Can you be addicted to love?
While it may sound like the main ingredient of a cheesy love song, the reality is that Love Addiction and Love Avoidance are two emotionally painful conditions, that often go unrecognised and untreated. The result? Dysfunctional relationship cycles that become near impossible to break, without the right support systems in place.
In our latest Q&A, South Pacific Private’s Addiction and Trauma specialist, Diane Young explains why.
What exactly is Love Addiction and Love Avoidance?
These are painful, compulsive behaviours that can lead us into a push, pull dynamic between two people, the Love Addict and the Love Avoidant. The Love Addict will typically pursue a partner, in an obsessive compulsive fashion, experiencing little self-control. They might create a fantasy about who the other person is, or the potential of who they could become. On the other hand, the Love Avoidant may feel constantly suffocated or trapped by the Love Addict’s behaviour and feel a need to escape. Pia Mellody, an internationally recognised authority on codependence and addiction, describes this as a tango of positive and negative energy, “the interaction between the two of them creates the co-addicted relationship experience, an intense, chaotic, jostling encounter”.
Why are these conditions so important to address?
Put simply, these conditions are both addictions. Those who are Love Addicted or Love Avoidant have likely never experienced a healthy relationship, nor seen one modelled during their critical childhood years. Both conditions are emotionally toxic and unsustainable, and often co-exist with other mental health conditions or addictions. It’s important to recognise these cycles, as they are as harmful as any other kind of addiction. Without recognition of being Love Addicted or Avoidant, it’s impossible to experience any kind of deep connection or intimacy with another person.
What impact can Love Addiction and Love Avoidance have on our mental health?
More often than not, these conditions are triggered by childhood trauma and by what was modelled to us by our parents. The danger of the Love Addict and Love Avoidant co-existing, is that both parties continue to come and go, and to push and pull, no matter how the other person is treated. Mellody says that whilst this kind of addictive process may be common, it’s not healthy. Toxic relationships like this take an obvious toll on our mental health, and will likely have a lot of depression and anxiety triggering effects, as these patterns fuel further destructive behaviour, and the cycle continues.
What are some signs that you may be Love Addicted or Love Avoidant?
The Love Addict will feel like they are in constant pain, and feel continually let down by the Love Avoidant. For the Love Addict, it doesn’t matter what the other person does, it won’t be enough. The Love Avoidant will feel like they are being engulfed by the Love Addict, and will create intensity outside the relationship as an escape mechanism, such as creating a need to work additional hours, a need to attend to family member (who may not need help), or even by having an affair. However, when the Love Addict has had enough and leaves, this is when the Love Avoidant will finally pay them attention and beg them to stay. It’s an unhealthy cycle that can be difficult to break free of.
How can we begin to seek help and recover from Love Addiction and Love Avoidance?
Living with the emotional pain of Love Addiction and Love Avoidance is simply not sustainable. The first step towards recovery, is accepting that we have a problem, and that we don’t have an answer. Those who are Love Addicts or Love Avoidant must realise that their behaviour comes from a deep sense of co-dependency and the role we played in our family of origin. It’s important to know that recovery is possible, but it requires facing the way we’ve managed our past relationships, however misguided or faulty, as well as owning up to not being authentic. In our Love Addiction Love Avoidance workshops, we help you go back and reclaim that small part of yourself. We allow you to notice that a relationship may not be supporting you and provide you with the tools to become the best version of yourself.
Diane Young is a Senior Therapist at South Pacific Private who specialises in Addiction and Trauma. If you or someone you know is experiencing Love Addiction or Love Avoidant, our intake team can provide a free, confidential assessment over the phone by calling 1800 063 332.