I’ve wanted to write this blog for a while.
I’m not a therapist, but as a member of Al-Anon for over 15 years, a 12 Step Group for friends and family of alcoholics and addicts, I can say that a lot of people “in the rooms” are love addicts because they wanted as children. I had a very unhealthy relationship once and it affected me powerfully – long after it ended. I then learned a heck of a lot from it and thought I’d share it – that’s what blogs are for – Pressing “Publish” is scary..
Catchy tune, right? Not such a pleasant place to be in emotionally, mentally or psychologically. That feeling of pain or longing for someone you love who has gone away for a day or three or five and then, the panic and the anxiety you feel when you haven’t heard from them for one day (or hour!) because they’re in a meeting or they are busy or their phone battery died… Do you know that feeling? The feeling that not hearing from them means you’re incomplete? You’ve done something wrong? Bad news – It’s not really about the other person, is it? It’s about you. That’s the hard pill to swallow. This is an addiction, some would say as serious as drugs or alcohol, certainly one that has proven deadly many times over. I have known it and I’m blessed to say I no longer do. It’s called co-dependency and addiction to love. Loving someone is wonderful but when you base your well-being on their presence or their attention, it can be the worst feeling in the world masquerading as the best.
One of the reason’s the feeling is so bad is because the other person is not always even aware of the situation. Sure, two people can be addicted to one another but often love addiction is a one way street. One person is suffering while the other is the benefactor of the smothering, panicked obsessive calls and feelings of worry and jealousy.
I was there once and that was enough for me. It was painful to leave but ultimately more painful to stay. I know people who are in this place every time they have a relationship and it’s killing them. They are completely dependent on the other person for their happiness, their mood; yet often they don’t want to be responsible for that person’s well-being. It feels stifling and too much responsibility. That’s narcissism coupled with love addiction.
So, I was thinking about a friend (no seriously, it is a friend) who is and has often been in a relationship like this and feeling her pain and I know there are an awful lot of women and men who become enmeshed. It’s a lack of identity of oneself. The lack of connection to one’s core and ability to survive without someone else. When you’re with them you dress as they do, you adopt their interests, you change your lifestyle, not in a complimentary way as people in relationships do, but so as to create an identity to fit that relationship. Everything in your life can suffer if you’re addicted to another person whether they are to you or not. Other relationships, friendships, businesses, your children; everything, because it’s all about you and that person and getting what you need from that person – your fix.
There’s often a big fantasy element involved in who this person is to you. They take the place of a parent perhaps, providing an inkling of something you didn’t get in childhood; but of course, no husband or boyfriend is your father and if you think they are you should both run fast. I was once told I was someone’s mother (said in a positive way) and well, the relationship ended in flames shortly after that.
The broken relationships of one’s childhood can follow us to adulthood. When you’ve developed enough broken relationships with ones close to you, that has an effect on you. So you tend to want to hold onto things a little tighter. When you as a person have experience with numerous failed relationships, you subconsciously think it’s going to happen every time. New relationships tend to make you more anxious, fearful, and eager.
Lack of connection in childhood can make one co-dependent, that need for others to validate you, to become who that person wants you to be or more likely, who you think will make the relationship last longer (losing your identity is the major issue in love addiction). Being too dependent on people comes down to lack of happiness with oneself. Which means you’re depressed. Depression can easily trigger obsessive love. One who is depressed feels dark, lonely, scared, and lost. You may not “look” that way, but it’s in there. Those feelings make you look for a way out. A relationship can be a way to look to escape from those feelings. Those feelings can put a heavy burden on your partner. Being completely, and only dependent on someone to make you happy will lead to obsessive loving. Often, since women desire men and vice versa (or men desire men, women desire women), whatever – this is the focus of one’s relationships, even if there are kids! Kids cannot give us romantic love and that romantic love; being chosen by another, is what validates those with love addiction. A child of a love addict is a lonely child and destined to become one him/herself as an adult!
