15 Signs You May Have a Love Addiction
The idea of being addicted to love, an emotion we all feel and want others to feel for us, may seem crazy. However, love addiction is real. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a love addiction?
When people were singing along to Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” in the ’80s, few people knew that love addiction was a real thing. However, it is very real, and many people struggle with this lesser-known addiction. According to Psychology Today, a love addiction can be defined as a “maladaptive, pervasive, and excessive interest” in one or more romantic partners. The love addict can feel a lack of control, lose interest in other things they normally enjoy, and experience a variety of negative consequences. On the other hand, these are the signs of a healthy, solid relationship.
Licensed psychologist Erika Martinez shares that up to 10 percent of the general population in the United States has a love addiction, which is a behavioral or process addiction. Like people who are addicted to food, love addicts cannot reasonably be expected to abstain from giving and receiving love, but they can learn to manage the addictive behavior. Having just one symptom of a love addiction does not mean that you are addicted to love. However, having a combination of symptoms can be problematic, though a true addiction can only be accurately assessed by a therapist. But if you are experiencing dissatisfaction with your love life, it might be time to take a long, hard look at the patterns in your relationships and see whether any of these classic signs of love addiction apply to you.
Feeling desperate when a partner needs a little space
Do you find it intolerable when a partner puts even a little distance between you? Does your level of upset rise to outright devastation right away? That level of pain and anxiety is disproportionate to the situation and can indicate a love addiction. According to psychotherapist Joyce Houser in her book Someone To Talk To, you should talk to a professional about these intense feelings. Willpower alone is often not enough to overcome a love addiction, and therapy can play an important role in recovery, as can other sources of support such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. On the flip side, if your partner is asking you to do these 10 things, it’s time to leave.
Finding it hard to set boundaries
Billy Joel may have sung about going to extremes in relationships, but if you consistently go over the line in real life, serious problems may be brewing. The solution? Setting boundaries. Unfortunately, the term “boundary” can seem like a scary thing for a love addict; it may inspire thoughts of keeping your partner separate from you. However, healthy boundaries actually bring people closer together because it empowers them to show a mutual respect for each other.
Boundaries can be literally anything that you need in your relationship to feel good. For example, you may get irritated if your partner calls you a certain nickname. However, if you have a love addiction, you may irrationally fear that your partner will leave if you explain that you don’t want to be called the irritating nickname. Therefore, you suffer in silence when your partner would probably be more than happy to accommodate your request. For an example that’s a little more serious, experts explain that some love addicts don’t turn down sex even if they don’t want to have it. They instead do whatever their partner wants. That’s ultimately not healthy for the relationship, and it certainly isn’t good for the love addict who repeatedly does things they don’t want to do. Part of overcoming a love addiction may include setting firm, healthy interpersonal boundaries and sticking to them.
Cycling in and out of a relationship
If you have a habit of breaking up with your partner and then getting back together, you may feel like you’re in an episode of your favorite soap. While The Young and the Restless is fun to watch, you probably want a little more stability than Victor and Nikki have enjoyed.
What’s the issue with this one? According to Sharea Farmer, a licensed social worker and the owner of RS Counseling & Wellness Center, someone with a love addiction may be more invested in what they can do for their partner and not who they are with their partner. “This person may be in the cycle of breaking up and getting back together because they see their partner as ‘needing’ them to survive,” she explains. “To some, this may seem like a normal part of relationships, but usually this person is only focused on improving their partner. What this means for the individual struggling with love addiction is that their identity is wrapped up in another person’s flaws or vices.”
When that happens, the love addict feels compelled to help reinforce those flaws, either consciously or subconsciously. “Therefore, breaking up and getting back together is just one method of this unhealthy pattern continuing,” adds Farmer. “This creates a cycle in love addiction that looks an awful lot like codependence.” Here are more red flags that you’re in a co-dependent relationship.
