15 Ways Love Addicts Lose Themselves in Relationships
By Jennifer Payne Guarino, LMFT, CSAT, Primary Therapist, the Women's Center for Relationship and Sexual Recovery at The Ranch
Stacey sat in a parked car on a suburban street waiting to see her married lover leave his home. He hadn’t called in a while and she fantasized about running into his arms. She was devastated when he walked out of his home holding hands with his wife.
Cassandra spent a week dating her perfect “boyfriend” Ryan, but he broke up with her saying she was suffocating him. It’s been two weeks and he no longer takes her calls, but she still dials him 10 times a day, just hoping to get him or hear his voicemail.
Rachel is a serial dater and believes she cannot exist without a partner, but all her men are the same ―unavailable, unreliable and abusive like her father. Still, she will do anything to keep a relationship, and even when an ex calls, she still jumps.
They are three different women but share the same compulsion ― love addiction.
It may seem like something out of a movie, but recent research confirms that love can be additive.
What Exactly Is Love Addiction?
Love addiction is a constant desire for, and need to be in, a relationship. However, it’s based on a fantasy of perfect love with the perfect person that can never be fulfilled ― especially since the love addict has such unrealistic expectations and often chooses partners who are bound to disappoint and hurt them.
When a person longs for love so intensely, they often lose sight of themselves and try to become whom they believe the partner — or potential, fantasy partner ― wants them to be. They derive validation from the attention they get from that person, even if the attention is stingy and unloving. A love addict places that person on a pedestal, like a deity to be worshipped and served.
As with any addiction, there are traits and indicators that love addicts may have in common. Some of those include:
- Chasing after people who are not interested or have rejected them
- Falling in love quickly and starting or wanting a relationship immediately
- The first, positive feeling about the person is the one that has the most meaning and what follows is an inability to see the flaws in a person and problems ahead
- Inability to stop fantasizing about the object of affection
- Loneliness can lead to “settling” for someone who is not a good fit
- Smothering behavior that makes the other person feel consumed and controlled
- Granting complete and utter trust before it has been earned
- Doing more and taking more responsibly, or all responsibility, for keeping the relationship going
- The main focus in life is finding a relationship and being in a relationship
- Other things in life, such as friends, family and work, get put on hold because the relationship takes priority over all things
- Living in terror that a partner will leave and twisting into a pretzel to try to keep a partner happy
- Losing sight of oneself to be more of whom a partner wants them to be
- There is a great deal of suffering in relationships and they become accustomed to it
- Carrying an agonizing torch for an ex who has clearly moved on and acting out on it by making calls, paying visits and trying to be in the same place they are
- If a relationship ends, it feels like the end of the world and causes a depression and sometimes complex grief that is hard to bear
Women who fall into compulsive love addiction patterns often had fathers who were unavailable, detached or troubled in some way and they yearn for that connection. But it can also be related to relationships with mothers who acted in the same way, or who had sexual and relationship issues or abuse in their background.
A common theme for people with love addiction is that they select unavailable partners ― people who cannot truly be there for them. And the relationships are often one-sided or based solely on a fantasy that can never come true.
Although at its start love addiction may manifest as a huge infatuation, it quickly spirals into behavior that is far out of the bounds of romance and love.
Although both men and women can be loved-addicted, most of the clients who seek help at The Ranch are female. It is treated as an impulse control disorder, with therapy, group work and a great deal of emphasis on creating boundaries in relationships and developing self-esteem.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.