Sexual abuse and harassment is one of the top stories today. It’s being fueled by accusations against men in the public eye ― such as Harvey Weinstein ― and by so many people, men and women, stepping out and saying, “Me too. I was harassed. I was victimized.”
Experts define codependency as a pattern of behavior in which you find yourself dependent on approval from someone else for your self-worth and identity. One key sign of this is when you derive your sense of purpose or self around making extreme sacrifices to satisfy your partner’s needs (also known as enabling). And when your partner — or loved one — is an addict, this can become dysfunctional for both people.
Being addicted to love sounds pleasant enough, but it can have seriously negative consequences. Love addiction prevents you from finding real love, establishing healthy relationships and enjoying your life to the fullest. Understanding love addiction and taking concrete steps to change the way you interact in relationships will help you move forward. You may even want to consider getting the help of a professional therapist in order to start breaking love addiction habits.
Love addiction isn’t always as easy to recognize as other forms of addiction. While drug addicts and alcoholics frequently show signs of slurred speech, bleary eyes or staggering, love addicts may appear completely normal. Many love addicts go through their lives without ever realizing that they were suffering from a form of addiction. Family members and friends who are frustrated with your codependent behaviors may be equally unaware that your relationship issues are actually a problem with addiction.
Women affected by sex addiction do not consistently show evidence of unusually high levels of the male hormone testosterone in their bloodstreams, according to recent findings from a team of Iranian researchers.
If you are a love addict, you revolve your life around other people. The most important thing to you is the sensation of being in love, but most of your relationships are turbulent and unfulfilling. You are usually drawn to people who are emotionally unavailable, and you have most likely had one or more relationships with a person who is an active drug addict or alcoholic.
Love addiction isn’t as easy to recognize as addiction to substances or to gambling. When you are addicted to chemicals, you revolve your life around chasing the experience of getting high. Anything or anyone that gets in the way of that experience is quickly discarded. The whole purpose of your life is to get high and to escape from feelings that are unpleasant.
When your drug of choice is love, you have a similar pattern. You live for the experience of euphoria that love brings to your life. Your relationships tend to begin and end quickly, or you may have long-term relationships with dramatic highs and lows. For love addicts, the experience of falling in love or having drama in your relationships becomes drug-like.
An Obsessive Approach to Love
If you are a love addict, your approach to love is obsessive. You are thinking about your partner almost constantly. You can’t wait to see him or her every day. You call or text your partner repeatedly. You may stalk your partner and drive around trying to find him or her when he or she is late coming home or doesn’t call when you were expecting a call. You are thrilled about every possible contact with the other person. You may be attracted to unavailable people.
Even if you are not in a relationship, you are always thinking about love. You spend your time plotting how you are going to meet your next love interest. You get very excited about every possible opportunity to date or mingle with potential partners. The rest of life’s experiences pale in comparison to the passion you feel for the feeling of being in love.
Demanding and Suffocating
Like a drug addict, you are trying to draw a mind-altering experience from connectedness. You are continually trying to get a more exciting and elated experience from your relationships, which is why you may be continually starting new relationships. Some love addicts form attachments to more than one person at the same time just so that they can have more frequent opportunities for feeling excited by love.
Before long, your relationships often feel disappointing. Your constant demands for affection and attention may drive your partners away. Those who get involved with you quickly figure out that you’re looking for something that a healthy relationship can’t survive. Your neediness and clinginess suffocates any spark that might have been there. Sometimes you get bored with relationships that seem too predictable.
Love That Lacks Intimacy
Your pattern of constantly trying to experience connection and euphoria from your relationships causes you to have relationships that lack real intimacy. Addiction is a disease of self-centeredness and love addiction is no exception. As you keep looking for others to make you feel better, your relationships can’t grow in any meaningful way. Your focus is really on your own feelings.
A truly intimate relationship means that you and your partners share bad times as well as good times. It means that not every day is full of over-the-top stimulation. It means you can grow to be comfortable in each other’s presence without demanding excitement or exhilaration. It also means you can spend some time apart without feeling insecure or afraid of abandonment.
Healing to Experience True Love
True relationships consist of give and take between two people. When you are addicted to love, you are looking for a drug-like experience of being euphoric all the time. You are looking for another person to constantly meet your needs for attention. There is a big difference between being needy and demanding and actually being in love.
Your pattern is to look outside yourself for something to make you feel better. Instead of reaching for chemicals, you constantly fall in love. But it isn’t likely you will be able to enjoy a truly fulfilling, loving relationship until you work to heal from love addiction. Look for a counselor who specializes in codependency and love addiction issues. Strive to become aware of your pattern of repeatedly falling in love and learn all you can about love addiction. When you stop using love as a drug, you may be able to eventually experience real love rather than addiction.
