The first part of this post’s title borrows its name from a book by Patrick Carnes.
I like the title of the book. Today I know that the ‘love’ I was experiencing when I was in active addiction was not the healthy, deep, joyful love I am starting to experience today in recovery.
I have come to realise many things in recovery on what is healthy and not healthy love. In regards to what exactly love addiction is, I like the following explanation from Ms Alexandra Katehakis, an expert sex and love addiction psychotherapist, published on the Center for Healthy Sex website:
“Love addiction is compulsively seeking relationships or romance despite negative social, emotional, financial, or physical consequences. Love addicts are sometimes called “serial monogamists” or “relationship addicts.” Love addicts use love, or the pursuit of love, as a way of distracting themselves from uncomfortable feelings or emotions. Love addicts tend to have unrealistic expectations for giving and receiving love.
You may suffer from love addiction if:
- you tend to become consumed and obsessive
- you have an inability to focus on or think about anything else
- you equate love and relationships with self-esteem or self-worth
- being in love limits your participation in important activities
- being in a love relationship keeps your from spending time with friends and family
- you use love as an excuse to avoid creating positive change for yourself
- your love relationships always lack true intimacy and are often filled with jealousy
- you become co-dependent quickly
- you, your partner or both parties use love as a form of manipulation
- you confuse sex with love, and offer sex with the hope of receiving love
Some love addicts tend to love people who are unavailable. Other love addicts cannot let go of past partners who have let them go. According to Pia Mellody, author of Facing Love Addiction, “a love addict is someone who is dependent on, enmeshed with, and compulsively focused on another person.” In love addiction, there is an overwhelming fixation on love or the pursuit of a romantic partner. Often, once the object of desire has been attained, they are never good enough, and never seem to live up to the love addict’s expectations.
When a love addict realizes their partner is not perfect, the chase may continue for validation and attention outside the relationship. Seeking validation outside of the relationship may lead to emotional or physical affairs. Love addicts are slow to leave a toxic relationship due to feelings of low self worth. A love addict becomes fixated on his or her partner and tries to control the partner. A love addict will use sex in an effort to receive what they really crave: emotional intimacy.
Love addiction and Co-dependency
Some love addicts get caught in toxic relationships and become codependent. Love addiction and codependency often go hand-in-hand as love addicts will do anything to take care of their partners. Toxic care-taking can be in the form of enabling immature behaviors or “rescuing” in hopes that they will not be abandoned. Love addicts allocate an unbalanced amount of time, attention and value to the person that they are addicted to (i.e., their “qualifier”), and this focus usually has an obsessive quality. It is not uncommon for love addicts to neglect themselves “in service to the relationship.” Self neglect usually leads to resentment and anger, rather than intimacy and harmony.”
So what is real love?
I personally realised after more that two years in recovery that healthy, joyful, deep love starts from within us. In recovery from love addiction the first step is to look inside us and not outside for love. One of the SLAA Signs of Recovery points towards the right direction:
We learn to accept and love ourselves, to take responsibility for our own lives, and to take care our own needs before involving ourselves with others.
I have realised that discovering and embracing deep, meaningful, joyful true love takes time and effort. The key point though is that the foundations of love start from us and not from our love interest.
One of the SLAA promises points towards what healthy love is:
Love is a committed, thoughtful decision rather than a feeling by which we are overwhelmed.
I believe in this statement, in this promise.
So, if you believe you are suffering from the consequences of distorted views about love, stop what you have been doing up to now and reach out for help. Help comes in many forms including therapy, books written by qualified experts, self-development programs, and recovery programs including SLAA. You do not have to be stuck in love addiction or painful patterns linked to past behaviours around love. You can do something about it.
Help is available. Reach out. Joyful, nurturing love and healthy relationships are possible.