How do you feel when you’re not in a relationship? Have you ever felt the fear of being alone or rejected? Do you lose interest in things you enjoy when you enter a relationship? A growing body of research is starting to show that romantic love can be addictive. Love addicts are addicted to the rush of that initial romance, but never develop to what love truly is – presence, intimacy, and support. Love addicts mistake the intensity in a relationship for the intimacy of true love. This results in relationships that have emotional highs, like intense passion, and emotional lows, like intense disappointment or heartbreak. Love addiction is an inability to become vulnerable and bond in healthy ways with others. It is a way people cope to protect themselves from difficult emotions like shame, fear, and depression.
Because love addicts may undervalue themselves, they typically end up assigning too much time and value to the person to whom they are addicted. It’s important to recognize love addiction because, just like with other addictions, love addicts can experience withdrawal symptoms when their addiction is taken away. The withdrawal from love addiction can be devastating at the end of a relationship. Any stress from love addiction can also lead to poor work performance, depression, or neglecting self-care. Don’t let love addiction keep you from forming the relationship of your dreams! Recognize the signs and learn how to take care of yourself so that you can avoid the pain that love addiction can cause you.
The Signs of “Love Addiction”
People who struggle with love addiction may:
- Fear their partner is going to leave them
- Assign too much time, attention, and value to a person
- Neglect and undervalue themselves in a relationship
- Conform to fit into a relationship
- Use sex, seduction, and manipulation to hold onto a partner
- Find it difficult to leave unhealthy relationships
- Mistake sexual or romantic intensity for love and genuine intimacy
- Feel alone or desperate when not in a relationship
- Miss important commitments (like with family or work) due to a relationship
- Think about their relationship to an obsessive degree
While you may relate to some of the above at least occasionally, love addicts have a consistent pattern of these signs. In a relationship, love addicts will find that their capacity to take care of themselves declines. Recovery from love addiction requires specific steps to take care of yourself. Since love addicts tend to overvalue their relationship and undervalue themselves, it’s important for them to learn to build their confidence and take care of themselves. A popular movie, years ago, starred Julia Roberts, called Runaway Bride. Julia’s character seemed to have “love addiction.”
Steps to Take Care of Yourself
If you feel like you might be susceptible to love addiction, focus on your overall well-being.
These steps will help you build your self-esteem so that you don’t tie your self-worth to a relationship:
- Journal: Journaling can help you work through your thoughts and feelings. Start journaling so you can learn more about what you’re feeling and what you want.
- Repeat positive affirmations: Positive affirmations can help you feel more positively about yourself.
- Set individual goals: Love addicts often neglect and undervalue themselves in a relationship. Instead, set individual goals to help you find happiness outside a relationship and build your self-esteem.
- Set healthy boundaries: Learn to prioritize yourself and practice setting healthy boundaries around your needs, well-being, and self-care. To start, identify what you need to feel good, and set healthy boundaries around those.
- Keep your commitments: Love addicts sometimes miss important family or work commitments in pursuit of love. Practice keeping your commitments.
- Find a therapist: Therapy can help you deal with any unresolved trauma or harmful feelings from childhood. Find a therapist who can support you as you learn to take care of yourself.
- Find a Co-Dependency Anonymous (CoDA) group in-person or online: Find a CoDA group near you (or online) here.
When you take care of yourself, you will find the healthy love that encompasses the presence, intimacy, and understanding you deserve.
Love and light! <3