
Using sex, seduction, and manipulation to hook or to hold on to a partner;
Promising over and over to give up on the toxic relationship and focus on self-care, but not following through;
Feigning interest in activities they don’t enjoy as a way of keeping an existing partner.
Sanja Rozman is a medical doctor, psychotherapist and author of 8 books on behavioral addictions.
Read more in her book Serenity: How to Recognize, Understand, and Recover from Behavioral Addictions
that is about to be published by Brandylane Publishers Inc., Belle Isle Books.