Is It Love or Addiction?

By susanpeabody 06/25/18

“The lover says, I cannot love anyone else, I cannot give up loving, I cannot give up this love, for it would be the death of me and I would die of love.” Soren Kierkegaard in Works of Love

I am a recovering love addict and I write about love addiction. I am often asked where does love leave off and addiction begin. This is a good question. The word addiction is over used in this society and we don’t want to give up on love unless we know it is an addiction.

Stage One

In this stage we are just attracted to someone, but the attraction is very strong and based on infatuation rather a real knowledge of who this person is. Without realizing it, we begin to project all of our unmet needs on to this person. They seem perfect. They seem available when they may not be. They seem like someone who is going to rescue us from boredom, loneliness and depression. This is happening very quickly, almost over night. It is love at first sight. At this point we still have our as well being and a moderate amount of self-respect.

Stage Two

In this stage our infatuation has turned to pre-occupation and then obsession. If our partner withdraws or want some space we panic. We call him incessantly. We pour over his Facebook page. We look at our email every five minutes hoping for a message from him. We start to feel as if we would die without him.

Stage Three

We are now obsessed and spending all our time thinking and fantasizing about him. We may start driving by his house to see if he is home. We may follow him to see if he is with other women. Our health is suffering and our job. We ignore our friends and family and go underground. We are out of control. We decide that only this person can make us happy and no one else will do. We really believe someone better will never come along and that we must keep trying no matter what. This is the stage at which we have gone from romantic love to addiction. It is the loss of control that marks addiction and the inability to stop obsessing no matter how we try.

Dying for Love

If we don’t wake up and come to our senses we are in danger. We may feel suicidal and act on it. We may get so depressed that we stop eating. I tried to starve myself to death with the obsession that brought me to my knees in 1982. We may get sick from some stress-related diseases (heart failure, strokes, ulcers). If we are lucky we have a nervous breakdown and reach out for help. I did and it saved me. Sometimes we do not leave an abusive relationship and we get beaten to death. It happens.

Summary of Typical Progression

⋅ Childhood trauma occurs;
⋅ An excessive hunger for love first appears;
⋅ Low self-esteem begins to develop;
⋅ A fear of abandonment and loneliness appear;
⋅ Emotional pain becomes apparent;
⋅ A need for relief increases;
⋅ Mood altering experiences are used to relieve anxiety;
⋅ Romantic fantasies become a fix;
⋅ A preoccupation with romance becomes habitual;
⋅ Relationships become a fix;
⋅ Unhealthy dependencies begin to appear;
⋅ An obsession with someone may occur;
⋅ Addictive thoughts and behavior become ritualized;
⋅ The patterns of addiction are repeated and become entrenched;
⋅ Problems associated with obsession and dependency develop;
⋅ Emotional distress appears;
⋅ Health problems appear;
⋅ Subsidiary addictions continue to progress;
⋅ Addiction to love becomes a problem;
⋅ The love addict loses control of his or her life;
⋅ Chronic depression sets in;
⋅ A crisis appears;
⋅ A life-threatening situation develops;
⋅ Danger is imminent;
⋅ Death or intervention occurs.

If you decide you are a love addict then here is what you can do about it. I cannot say in this article what many books explain, but here is a short list.

We must courageously face our own shortcomings;
We must make changes in how we think about love and how we behave when we are in love;
Accept that it progress not perfection;
We should seek out support groups and/or therapy;
In these environments we must grieve the past and then let it go;
It is imperative that we work on building our self esteem;
We must let go of an addictive relationship;
We must only get involved with available, loving, and compatible men.

All of this worked for me and today I am happily married after years of unhealthy relationships. The most important thing I did was to change. I stopped thinking that romantic love was more important than loving a loving and kind man. I stopped thinking my partner had to be really handsome. I stopped thinking that I deserved neglect and abuse. I stopped dating and worked on myself for years before I started looking again. I trusted the wisdom of all the people who wrote about love addiction instead of thinking I knew it all. I changed—one day at a time

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