For many of us, Valentine’s Day is a day of pain, sadness, hurt and anxiety. Watching couples display affection and exchange gifts can trigger us, impact our self-worth, make us feel more alone or like there is something wrong with us. This is especially common for those of us who have love addiction or love avoidance. It’s completely normal to experience a flurry of emotions, which is also why it’s important to take time for self-care and seek support if needed.
What is love addiction and avoidance?
As defined by sex and love addicts anonymous (SLAA), Love Addiction is an obsession, broadly defined as “an unhealthy fixation on another person with whom we may or may not have a relationship or even have met.” You may experience:
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- A fear of abandonment or being alone
- Difficulty with internal and external boundaries
- Confusing love with neediness
- Patterns of staying in, and returning to, painful or unhealthy relationships
- Emotional or sexual manipulation and dependency
- Romantic or sexual intrigue, obsession and fantasies
- Assigning somewhat magical qualities to others in hopes of them fulfilling our fantasies
Love Avoidance can lead to you avoiding intimacy out of fear of being drained, engulfed or controlled. You might put up walls to prevent you feeling overwhelmed, trapped or suffocated by a relationship. Many people who are love avoidant, recognise characteristics of Love Addiction in their partner, or past partners. You might also:
- Feel compelled to care for needy or troubled people, seeing yourself as ‘wonder woman’ or a ‘white knight’
- Avoid being emotionally vulnerable or fully honest in relationships
- Be overly critical of your partner, viewing them as weak or resenting them for being needy
- Communicate in either a passive-aggressive or overtly aggressive ways
- Return to relationships out of guilt or fear of abandonment, or try to find a replacement for relationships once they end
Understanding love addiction or avoidance and seeking help
People experiencing patterns of love addiction or avoidance can often find themselves drawn to those displaying the opposite pattern, leading to complex, toxic or dysfunctional relationships of codependency, says Helen O’Connor, Primary Therapist at South Pacific Private.
“There’s shame surrounding love addiction and avoidance, but most people who have love addiction or avoidance have experienced developmental trauma,” she says. “This shapes our sense of self worth and sets our relational patterns in motion. However, it’s not a life sentence,” she adds. “With the tools, skills and support, you can build a healthy relationship with a lover. It’s important to respect the relationship and avoid bringing in issues from your past or former relationships into your current one. If you’re struggling, pause, take a deep breath and reach out for support.”
At South Pacific Private, we specialise in understanding the dynamics of codependence and the complex relationships clients may have with past emotional trauma that is still unresolved. We’re committed to equipping clients with the tools and strategies they need to break out of dysfunctional relationship dynamics and maintain rewarding, healthy relationships into the future.
If you’re concerned you may have a problem with love addiction or avoidance, please call our team on 1800 063 332.