Short History of Codependency, Love Addiction & Ambivalence

By susanpeabody 05/22/18

From Jane: Can love addiction and codependency be inherited?

From Susan: Yes it is inherited. Not through the genes but through modeled behavior. My grandfather on my mothers side was codependent married to a narcissist. She gave birth to my mother who was codependent like her father. My father was codependent from a narcissistic mother. I learned everything I know about codependency from my mom and taught it to my daughter. She broke the cycle and my granddaughters are free from this affliction.

Codependency and love addiction are a little different. I think my mother was also a love addict because she ran away to be with a married man both as a teenager and when I was a small child. She ended up in jail just like I did in 1968 because of her love addiction..

Article from 2017 . . .

I am a recovering love addict and codependent. I have been in recovery for 34 years. Back when I started recovery, we did not even have the labels love addict and codependent. We were all co-alcoholics. I just wanted to share with you a brief history of this movement that has saved thousands of lives.

While it has been mentioned in the literature for hundreds of years, love addiction did not come to the attention of the self-help community until the late seventies when such professionals as Virginia Satir, Claudia Black, and John Bradshaw introduced the concept of a “dysfunctional family unit.” Before this we only studied what they called the “identified patient.” Every one else in the family was left alone to suffer.

One of the first “identified patients” was the alcoholic, and soon after the self-help community began studying and treating family units, we began hearing aboutf the “co-alcoholic.” This opened the door to other “co’s” including the co-dependent.

As an author, I entered the game in 1985 when I, along with Anne Schaef, got tired of the term codependent. It was too limited because codependents, in the media, were always women and always attached to an addict.

It was soon after this that Anne’s book, "Escape from Intimacy," came on the market. I quickly jumped on her band wagon and began calling the codependent a “love addict.” The love addict could be male or female and single as well as married. We had come full circle and the “co” had now become the “identified patient.”

So now, firmly believing that codependents were both men and women, and not always attached to someone in a relationship, I wrote my first book, "Addiction to Love: Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships" (1989).

Moving right along . . . it was Pia Mellody who brought our attention to the next evolution of love addiction—love avoidance. At first, it was just an issue that only came up in recovery. In my book I called it the “underlying fear of intimacy.” Robin Norwood called it the "Boring Nice Man Syndrome." But it was not long before my students began exhibiting both love addiction and love avoidance tendencies throughout the history of all their relationships. This got my attention.

To understand this new phenomenon more fully, I decided to isolate it as a separate disorder that I could study and expound on. Like any good self-help writer, I began by giving this new order a name. I chose the term “ambivalent love addict” because it sounded self-explanatory.

Since then, I have discovered that almost all my clients are actually ambivalent about love. The love addict wants love, but chooses an unavailable person to fall in love with. The love avoidant either does not fall in love or only falls in love when the person is unavailable. Everybody is chasing love and nobody is finding it.

I am glad to announce that in 2000 I finally fell in loved with a "Boring Nice Man, " and have finally found love, companionship, and compatibility. It only took me 60 years. Go figure.

Join the conversation, become a Fix blogger. Share your experience, strength, and hope, or sound off on the issues affecting the addiction/recovery community. Create your account and start writing: