Love addicts live in a chaotic world of desperate need and emotional despair. Fearful of being alone or rejected, love addicts endlessly search for that special someone – the person that will make the addict feel whole. Ironically, love addicts oftentimes have had numerous opportunities for the truly intimate experience they think they want. But they are much more strongly attracted to the intense experience of “falling in love” than they are to the peaceful intimacy of healthy relationships. As such, they spend much of their time hunting for “the one.” They base nearly all of their life choices on the desire and search for this perfect relationship – everything from wardrobe choices to endless hours at the gym, to engaging in hobbies and other activities that may or may not interest them, to the ways in which they involve others in conversations and social interactions.[highlight] Are you suffering from love addiction? Learn about our love addiction treatment program >> [/highlight]
For individuals who are truly seeking a long-term relationship, healthy romantic intensity – the “rush” of first love – is the catalyst that brings about the bonding necessary to sustain an intimate attachment. Love addicts, however, are addicted to the rush of first romance, and because of that their relationships never develop beyond this initial, emotionally elevated state. When they are in a relationship, they feel detached, unhappy, restless, irritable, and discontent because the rush has faded. When they are not in a relationship, they feel desperate, unworthy, and alone… until they find a new potential mate and get to experience the high of “falling in love” once more.
Typical signs of love addiction include:
- Mistaking intense sexual experiences and new romantic excitement for love
- Constantly craving and searching for a romantic relationship
- When in a relationship, being desperate to please and fearful of the other’s unhappiness
- When not in a relationship, feeling desperate and alone
- Inability to maintain an intimate relationship once the newness and excitement have worn off
- Finding it unbearable or emotionally difficult to be alone
- When not in a relationship, compulsively using sex and fantasy to fill the loneliness
- Choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable and/or verbally or physically abusive
- Choosing partners who demand a great deal of attention and caretaking but who do not meet, or even try to meet, your emotional or physical needs
- Participating in activities that don’t interest you or go against your personal values in order to keep or please a partner
- Giving up important interests, beliefs, or friendships to maximize time in the relationship or to please a romantic partner
- Using sex, seduction, and manipulation (guilt/shame) to “hook” or hold on to a partner
- Using sex or romantic intensity to tolerate difficult experiences or emotions
- Missing out on important family, career, or social experiences to search for a romantic or sexual relationship
- Using anonymous sex, porn, or compulsive masturbation to avoid “needing” someone, thereby avoiding all relationships
- Finding it difficult or impossible to leave unhealthy or abusive relationships despite repeated promises to oneself or others to do so
- Repeatedly returning to previously unmanageable or painful relationships despite promises to oneself or others to not do so
While all romantic relationships may exhibit some of the above signs at least occasionally, with love addiction there is a consistent pattern of one or more (usually more) of the signs, and that pattern results in ongoing and eventually escalating negative life consequences.
Much like sex addicts, love addicts are searching for something outside of themselves – a person, relationship, or experience – to provide them with the emotional and life stability they lack. In other words, love addicts use their intensely stimulating romantic experiences to (temporarily) fix themselves and feel emotionally stable. Happily, in a similar fashion to sex addicts – and, in fact, in many of the same treatment and self-help venues – love addicts can find the help they need. Ongoing help can be found in therapy (both individual and group) and 12-Step self-help programs like SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous).