“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.” Singer-songwriter Robert Palmer articulately describes the physical and mental elements of love addiction in a song by the same name: Addicted to Love.
Does this describe you in your relationship? You meet that special person. You have trouble eating and sleeping and can’t stop thinking about them. You’re on an emotional high that, like physical substance addiction, feels so good when you’re on it and feels so bad when it isn’t available.
The Cycle of Addiction
As being addicted to a drug, you are drawn to the excitement of something new. You’re giving up your ability to think critically because as trite as it may sound, love is blind … to your lover’s faults, flawed behaviors. You’re using love as a “fix,” dizzy with the thought that your partner may be “the one” you’ve been searching for your whole life. All you want and believe you need is this person, who appears to satisfy your every need. That’s not love.
Then, as time goes by … weeks or months … dissatisfaction or disillusionment sets in. Maybe the blinders come off or you find yourself making unrealistic demands of your partner. Either way, you’re experiencing something similar to withdrawal symptoms. You feel let down. Eventually, you try to make the relationship work or you go looking elsewhere, pursue your next partner with the hope that you can experience that wonderful high again and the fantasy begins all over again.
Love Addiction Gone Bad
Fantasy is what love addiction really boils down to. You are preoccupied in a space that is not representative of the real world. You might find yourself thinking or acting in ways that are compulsive, unrealistic, and mentally exhausting. Some questions to ask yourself that might confirm a diagnosis:
· Do you have a desperate need to be in constant contact with your lover? Do you check your phone obsessively waiting for a text, voicemail or email? Are you rattled if they don’t immediately respond and so you preoccupy yourself waiting for them to touch base?
· Are you uneasy, fidgety whenever your lover isn’t around?
· Do you feel paranoid? When you don’t hear from your lover after a period of time – hours perhaps, does your mind explore the reasons why?
· Do you over-analyze conversations, assuming negative meanings?
· Do you look for hidden messages that might mean signal they are leaving the relationship?
· Do you need constant reassurances of their love?
· Do you want or expect your partner to make you feel better about yourself, about events happening in your life?
Inspecting Your Addiction
As painful as it might be, a good way to start recovery is to look addiction right in the face. Admitting you have this problem is a good starting point. Inspect your attitudes and behavior. Are they positive, life-affirming, a growth experience? Fear of facing the beast may sting at first but the pain dissipates the more you inspect it. Facing the music is the first step toward recovery. More probing questions to ask yourself:
· Are you substituting love for a need to be showered by another’s attention or to be cared for?
· Do you have a hard time being alone?
· Do you see your lover as the answer to all your troubles, the one person who can make everything ok, the one with magic power to make you feel whole and satisfied?
· Are you losing yourself in your mate? Is your sense of self-esteem taking a hit?
· Are you talking or acting like your partner?
· Do you mirror their behavior, take up the activities they like to do while giving up on your own personal interests, hobbies, activities, friends?
· Are you allowing yourself to be manipulated by your partner or vice versa, your relationship has become destructive, toxic, addictive?
· Do you look for ways to prevent your lover from leaving you?
· Are you easily intimidated or manipulated by them or are you the one being intimidating or being manipulating?
· When your partner spends time with others, are you resentful or jealous? If so, do you have an impulse to cope by being self-destructive: binge drinking, punishing them emotionally by getting angry, sulking?
· Do you use sex as a manipulation tool or a weapon, withholding your display of affection?
· Is it love addiction or sex addiction? Do you know the difference? (Hint: sex addiction is a preoccupation with sex for sex’s sake; Love is an emotional addiction).
Breaking Through the Illusion
If the above signs of love addiction were a test, would you have aced it? If so, now what? A good start is accepting that nobody but you can be the sole source of your happiness. No outside person can be the be all and end all of your life. No one can be expected to serve that role. Your lover can come close and that’s wonderful if they do. But if you EXPECT it, you’re actually using them in a way you might abuse a drug.
Respect the boundaries that separate you from your partner. Without the self-determination to establish a solid sense of yourself, you are inhibiting your emotional development. Be honest with yourself. Respect yourself. Loving yourself before all others is at the heart of a healthy relationship. Take back control of your emotions.