Hollywood has a lot to answer for. Think of all those boy-meets-girl movies when they fall for each other in the first scene, hook up straight away – and then it’s happy ever after. But life’s not usually like that and sometimes things get messy in the love stakes.
Love or relationship addiction is a real thing and sometimes it gets so bad we need help. No-one ever taught us how to navigate a relationship, right? And if we come from dysfunctional families (as most of us do) we need to learn how to go about this tricky business.
Falling in love/lust/whatever floods the brain with neuro chemicals that make us feel really good. It’s no wonder some people can’t get enough of this feeling.
If you’ve had a series of intense relationships that become the focus of your life, you’ll know that it’s difficult to focus on anything else when you’re in the relationship.
If you think you might be addicted to love and relationships, here are a few questions you might find helpful to ask yourself:
- Do you crave having someone to love?
- Do you feel sad when you’re not in a relationship?
- Do you spend a lot of time thinking about romance or sex?
- Are you very needy when it comes to relationships?
- Do you fall in love and get into relationships quickly?
- Do you feel anxious when your partner isn’t around or doesn’t respond quickly to texts or phonecalls?
- Do you use manipulation to get a partner, or keep one?
- Have you gotten into relationship more than once with someone who isn’t able to commit?
- Do you find you stay in relationships past their use-by date?
- Do you do things against your will because you’re scared the relationship will end?
- Have you lost focus on your job or other relationships in order to maintain a romantic relationship?
- Do you give up hobbies or other interests to please your partner?
- Are you the only one in love in the relationship?
- Have you gotten into a relationship for the wrong reason because you were lonely?
- Do you feel ‘less than’ when you’re not in a relationship?
- Do you try to be what you think your partner wants you to be?
- Do you believe that if a person got to know you, they wouldn’t like you?
- Have you stayed in an abusive relationship?
- Do you pursue someone even though they are in another relationship?
Love Addiction Is Also Known as Co or pro-dependence
One definition of co-dependency is ‘excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of their illness or addiction’.
The co-dependent person often puts another’s needs ahead of their own and becomes so focussed on their partner that they stop caring for themselves and can get sick as well.
Codependency usually gets started in childhood. Often, a child grows up in a home where their emotions are ignored or punished. This emotional neglect can give the child low self-esteem and shame. The home may also be affected by addiction, usually a parent or both parents whose addiction will disrupt the healthy development of the child or children.
One of the leading authors on the subject of codependence and love/relationship addiction is Melody Beattie whose book Codependent No More is full of good information on the subject. Her definition of a codependent person is one who has let another person’s behaviour affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behaviour.
Other codependent behaviours may include:
- Always being attracted to people with addiction and who are emotionally unavailable
- Feeling as if you must be in a relationship with anyone for your life to be worthwhile
- Trying to control others’ behaviours, especially loved ones
- Not being able to end a relationship that you know it’s not good for you
- People-pleasing at your own expense
- Forgetting to take care of yourself because you’re so focussed on helping others
- Practising these behaviours over and over and not being able to stop
Children whose parents were emotionally unavailable run the risk of being codependent themselves. As adults, we often find ourselves in relationships in which our partner is emotional unavailable – we’re attracted to what we know. And that’s where the trouble often lies because we stay in the unhealthy relationship, wishing to change our partner. We hold out with the hope that, against all the odds, one day things will be OK.
Deep down we hope that our partner will see all the good in us and want to change and that if we just hold out and try harder, give all our love and understanding and support, we will finally get the love and affection that we crave.
This thinking is damaging to us and our relationships. It’s particularly destructive if our partner is abusive – either emotionally or physically – or both. It gets dangerous when we don’t understand the reality of the situation and carry on living in a loveless relationship because we don’t in fact know what that looks like.
Codependent people often don’t believe they are worthy of love and they settle for less, finding themselves putting up with emotional, physical and even sexual abuse from their partner. Codependents will often look for external things to feel better – alcohol and other drugs or behaviours that are not healthy. They start relationships that are unhealthy, wanting to ‘fix’ the other person who is often in active addiction themselves and therefore emotionally unavailable.
Good reading on the subject of codependence and recovery from it can be found at:
Or Dr Rob Weiss’s excellent book: