“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I feel totally powerless to leave this person, even though I know they are extremely bad for my well-being. I’ve tried to leave many times, but always end going back and starting the crazy cycle all over again. It’s like I’m addicted to a drug!”
If this sounds like you, you could be a love addict.
Love addiction is a common condition in victims of narcissistic abuse, yet many people are not aware that love addiction is a thing. More commonly, people who are in toxic love relationships with narcissists or other emotionally unavailable individuals are considered codependents. While they both share common origins (fear of abandonment) and there are many overlapping symptoms, the major difference between the two is that codependency is a coping mechanism which can sometimes be managed with changes in behavior. Love addiction is a bona fide dependency on another person, or at least, an addiction to dysfunctional relationship dynamics and the fantasy of “true love”.
Love addicts are inclined to express their love to their partners in compulsive and self-defeating ways. Due to the biochemical processes that happen during toxic relationships, i.e., the Silent Treatment followed by the ‘Return and Rescue’ cycle, love addicts typically enter relationships with individuals who are Narcissistic, Love Avoidant, or Dismissive, thus perpetuating their feelings of being unlovable, unworthy, and less than. Love Addiction, like any other addiction, is an obsessive-compulsive process used to relieve or numb painful reality through the use of dysfunctional and self-sabotaging behaviors.
If you can answer yes to more than a few of the following questions, you might be a love addict. Please note that this list isn’t comprehensive, but should give you an idea of whether you meet the general criteria of being addicted to toxic love relationships:
A Love Addict –
1 – Has little or no boundaries, shares personal and sensitive information too quickly, becomes attached to others without knowing them well.
2 – Desperately wants someone to rescue them from being so alone, to make them matter.
3 – Is consumed or obsessed with finding love when not in a relationship.
4 – Is in frequent need of emotional comfort from a partner, especially a toxic partner.
5 – Tries to create situations with the purpose of running into a partner.
6 – Tries to make their partner jealous by pretending someone else is interested in them.
7 – Plays games such as being distant to entice a partner to make contact.
8 – Has difficulty letting go of a romantic relationship as they feel they cannot survive without it.
9 – Is inclined to pursue a partner’s interests, putting aside their own.
10 – Will do anything and tolerate anything to avoid being alone, including verbal or physical abuse and infidelity.
11 – Doesn’t feel satisfied with normal relationships which don’t include constant drama. Perceives healthy relationships as boring and pointless.
12 – Feels an intense need to reconnect when a partner seems to be pulling away.
13 – Tends to minimize or ignore obvious “red flags” of narcissistic or abusive behaviors, while focusing on small acts of perceived kindness or seeming vulnerability in their partner.
14 – May willingly or unwillingly neglect their own children due to being entirely consumed with their chaotic relationship.
15 – Maintains a constant hope that the relationship will improve, despite unswerving evidence that it will not.
16 – Conducts an inordinate amount of research on the behaviors and personality profiles of toxic individuals, continuing the release of “victim peptides” after the end of a toxic relationship.
17 – Engages in various forms of denial to protect the fantasy that their love partner is the perfect mate for them. Refuses to accept consistent signs that point to the opposing truth.
If you meet a few or more of the above criteria, you might be a love addict. And, as with any other addiction, if left untreated love addiction can lead to loss of income due to a decline in job performance, leading to the loss of one’s primary residence. Further, it can lead to the loss of custody of children and other important relationships.
Love Addicts often become so overwhelmed when their relationship ends that they go into withdrawal or jump to the next point in the cycle – obsession – which is a subconscious process designed to keep the toxic relationship alive. They often develop debilitating bodily symptoms due to resisting the truth, which can lead to conditions and diseases, including chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and certain types of cancer. They may become pathologically obsessed to the point of wanting to harm themselves and/or their love partners. It’s a serious ailment that requires a serious approach to treatment.
What you can do…
Just as with any other addiction, love addiction doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Recovery is possible with the right approach. However, if you are in a toxic relationship, feel you are helpless to leave, and believe you might be a love addict, it’s important to realize that recovery from love addiction is not possible while still with a toxic partner, just as a person who’s addicted to drugs cannot recover until they stop using. In fact, for a love addict, leaving the person they’re addicted to is often more difficult than a typical withdrawal from substances due to the emotional elements involved and giving up the fantasy of “true love”. This is precisely why I advocate the No Contact or Extreme Modified Contact approach to leaving toxic relationships.
While a codependent might be able to implement boundaries while in a difficult relationship (though it may be improbable and depends on the situation), love addicts will only continue the destructive, addictive cycle if they remain in relationships with narcissistic and other toxic individuals. Following are three things you can do today to start breaking your love addiction and move forward towards healing your life and relationships:
1 – Find a CoDA (Codependents Anonymous) group in your area. 12-step programs are essential in the recovery of any addiction or compulsive behavior and love addiction is no different. Click here to find meetings near you: CoDA Locator
2 – Find a therapist who specializes in love addiction and/or recovery from childhood emotional trauma.
3 – Enroll in The Essential No Contact Bootcamp. It’s a home-study course which helps you plan out detaching from love that hurts, guides you in planning your daily routines to avoid contacting a toxic Ex, and offers ways to begin healing on an emotional and core level. Includes a private Facebook group and course bonuses.
Breaking free from toxic love addiction is a process which requires commitment and discipline. Recovery simply cannot happen on its own without a specific course of action, self-care, and stick-to-it-iveness. Changing the relationship you have with yourself is the only way to ensure you develop the ability to implement healthy boundaries and avoid toxic relationships in the future.
Kim Saeed is a narcissistic abuse recovery expert on a mission to help abuse survivors to heal, find purpose, and live joyfully after No Contact. She also hosts a podcast called Heal, Grow, Evolve, where she aims to help people create meaningful lives and relationships after emotional abuse. Listen and subscribe at www.healgrowevolvewithkim.com