It’s healthy to be head over heels in love. Love is a powerful feeling. Everyone has felt a little sad, dependent, insecure, happy, and probably a bit too carried way when it comes to love. There are a lot of differences between healthy love and obsessive love though. Real love can be flawed, but forgives, trusts, and has faith. Obsessive love is destructive and doesn’t trust at all. There must be trust with love otherwise it is not healthy…and it is not love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these are love.” Corinthians 13:4-7, 13:
Sounds like true love is perfect and blue birds fly around as though in a Disney movie. Of course, relationships are difficult in general but if they’re healthy, if they’re even let’s say, more healthy than not, they can work.
Much pain in dependent or co-dependent relationships is in the letting go. The need to let go for one’s own health. The pain of staying in these relationships (see below) is often worse than the mending of the broken heart or the pain of missing someone. The constant unknowing and doubt is enough to seriously drive someone crazy, whether it be you or your partner.
So, we have the healthy version of the bliss and perfection we’d all like to achieve, right? Now for the unhealthy bit: Obsession vs Healthy love. Simply thinking about a person all day, or wanting to be with them all the time isn’t obsession love. It’s healthy to think, dream, and desire another person. However, literally being around them all the time can border on an obsessive love, for both you and this person. Actually being with someone all the time doesn’t define obsessive love. It can just potentially lead to obsessive love traits. Constantly missing someone is not obsessive love. It becomes obsessive when they lead to destructive actions in your life. What are those actions? I’ve taken some notes and this is what I’ve experienced and heard for years:
- Trying to gain complete control over your partner’s social life and personal life and trying to make decisions for them. Obsessive control is lack of trust, and shows you love this person more as an object, rather than a person.
- Feeling insecure and shallow when they’re enjoying themselves without you. You’ve based the relationship more on how they make you feel, rather than how you feel about them.
- Extreme jealousy that leads to constant smothering. Feeling the need to smother comes from wanting to control situations, your feelings, and their own feelings as well. One who constantly smothers another is an obsessive love trait. A lot of times both couples in a relationship can do this to one another.
- Playing off their emotions to make them feel bad, when you feel bad. Emotional abuse is definitely part of obsessive love. Obsessive love can make you feel extremely paranoid and insecure.
- Living in constant fear that they’re going to hurt you emotionally especially if they’ve never proven that they would. Your past relationships might be haunting your subconscious. In a nutshell: Fear of abandonment and rejection.
- Complete consumption into everything about them. Examples: Always waiting by the phone for them to call. Constantly calling, e-mailing, or writing them text messages. Even when they’ve not returning these messages yet.
- Involved in complete despair, depression, anxiety, and misery when they’re not around. Especially if they’ve not been around for just a little while. Like a few hours, or days. It’s normal to miss them, but when it leads to those mental health problems, it has become obsessive. You’ve consumed so much into the relationship. You’ve turn this person into every good, or bad emotion that you feel. Consuming everything in your life to one person is not healthy.
- The relationship is effecting your ability to function in your everyday life. This means lack of eating on a regular basis. Lack of being able to sleep. Lack of maintaining other relationships in your life. Interfering with your career. Lack of concentrating on anything other than this person. Inability to find much joy in other activities. This is the most serious sign of obsessive love. Obsessive love that’s leading you to depression. Danger!!
We desire love, we all deserve love and someone of us are not all healthy enough to give or receive love as best we ‘should be’. There are so many ways to get help for this; therapy, 12 Step groups, reading the brilliant books of Melody Beattie, and at the very least a recognition from oneself that you’re this person and need help. This immature behavior will end a relationship for sure. The brightest, most fanciful relationships often end up falling apart in the worst way because they are built on an unsteady deck of cards. We need to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before we can help the person sitting next to us. Be as healthy as you can be for those you love and don’t forsake the children – for the sins of the father shall be visited upon the son.