“The strongest drug that exists for a human is another human being.” ~ Ella Frank
I remember the day when I acknowledged to myself that I was a love addict.
It didn’t hit me like a ton of bricks. It was an I-had-known-all-along type of awareness. It came on slowly.
Just like any addict, I turned a blind eye to emerging patterns and behaviors. I just called it anxiety. I called it boredom.
I had an obsessive attention on my man when he was around, talked about him any opportunity I got (as if he were superhuman), poured all my energy, resources, and love into the relationship, constantly checked his social media, neglected to attend to my own life, my health, and my dreams, and sneakily drove by his place at night. I did it all.
When I was starting to sober up to the reality of my love addiction, I felt shame. At the time, I couldn’t see it for what it was: a misguided effort to find divine connection through another human being. Making them my better half and leaving them there without taking back any of these projections, without owning that they were also in me. It left me lonely, dissatisfied, and longing for connection even more while still in the relationship.
Some of our most valuable wisdom comes from mistakes we have made personally. This was true for me also.
During this discovery to recovery process, I learned that:
Love addiction is about an increasing need to extract more joy, love, attention, admiration, emotional safety, and adoration from one person we have identified as our “love object.” The problem is, the fix we get from our love object does not last and gets weaker over time. It is not easy to recognize, because we are all programmed with romantic imagery and scripts from the movies we have seen all our lives.
I almost overdosed on love.
My love addiction led me to a painful breakup that left my heart shattered. Finding out that he had started dating the girl we had the biggest conflicts over soon after our breakup was the last drop on my already fragile emotional state.
My heart broke. Literally. I heard a sound coming from my chest, followed by intense pain. I was unable to eat and sleep much for three weeks and went down to 97 pounds. With the tiniest bit of courage left in me, I drove myself to the ER to save my own life.
During my recovery, looking at the addictive patterns I was living in was crucial. I needed to get honest with myself if I wanted to avoid reliving this outcome. Believe me, I didn’t want to be cast in the same tragic romance movie again.
Below, you will find four of the several patterns of love addiction I have discovered, along with the wisdom they offered. Maybe you will recognize some of them in your own life and your relationships, too.
1. The struggle with intimacy.
Intimacy is a learned skill that helps people bond on a deeper level. Love addiction can create an obstacle to intimacy because we relate to our love object as a template image on a pedestal rather than an equal partner to experience life and grow with.
Intimacy is not exciting in the same way as romance is and does not produce the same kind of high. It requires transparency and the belief that we can be loved in both our lowest and highest places.
Intimacy can enhance romance immensely. But it can’t replace it.
2. Getting attached to the initial stages of attraction.
No one would deny the power of the excitement of the first kiss or the first night over. Adoration is at its peak and we are both on cloud nine.
Unfortunately, we can’t pickle those feelings and make them last forever. It is inevitable for the flame of romance to become dimmer. The signs of the romance declining can create feelings of panic and unease for a love addict.
The truth is, all relationships are made up of many death-rebirth cycles, and it is okay to let the relationship go into hibernation and let it come out rejuvenated in its own time.
In an intimate, healthy relationship, this can be a safe topic to bring up. In love addiction, it is either followed by an unspoken nervous waiting or investing energy into something external to change the current status.
3. Making them the source of our future happiness.
We have fantasies about a better, more something future with them in it. Our thoughts are likely to be consumed by what we will experience with them, rather than what we hope to get out of life and give back to it.
When our happiness depends on experiences that this person will bring into our life, this automatically creates a power differential between two people who are supposed to be equals in a relationship. It also erodes our faith in our own ability to make ourselves happy, let alone our self-esteem.
4. Putting ourselves and our lives on the back burner.
We may get so focused on the relationship that we don’t realize that we have put ourselves in the back burner. If this is prolonged, the effects can be detrimental to our happiness, let alone health.
Feeling adored, cherished, and even taken care of by our partner can be a healing part of a relationship as both people learn and teach each other how they want to be loved. Yet, this cannot replace the need to give ourselves the care we deserve.
Much like how a heroin addict gets malnourished, in love addiction, we stop nourishing our bodies, souls, and minds and wait for it all to come from the other person. Our self-love practice dwindles down to a tiny stream. At this point, we are not happy or healthy with or without our partner. But we don’t really see it or own it even if we do.
All addictions get worse over time, leaving the addict with much, much less than what they started with. Love addiction is no different.
What is next?
Maybe you identify with some or all the patterns above and feel the nudge to start the process of healing. If that’s the case, here are a few ideas to get you started:
Forgive yourself. Love addiction existed before you and it will continue to exist after you. It does not mean that there is something wrong with you.
Make a solid intention to connect to yourself daily. Start journaling. Even if it is a few sentences in the beginning and all you write is, “I hate my life. I am so lonely. Where is my coffee?”
Pretend as if your days were numbered. Just really think about it for a few minutes. What will you regret not having done or experienced? I know it is still in there somewhere. Make a list and post it somewhere you will see every day. It will come alive.
Seek help. Immediately. Whether it is a therapist, a coach, an energy healer, a priest, your sister’s yoga teacher, or whoever you feel drawn to. Reach out to someone who can hold your hand as you start piecing yourself back together. You can’t do this alone.
Love addiction is a very common pattern. You are not broken, and it isn’t a life sentence. You deserve a relationship between two equals, living their own lives and supporting each other through love, companionship, and grace.
It all starts with you. It can start now. You can do this.