The strongest drug that exists for a human is another human being
“Oh my god, my heart is pounding”, Reshma whispered to herself excitedly. “I think he finally is the one!” she gushed while trying to catch her breath.
Yes, most of us may already know how that feels. The exhilaration of a newfound love, the butterflies in your stomach, the pining for your lover’s message, call or touch – it truly is beautiful. Isn’t it?
But what if Love doesn’t necessarily remain healthy. Can we get addicted to the most powerful sensation human beings can experience? …Yes, we can! Love can be addictive!
Reshma wasn’t aware of her addiction to love. This was her fourth relationship in the year. She enjoyed the rush of love in all her previous relationships but when that excitement blew over, she couldn’t settle with normal or the natural cycle of a relationship. She was addicted to the intense feelings of romantic love, and anything less had left her disappointed, empty and insecure.
While Reshma jumped from one relationship to another in the pursuit of those initial euphoric highs, many other love addicts stay in the same relationship but are dissatisfied and restless. When the intense love fades, they harbor thoughts of cheating, leaving, and sometimes even build a fantasy in their heads that one day they will find true love that will fix it all.
People with a love addiction are often in love with the feeling of being in love, which triggers compulsive behavior. But falling in love is not an act of magic, as some people believe. Instead, it is a complex physiological process that involves hormones, neurotransmitters, and other bodily chemicals. Love is also associated with intense craving, which can lead to negative behaviors.
Tolerance increases to find pleasure. The individual with love addiction craves for emotional and physical union with the beloved (dependence). And like substance addicts who suffer when they can’t get their drug, the love addict suffers when apart from the beloved which gives rise to separation anxiety. Adversity and social barriers even heighten this longing (frustration attraction).
Whereas Arguments in relationships create cumulative stress for both partners. They are usually only resolved when one partner gives in to another, creating resentment and defeat.
Am I a Love Addict?
When we look outside of ourselves to meet our needs of emotional stability or to fix our insecurities about ourselves and our lives, we are at the risk of building an addiction. This temporary respite could be found in a person, a relationship, alcohol, narcotics, tobacco, or even LOVE.
Now there is no denying that we all desire to love and be loved, but when love works as a band-aid to our past wounds, it can get obsessive, unsatisfying, destructive or even addictive. There is always a fear of feeling abandoned, unworthy or incomplete once again. Hence we move on quickly to find new love; or stay on, feeling miserable but continue to fantasize about the perfect love. Better still we wait for that prince or princess to rescue us one day.
Stanton Peele, in his classic book, “Love and Addiction”, identifies criteria that can help determine if the relationship is an addicted one or not.
“Does each lover have a secure belief in his or her own value?
Are the lovers improved by the relationship? By some measure outside of the relationship, are they better, stronger, more attractive, more accomplished, or more sensitive individuals? Do they value the relationship for this very reason?
Do the lovers maintain serious interests outside the relationship, including other meaningful personal relationships?
Are the lovers beyond being possessive or jealous of each other’s growth and expansion of interests?”
Causes of love addiction:
Our childhood experience of receiving love becomes a template for our brain to construe similar experiences in adulthood as well.
Thus, some people develop love addiction as a response to their childhood experiences, particularly childhood trauma when a major caregiver does not relate with the child to develop healthy intimacy. When someone receives a lot of love and nurturing as a child, it is likely that the person will develop good self-esteem and healthy relationship boundaries. Consequently, without this nurturing, a child may develop poor self-esteem, lack of confidence, and insecurity. Because the brain’s reward system is activated by falling in love, the person experiences pleasure, so someone with love addiction may obsessively seek to regain that pleasurable love state to keep their negative feelings.
Obsession in terms of a love relationship is someone who is obsessed with you will be jealous and possessive. They won’t like the idea of you growing as a person, or having any independence, lest you meet someone else and leave them.
Obsessively passionate people are insecure and so preoccupied with losing their partner they actually end up neglecting them. They are defensive, controlling, and resentful. All of these behaviors have roots in fear. Fear that if they don’t follow the routine, they will have a negative consequence.
Here are 15 tips to overcome love addiction:
- Read up on all you can find on Love Addiction. Educate yourself on the how what and why of Love Addiction. The better you understand where your behavior patterns come from, the sooner you will recover.
- Journal. When thoughts are in our head, many a times its just anxious noise. But when we write them down, the paper holds the weight. Now, we have time and space to analyse, evaluate and introspect our patterns. Write down all the reasons for you to want to recover from this addiction.
- Discover Your Pattern. Write down all your experiences with love, from childhood to adult, from parents to lovers. How were you given love? In what pattern?
- Discover Yourself. As a love addict we may be so caught up in the expectations of others, or the expectations we have from another, that we lose ourselves in the midst of it all. It is time to discover our personal values, our likes, dislikes, our desires, and what we genuinely want from a partner.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a wonderful technique to accept your thoughts as they are, and to resist their presence to disturb you
- Self-Love. Be accepting of all your flaws. Embrace your strengths. You are unique and no one knows you better than your own self. Be Kind and Love thyself and the world will love you too! 😊
- Validate yourself. It is wonderful to have our partner’s support and likes for our skills, talent, personality, desires and more. But does our happiness solely depend on their validation? Do we seek their approval more than our own? If we don’t receive it, are we faced with the fear of rejection or abandonment? Be a part of your own support system. Self-love!
- Be True to yourself. Do not compare yourself or pretend to be another. You are one of a kind. Get comfortable in your skin and in just being you. Stand behind your own self and be your own best friend.
- Find a Passion or Purpose. Immerse yourself in a hobby or an activity that truly engages you, one that makes you feel good about yourself such as Gardening, Volunteering, Baking, Playing the Guitar or Candle making. It could be anything that excites you and fills you with a crackling energy.
- Stay physically fit. Physical activity is imperative for a healthy mind. Connect with your body through whichever fitness form works best with you – it could be going to the gym, yoga, dance, sports, or even just a regular brisk walk.
- Visualise. Keep the past as a learning, and try not to get caught up in regret. Forgive yourself take responsibility, and make the present count. Visualise a present that is free from insecurities, fears and unhealthy relationships.
- Don’t fall back on a ‘prince or princess’. If you are in a relationship, try not to make the world revolve around your partner only because you need to earn his/her love for validation, security and a temporary comfort for your fears. Do not settle with the wrong person as well in the fear of losing love and feeling abandoned. You do not need anyone to rescue you.
- Take a break from a love relationship. If you aren’t already committed, give yourself a break from relationships for 6 months to a year. Make a plan for yourself. Focus on replenishing your body, mind and spirit. Try and build healthy platonic friendships with the opposite sex.
- Don’t give up. Stay committed to recovering from your love addiction. In an event of a relapse, do not give up. Refer to your list of reasons for choosing to be on the road to recovery. Remember you are trying your best. Do not let guilt and shame get the better of you.
- Take a Professional Help who can walk you through the journey of self discovery, using psychotherapeutic techniques.
Fisher H. E., Xu X., Aron A., Brown L. L. (2016). Intense, Passionate, Romantic Love: A Natural Addiction? How the Fields That Investigate Romance and Substance Abuse Can Inform Each Other. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(687), 1-10.
Peele, Stanton; 1975; Love and Addiction; pg.13, pg.83