Many who believe their love is normal are instead acting out an addiction.
My last post focused on sex addiction. An addiction closely related to sex addiction is “love” addiction. Love is in quotes, as those who are addicted are usually not referring to actual healthy love. Sex and love addiction are so commonly bonded that there is a 12-step support group for the combination: Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA). Both love addiction and sex addiction are often viewed as disorders of intimacy.
“What the world generally refers to as love is an intense emotionality combining physical attraction, possessiveness, control, addiction, eroticism, and novelty.” This quote, from David R. Hawkins, calls out everyone. It challenges the reader on what they describe as love. But perhaps Psychology Today’s own Stanton Peele said it better: “We often say ‘love’ when we really mean and are acting out, an addiction-a sterile, an ingrown dependency relationship, with another person serving as the object of our need for security.” Perhaps, as the above quotes suggest, love is much more commonly an addiction than believed.
When someone is addicted to love, this person develops an unhealthy attachment to the passion and enthrallment of the beginning of a relationship. The individual may have a long history of short romantic relationships; ending the relationship when or shortly after the excitement dwindles. This results in ever-increasing negative consequences in the individual’s life.
Another way someone can exhibit problematic behavior in regard to love is being addicted to an individual. Although the term codependency is overused, true codependency is an unhealthy attachment to another. Although this can happen with any relationship (mother /child is a common dynamic in codependent relationships), it is most common as a partner dynamic. In a codependent relationship, one partner (or perhaps both) depend on the other for his or her positive emotions.
Many who have these types of addiction may never notice it. Their codependency or their short-lived relationships are accepted as normal. If the above authors are correct, many people who suffer from love addiction are completely unaware, and actually, believe what they experience is normal and healthy.
Some argue that all love has an aspect of addiction to it. In her TED Talk, Helen Fischer states that love has many of the components of addiction, including tolerance, withdrawal, and craving, as well as the singular focus addiction usually takes. By her estimation, we are all addicted to love in some respect at some point.
There is a difference between everyone being addicted at some point, and addiction and associated behavior causing detriment in one’s life. In his classic book, “Love and Addiction”, Stanton Peele identifies criteria that can help determine if the relationship is an addicted one or not.
“Does each lover have a secure belief in his or her own value?
Are the lovers improved by the relationship? By some measure outside of the relationship, are they better, stronger, more attractive, more accomplished, or more sensitive individuals? Do they value the relationship for this very reason?