Idealizing love and believing it can overcome anything
You may be in trouble if you are in an unrequited love situation, especially if you just can’t let go because you think things will somehow work out in your favor. “People experiencing love addition generally subscribe to a belief that their love can overcome anything,” says psychotherapist Judi Cinéas, PhD. “They believe in the power of love to a degree that would allow the person to also believe that they can have their desired results with the other person. The person also experiences some joy in the process itself; they get a sense of pleasure in the contemplation of what could be. Thinking about the other person is pleasing, although these emotional highs can lead to negative feelings or actions when they are reminded that the other person is not interested in taking that emotional journey with them.”
Feigning an interest in something just to impress a partner
It’s normal to become interested in something just because a crush likes it. However, there’s a fine line between opening your mind to a new interest and feigning a passion for something just to impress someone. If you are willing to spend a lot of time rearranging your life around an interest that bores you, think about whether you are doing this just to win over a potential partner. In such a situation, love addiction may be at play.
Clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, cautions, “It’s normal and natural to show genuine interest in a partner’s hobbies, work, and other life interests. However, if this interest is over-amplified or a sheer pretense to draw in a partner, genuine love is generally not at work. When addictive tendencies lead an individual to pretend to be who they are not—which includes feigning interests—the relationship is not being built on truth and authenticity.” Here are more habits that you think are loving but are actually dangerous.
Abandoning commitments to seek a romantic relationship
Love addicts are sometimes willing to back out of meaningful commitments like family reunions or weddings to pursue a crush or look for love. That need to be soothed by love can be so overpowering that it makes all the other aspects of their lives seem unimportant in comparison. Licensed marriage and family therapist Shirin Peykar explains, “Love addiction is a compulsive and chronic pattern of behavior to soothe uncomfortable feelings and to feel worthiness through the love of another, which is unattainable. The belief that true love will save them is what gets love addicts into constant trouble because they often find themselves in toxic, unhealthy relationships. Only when they acknowledge their dysfunctional patterns of relating can there be healthy love on the horizon.”
Quickly going from one relationship to the next
Often, people who are struggling with a love addiction do not feel OK unless they are in a relationship. That can cause them to jump from one unhealthy relationship to another. Every individual has their own reasons for rebounding so quickly: Many can’t stand the thought of being alone, while others hope the next one will be better. Whatever the case may be, love addicts are often driven to seek another relationship right after a breakup. However, without the breathing room you need to fully explore why your old relationship didn’t work, it can be hard to make healthier choices in the new one.
One of the ways that a therapist may suggest you start to heal and move on from a love addiction is to allow yourself to grieve and experience the underlying pain that is causing the addiction in the first place. That may include grieving unsuccessful past relationships, not just the most recent one. Read more about the signs you’re in a rebound relationship.
Seeking relationships with unavailable partners
If you continually find yourself in situations where your partner is either married or emotionally unavailable, it’s important to look at that pattern. Some people who struggle with love addiction subconsciously seek out people who can never fully return their love or be there for them in a full romantic relationship as a way to protect themselves. Although this seems counterintuitive because it’s actually setting them up for pain, the love addict doesn’t see it and is often driven by a subconscious, self-destructive drive. Just as alcoholics will still drink too much even when they know the horrific consequences, love addicts will engage in self-destructive behaviors that they can’t seem to stop without help. Psychology Today says that love addicts need to learn self-soothing techniques as well as how to stand alone.
Mistaking a great night of sex for a love match
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Making love doesn’t mean that you can inspire someone to love you. However, sometimes love addicts mistake sex for love. In fact, mistaking a great night of sex for a love match is a symptom of love addiction, according to sex and relationship expert Kryss Shane. “This occurs when the individual cannot differentiate between the physical and biological reactions of sexual intimacy and the bond created for an emotional love match. In some cases, the individual may complain of feeling as if each sexual partner has promised them the world, then ripped it away. In reality, one person saw the experience as physical, whereas the other (the love addict) felt it to be an instant forever bond.” These are the questions sex therapists get asked the most.