Love addiction, like many addictions, follows certain patterns. In the realm of love, sex, and relationship addictions, there are a number of interlocking roles and complimentary patterns of behavior. In this article, you will learn about these related roles. If any of these patterns or behaviors look a little too familiar, you may want to consider attending a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLA) meeting.
Because a love, sex, or relationship addiction cannot happen without a partner, the symbiotic roles and cycles between the two must be discussed together. The person opposite the codependent love addict (LA) is called either the avoidant (they may be a drug addict, gambling addict, or another type of love addict as well). The players were generally abandoned as children by their caregivers or experienced some other traumatic event that has left them needing to kill their pain via a new “cure-all relationship.”
Stage One – Attraction
In the beginning part of love addiction/avoidance, the two meet and are attracted. The LA is attracted to what appears to be a devoted and powerful individual, and the avoidant is attracted to the neediness the LA displays. They need to feel needed because getting attention is one of the most ideal forms of love for an avoidant.
Stage Two – Courtship
The avoidant begins to slowly put up walls to keep the LA from getting too close. At the same time, however, to satisfy the LA, the avoidant acts seductive and adoring. This triggers a fanciful mirage of the future for the LA. The fantasy serves to get the LA “high,” meanwhile they are falling in love with an image since the avoidant will not let the LA get to know who they really are.
Stage Three – Relationship
In this phase, the mirages start to crack and crumble. The LA begins to hide behind denial, excuses, and justifications to help them hold onto their fantasy of being rescued and living happily ever after with the avoidant “soul mate.” Meanwhile, the avoidant, who fears intimacy and simultaneously abandonment, begins to feel resentful of the LA. The avoidant feels like the LA’s attempts to be intimate (talking, sex, spending time together) are suspicious, and they begin to view intimacy as a chore or duty. In turn, the avoidant’s resentment turns to anger. Typically, the avoidant uses that anger to control the LA, who fears that if their partner is angry and unhappy, he or she will leave them. The LA rationalizes that they need to shape up so the avoidant isn’t angry anymore and will stick around to rescue them. The avoidant will generally express anger in either a passive-aggressive way or in over-the-top outbursts. In time, the avoidant justifies cheating, using pornography, using drugs, and so on due to their “burdensome” partner. On the other hand, because of the avoidant’s fear of abandonment, they can’t bear to put the horrible pain of abandonment on someone else. So they feel trapped. Meanwhile, the LA’s fantasy bubble pops as reality comes crashing in. The LA begins to experience emotional abandonment by the avoidant. By this point, it may not appear that the avoidant is addicted to the relationship at all as they do everything in their power to push it away. However, if the LA leaves, the avoidant will do everything in their power to win the LA back. For the avoidant, their addiction truly is a case of, “Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.”
Stage Four – Damage Control
This stage is the last straw before the relationship collapses. The LA may use any of a number of strategies to try to win back the avoidant. Denial and self-medication are the only things they are likely to gain however. Some LAs may also lash out with revenge by, for example, starting their own affair. The LA’s attempts to win back the avoidant are only seen as controlling nuisances by the avoidant. The avoidant begins to feel like a prisoner of their relationship, regardless of whether the partner is actually manipulating them or not. This feeling prompts the avoidant to spend more and more time away, perhaps working more hours, hanging out with their friends more, or just not being home for the sake of not being home.
Stage Five – Break Up
In the final stage, the relationship sputters to an end. During this time the couple is separated, typically one of two things happen (or both): the players return to each other and start the cycle over again, or the players seek out other love addicted partners and start the cycle over again. With each progression through the cycle, the problems become more and more magnified, unless one of the players seeks out help and starts to get healthy. The problems intensify with each pass of a cycle because the feeling of abandonment after each break-up grows. As the number of abandonments increase, so does the desperation to kill the pain left in their wake with a new opiate, i.e. a new love addicted relationship.