Flirting is a natural human behavior. We use it as a tool to connect with others, especially romantically. It can, however, be an innocent way to socialize. Not all flirting leads to a romantic or sexual encounter, and to occasionally get carried away with flirting, even when you have a committed partner, is not problematic. When flirting becomes a problem is when it interferes with that relationship or becomes a compulsive behavior. You can get addicted to flirting and the pleasant feelings you get from those interpersonal interactions.
Sexual addiction is still a difficult concept for many people to grasp. The fact that much of the behavior typical of people with sexual addiction is socially taboo makes it easy for others to suspect that the disorder is really a convenient excuse for people who want to redirect the blame when they have been caught engaging in such behavior. It can also, at times, be difficult to distinguish the behavior of a sexually addicted person from hypersexual people who also tend to escalate their sexual pursuits over time in order to be able to achieve the same level of gratification.
Understanding sexual addiction is not about knowing how people with this disorder behave, but rather why they behave in this way. And what sexual addiction is really about is a painful struggle with intimacy. In fact, despite its name, sexual addiction is truly an intimacy disorder.
Early Attachment Failure in Childhood
The compulsive sexual behavior that sexually addicted individuals engage in is a way to compensate for failure to form adequate bonds and attachments in childhood. For many people living with sexual addiction, early attachment failure goes back to a history of abuse—emotional, physical or sexual. Some research suggests that the percentage of sexual addiction sufferers who were abused during childhood or some other period during their past may be as high as 80% or 90%.
People with early attachment failure struggle to form strong and healthy bonds and attachments in their intimate relationships as adults. Those who develop sexual addiction act out because they are seeking to compensate for their history of dysfunctional interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, they lack the skills to form healthy connections and continue to act out in destructive patterns.
Sexual addiction involves a strong desire to form attachments in order to compensate for the lack of healthy relationships and low feelings of self-worth. This leads sexually addicted individuals to seek very frequent sexual encounters in search of validation and intimacy. As a result, people with sexual addiction will often have few or sometimes no serious relationships. And those who do develop serious relationships will typically cheat on their partners, usually multiple times.
Seeking Intimacy Through Sex
People with sex addiction seek intimacy through sex, but while sex can be an important part of romantic intimacy, it is not the same thing. People with sex addiction may find it easy to create sexual encounters, but they are not comfortable or capable when it comes to sharing the intimate parts of themselves that are necessary for establishing true emotional intimacy with another person.
People who struggle to create intimacy are often fearful of sharing too much of themselves, and for those with sexual addiction that fear is increased as the number of things that they are ashamed to reveal about themselves increases. They tend to be secretive and evasive, and often detach themselves emotionally even from the sexual encounters that they crave—remaining focused on their internal fantasies rather than what is happening in real life.
Eventually, people with sexual addiction will lie more and more frequently in their efforts to keep the truth about their sexual activities hidden from their partners, family, friends or even coworkers. Their unwillingness to share the more private aspects of themselves frequently inspires their early lies, but eventually shame leads to many more lies as their compulsive sexual activities snowball.
Fortunately, sexual addiction treatment can help these individuals to overcome their intimacy issues, which will eventually allow them to form solid and healthy attachments and to engage in healthy sexual activity.
Recent findings from a British research team indicate that shame has a small but considerable effect on women with sex addiction, even after accounting for the impact of religious beliefs and sexual orientation.
Love addiction is a complicated psychological condition that comes in many forms. If you think you may be a love addict, understanding love addiction and all its types is an important way to move forward. Knowledge is power, and when you realize that you are making choices that are leading you away from a healthy relationship, you can start to make positive changes. If you find it difficult to change, despite what you now know, love addiction therapy can help you.
Understanding love addiction is important for anyone who hopes to overcome it. This type of addiction comes in a lot of different forms, including relationship addiction. This means being addicted to being in a relationship with someone. It could be someone you are currently with or simply the idea of finding that person and getting what you consider to be the ideal relationship. If you’re wondering if some of your issues stem from a relationship addiction, here are some signs that you might be right:
Does it seem like the same thing keeps happening to you in all your relationships? Does your heart get repeatedly broken? When you are a love addict, your relationship is almost always the most important thing in your life. When it’s good, it feels really good. But frequently your relationships are unfulfilling, disappointing and maybe even painful.
If you could have one thing in the world, it would probably be a satisfying, loving relationship. You would like to bond with another human being on a deep level, to be completely loved, understood and connected. You would like to be able to trust one special person and count on him or her to be there for you when it’s important.
An escalation from “regular” sex to more extreme sexual activities is a well-recognized symptom of sex addiction. People with this addiction need to keep pushing the boundaries of sexual behavior in order to achieve the same level of excitement and satisfaction that they used to achieve without those activities. However, this does not mean that everyone who engages in sexual activities that most people consider extreme is suffering from sex addiction.