Your lights are on, but you're not home
Your mind is not your own
Your heart sweats, your body shakes
Another kiss is what it takes
It's closer to the truth to say you can't get enough, you Know you're
Gonna have to face it, you're addicted to love –Robert Palmer
It sounds counterintuitive to be addicted to love. Just about every spiritual and philosophical path is based upon love and the importance of loving others. How is it that something so essential can become an addiction? In fact, a love addiction isn’t really about love at all, but actually stems from fear, usually the fear of intimacy.
While sex addiction focuses upon sexual activity, pornography and fantasy, a love addiction often includes sex but focuses primarily upon the intensity of romantic attraction. Some love addicts experience sexual anorexia, a lack of sexual desire. As with any addiction, a love addict attempts to fill a hole in the psyche with something external, in this case the exciting and agonizing emotions that come with falling in love, carrying a torch or sustaining a tumultuous relationship.
A love addiction comes in different forms, too. For one person, the euphoria of falling in love repeatedly feeds their need for intensity. They might experience numerous and sometimes simultaneous and short-lived relationships. Another love addict might return repeatedly to a harmful relationship, even after promising friends they never will. Sometimes it’s more subtle, as with neediness that never gets satisfied, or the inability to be alone. Relationships become of primary importance, and may eclipse and endanger family life, work obligations and basic self-care.
Think of romantic love as a substance. An addict can use romantic feelings to temporarily distract them from a deeper pain or discomfort. Rather than attending to old wounds that haven’t healed, an addict will seek solace from relationships. The emotional ups and downs create a “high” that, for a short time, soothes the constant suffering. It’s often intertwined with codependence, and always reinforces a feeling of powerlessness and inadequacy. And of course, relationships are an essential part of life. A relationship addiction, as with food, sex and others, requires a more complicated form of abstinence to heal.
So how do we know if we are engaging in love addiction? Good resources include 12 Step programs like Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA.) A consultation with a professional therapist or counselor is hugely helpful in determining if there is a problem, and the best course of treatment for you. (See also a recent post on Sex Addiction)
I look forward to your stories and thoughts about Love Addiction by commenting here. Your comments make a difference for all of us.