How to Know if You Have a Love Addiction
We all love the thrill of a new relationship; however, if that is the feeling you cling to for the entirety of every relationship only to have it end in heartbreak, it is likely that you have a love addiction.
A love addiction can be sabotaging your relationships and ultimately your happiness within relationships. It is also tricky to recognize because relationships are so romanticized in the media: if you’re not madly, passionately in love all the time and for years on end, the relationship is a failure.
The reality is, relationships ebb and flow and while some do not make it past the honeymoon phase anyway, truly healthy relationships are built on trust, companionship, shared values and of course some attraction
What is Love Addiction?
A love addiction is the chronic, obsessive pursuit of romantic love. Healthy relationships don’t stay in the “honeymoon” phase forever, so if you are constantly chasing that feeling from relationship to relationship you may have a love addiction.
It consists of behaviors that end up affecting you and your partner negatively, and can mean you have a tough time letting go of the fantasy of a relationship when the reality sets in.
Is Love Addiction Real?
Love addiction is not a recognized disorder by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, the DSM-5 lists 11 criteria for substance addictions that can be applied to understanding and treating a process addiction or negative behavior pattern like love addiction.
To be diagnosed with a substance addiction, you only need to have two of the eleven criteria. Not all of them apply to love addiction, so here are the top three that indicate there may be an addictive element in play:
- An ongoing (6+ months) preoccupation/ obsession with romantic fantasies and new relationships
- No self control over romantic fantasies and new relationships
- Negative consequences from these out of control fantasies
So while not technically recognized as an “addiction” in the DSM-5, it is a pattern of behavior that can be harmful and hurtful and prevent you from enjoying fulfilling, healthy relationships. This is why it is always worth seeking help to overcome love addiction.
What’s So Wrong About Being Romantic?
Romance is an exciting and essential element of courtship and attraction. There is even a physiological explanation for those butterflies you feel when around your new crush!
A neurochemical rush floods your system when your new partner is in sight (or in mind) and when you touch. The evolutionary necessity of this is to provide a temporary fierce attraction while two humans build a real relationship, getting to know each other and build a foundation of trust and intimacy. Ideally once the honeymoon phase ceases, this foundation is set and the relationship can progress.
The difficulty arises when you associate those rushes/butterflies and romance with the substance of a relationship, or the idea of being in a relationship. Once they fade, you’re either no longer interested or you feel like the relationship is failing when it is naturally progressing in many ways.
Failing to move beyond seeking that rush can leave you lonely, heartbroken, and stuck in a pattern where you don’t open up for real intimacy and connection because you’re always chasing the rush of romance.
This of course doesn’t mean long term relationships should be devoid of romance! It merely means that the definition and spontaneity of it may shift. Sharing common values, learning and acting upon each other’s love languages, making your partner feel appreciated and special are all romantic and I definitely encourage romance! You can’t put on delicious whipped frosting without a cake first, and if you’re always chasing frosting you’ll be left hungry!
Signs of Love Addiction
So, what are some of the signs of a love addiction?
- Confusing sexual and romantic intensity with true intimacy
- Skipping out on commitments, friends and family for your relationships
- A wandering eye that seeks new, exciting relationships while you’re still in a monogamous relationship
- Feeling alone, desperate and unworthy when not in a relationship
- Defining yourself by your relationships
- Always changing yourself to keep partners/fear of being dumped if you’re yourself
- Relying on romantic/sexual intensity to escape your problems/find comfort
Love Addiction and Codependency
If you’re familiar with codependency, a lot of these signs may seem vaguely familiar. In fact, it could be argued that while not all codependents are love addicts, all love addicts are codependent.
Codependency is in simplest terms the inability to decipher where you and the person you are codependent with ends.
You may do everything in their best interest, even at expense of your own needs and wants.
You may find it difficult to establish healthy boundaries in the relationship for fear of rejection or loneliness.
It can create a one sided dynamic in a relationship (this can include family and friends), and can create a pattern of dysfunction where both sides of the relationship play a fixed role: one person could be a martyr who needs the validation of caring for someone else, perhaps the other is an enabler of these behaviors etc.
Can I Change?
Love addiction is a compulsion that can be tamed, though it is important to recognize what seemingly normal comments and behaviors are actually love addiction rearing its head.
The truth is, the pattern is the issue, not the people you date. Sure, they weren’t perfect, however you must focus on yourself and your behaviors in order to end the cycle of heartbreaking short term romances in exchange for meaningful connections and intimacy.
Working with a therapist is essential for establishing new patterns and behaviors that are healthy and constructive. Well meaning friends will try to give advice and can be a good shoulder to cry on, though they are biased and will likely agree with all of your assessments of the situation as a sign of support.
A therapist is a non partial party who knows that the larger goal is more important: ending your love addiction and creating relationship patterns that are healthy and fulfilling.
If you have any questions, or for clients hoping to take their intimate lives to the next level through personalized sessions on YOUR terms, learn more about our Text Therapy Program.
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Learn more about how LCAT can help improve your life at What We Do.
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