The line between love and pathological love is thin. The difference can be as simple as being in lust instead of love; being obsessed with someone or even staying stuck in a nasty relationship. Where addiction is involved, you will idealise and happily sacrifice or go against your values to please your partner. According to William Berry, a psychologist and the author of Addiction: A Human Experience, there are certain traits you will exhibit when in love addiction. You may develop an attachment to the excitement of falling in love and the beginning of a new relationship. “You may have a long history of short romantic relationships which you end shortly after the excitement has dwindled,” he says.
According to Ken Munyua, a psychologist based in Nairobi, causes of love addiction range from your background to your perception of a proper loving relationship. “If you never experienced love growing up, there is a high probability you’ll have a love vacuum and a fixation on love,” he says. With your yearning for reciprocal love, you may end up giving too much in a bid to stop your date from leaving. Darlene Lancer, a psychotherapist, says love addiction will be dominated by fear, insecurity, and desire to possess. “With love addiction, you may find yourself using sex or the relationship to cope with your emptiness, depression, shame, anxiety, or anger,” she says. “You may also find yourself using sex or romance as a substitute for vulnerability.” In addition, you could ignore your partner’s boundaries by abusing, controlling, or manipulating them. This includes partner pleasing or partner rescuing. “It is essential to understand that compulsive activity, be it sexual or romantic, such as compulsive sex, stalking, spying, constant calling or texting is a key sign of addiction,” says Lancer.
Strikingly, each of the relationships or instances of falling in love could push you deeper into this kind of addiction. For instance, according to Munyua, there are dates that might be harbouring hurt from past experiences, which inspires them to give unrequited love. “They may fear they did not give their all and now want to consistently fall in love and love unconditionally,” he says. Ann Smith, the author of Grandchildren of Alcoholics says when addicted to love, you will have a compulsive and chronic craving for romantic love in an effort to secure a sense of security and worth from another person. “An infatuated person tends to believe they have a sense of security only to be disappointed once the intensity of the infatuation fades. A love addict usually fails to move on from this and hangs on to the belief that their version of true love will fix everything,” she says.
Overcoming love addiction
If you have multiple signs of love addiction, the first step is to take stock of your history with love and relationships. When did your past relationship start? How long did it last? On average, how long do your relationships last? You should also take note of common characteristics in your relationships. For instance, why did the relationships start and end? According to Ms. Smith, the problem with your addiction will usually be your pattern rather than your dates. In some cases, keeping off dating and relationships can go a long way in helping you break the compulsive cycle. This may require help from a certified psychotherapist or psychological counselor.
Jill Weber, a psychologist and the author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy recommends becoming fully aware of who you are choosing to date or get romantically enjoined with. To achieve this, use time as a stop-measure against your tendency to get swept off your feet quickly. “Take time to know how someone sees you and, or how they make you feel. Then start surrounding yourself only with people who really treat you well. Transcending love addiction means consciously attaching to healthy people,” she says.
Be careful not to embrace fantasies about perfect romance. “The idea of perfect love often portrayed in fantasies could be a conduit for love addiction,” says Munyua. “If you swallow such fantasies hook, line and sinker, you’ll either always terminate relationships that fall short of your fantasy or put in loads of work to sustain or recreate your idea of perfect love.”