Love addiction: Signs to look out for

Have you thought in passing that your partner is like your drug- something you cannot live without? Does your whole world revolve around your? Is your entire day decided by how your partner treats you that day? Have you noticed that you spend far more time worrying about the well-being of your loved ones than you do about your own? If your answers to these questions are ‘yes’, you might benefit from reading this article.

Love Addiction– it doesn’t really sound like anything very harmful, does it? It might seem like the height of romance and love to be addicted to your partner or relationship. But love addiction is exactly that- an addiction to a relationship which is obviously unhealthy to one’s physical, emotional and mental health but which one chooses to continue staying in because getting out of it seems too hard, if not impossible. Love or relationship addiction can be to a particular person/relationship; or simply to the feeling of being in a relationship (which you can observe in people who jump from one relationship to the next, finding it almost impossible to remain single). Being in that relationship gives the love or relationship addict a high much like what a drug or alcohol addict might feel. The only difference is that love addiction is less frequently recognized.

Robin Norwood is a therapist who has done a lot of work in the field of relationship addiction. From her book, ‘Women Who Love Too Much’, here are some of the signs of a relationship addict (mostly applicable to women):

  • The woman comes from a dysfunctional home where her emotional needs for love and intimacy have not been met.
  • She attempts to satisfy these needs vicariously by showering someone else with all the love and attention she herself has never received and still wants to receive.
  • She might choose men who come across as needy in some way- men who are physically disabled, emotionally unavailable, sad, grieving, angry etc. Such men are familiar to her through her own childhood experiences. Ex: her father was emotionally unavailable so she chooses a spouse who is the same. She tries to heal these men or ‘change’ them through her love.
  • She is terribly scared of abandonment and will do anything to avoid it. Much of her behavior in the relationship might be driven more from this fear than ‘love’.
  • She will go to any extent to ‘help’ her man-providing and nurturing him, doing his work for him, supporting him financially, taking care of the children all by herself, trying to get him a job, taking care of his health etc.
  • She has become used to a lack of love because of a childhood in which she was deprived of love. So, she is willing to wait as long as it takes, hopes and tries harder to please her partner and him love her.
  • She tends to take more than 50% of the responsibility, guilt and blame in the relationship and often does not attribute anything as being her partner’s fault. Ex: He can’t help me with the kids because he is so tired after work.
  • Her self esteem is probably very low. Deep inside, she might believe that she doesn’t truly deserve happiness. She feels she has to earn the right to be happy.
  • Her ‘helpful’ behavior is actually a veiled attempt at controlling the man and the relationship. She has had little security is her childhood relationships. Therefore, it is very important to her that she be able to control her adult relationships in order to feel safe.
  • She is more focused on her fantasy of how the relationship should be than what it actually is. She believes that she can change her partner into the ideal partner he has the potential to become and that is why he needs her. She is unable to see the reality of her relationship and how unhappy she is.
  • Relationship addicts have more of a tendency, emotionally and sometimes due to heredity, to become addicted to alcohol, drugs and/or certain foods, especially sweets.
  • By becoming attracted to and involved in chaotic, painful relationships, the relationship addict distracts herself from her internal conflicts and pain. As long as she keeps trying to work on her relationship and her partner, she avoids having to work on herself.
  • Relationship addicts have a tendency to become depressed, which they might try to avoid by becoming involved in exciting, unpredictable relationships
  • A relationship addict is not interested in nice, emotionally present men who are interested in her. She finds them ‘boring’ because such relationships have much less drama and chaos than the ones she typically prefers.

The way a relationship addict thinks is not very uncommon. We might have observed ourselves getting into relationships with the same kind of men – the ‘bad boys’, the arrogant kind or the clingy kind and so on. Each time, the relationship hasn’t worked out and it has ended in a lot of pain and heartbreak. If you can identify yourself with the love addiction symptoms mentioned above, talking to a counsellor about it might help.

At TalkItOver, we provide individual, couple, family and group counselling by our trained counsellors who will help you with your struggles in the area of relationships or with any other struggle in your life.

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About Sarayu Chandrashekar

Sarayu Chandrashekar is a qualified Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). She has an M.S in Marriage and Family Therapy from Purdue University, USA, an M.S in Psychological Counselling from Montfort College, and a B.A in Psychology from Christ University, Bangalore. She has worked in a de-addiction centre and a family therapy clinic in the US as well as with the Association for the Mentally Challenged, Bangalore in the past. She has also completed a research study for her MFT degree on Indian couples living in the US and their marital satisfaction. She has nearly 1000 hours of counselling experience. She incorporates a combination of systemic family therapies and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) in her work. She has a passion for couple and family therapy and group work.