Characteristics of the Love Addict:

  • Love Addicts assign a disproportionate amount of time and attention to the person to whom they are addicted, and this focus often has an obsessive quality about it.
  • Love Addicts have unrealistic expectations for unconditional positive regard from the other person in the relationship.
  • Love Addicts neglect to care for or value themselves while they’re in the relationship.
  • Love Addicts engage in patterns of compulsive, out of control behaviors that, without intervention, they are unable to stop.
  • Love Addicts experience withdrawal and/or intense emotional pain when the person to whom they are addicted leaves.

Love addiction comes in many forms. Some love addicts carry a torch for unavailable people. Some love addicts obsess when they fall in love. Some love addicts get addicted to the euphoric effects of romance. Others cannot let go of a toxic relationship even if they are unhappy, depressed, lonely, neglected or in danger. Some love addicts are codependent and others are narcissistic. Some love addicts use sex to manage feelings; others are sexually anorexic. What all love addicts have in common is an experience of powerlessness over distorted thoughts, feelings and behavior when it comes to love, fantasies and relationships.  Feelings of distrust, shame, anger, rejection and abandonment dominate a love addict’s psyche.

Pia Mellody (author, Facing Love Addiction) defines a love addict as someone who is dependent on, enmeshed with and compulsively focused on taking care of another person. She conceptualizes love addiction as an unconscious drive that causes the love addict to look to others to “fix” them and relieve them of intolerable feelings of loneliness and despair. Just as drug addicts and alcoholics use alcohol and drugs to self-soothe and avoid painful feelings, love addicts use romantic and sexual arousalfor emotional regulation and fantasy to medicate their anxiety.

Love addicts are unconsciously motivated by an all-consuming fear of abandonment and will tolerate and do almost anything to avoid being left.  The irony is that while love addicts want so desperately to connect with another person, they are often so intense and demanding in their approach to relationships that their partners often describe their experience with the addict as enmeshment, not as healthy intimacy.  Because love addicts do not experience enough intimacy in childhood, they never learn how to be intimate in a healthy way and, although they genuinely want to experience love and connection as adults, their paralyzing fear of abandonment makes intimacy impossible.  When they reach a certain degree of closeness with a partner, they often panic and do something to create distance between themselves and their partners.  These two fears – of abandonment and intimacy – bring up the agonizing and self-defeating dilemma of the love addict.  They are most often drawn to love avoidants; consciously wanting intimacy but unable to tolerate healthy closeness, they must unconsciously choose a partner who can’t be intimate in a healthy way.

Answer these 40 questions  to help you determine if you are a love addict

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Characteristics of the Love Avoidant:

  • Love Avoidants evade intensity within the relationship by creating intensity in activities (usually addictions) outside the relationship.
  • Love Avoidants avoid being known in the relationship in order to protect themselves from engulfment and control by the other person.
  • Love Avoidants avoid intimate contact with their partners by distancing themselves behind protective emotional walls.

Enmeshment by one or both parents creates love avoidance.  Enmeshment occurs when a parent lacks boundaries, does not set appropriate limits and uses the child to meet his/her own needs. Enmeshed children whose “job” it is to take care of a parent learns that his/her value comes from taking care of needy people.  They learn to shut off their inherent sense of spontaneity and focus instead on the needy parent/caregiver and do what makes others happy instead of what makes them happy. In fact, they often never even have a chance to learn what makes them happy.  They grow up lost and without a sense of inherent self worth.  As an adult, the love avoidant derives self-esteem from caretaking others.  They confuse love with obligation or duty and find being relational and vulnerable intolerable.  They experience being loved as being smothered and use walls and intensity to avoid intimacy.