We welcome the return of our guest blogger, Robert Weiss, the Founding Director of The Sexual Recovery Institute and Director of Sexual Disorders Services at The Ranch Treatment Center and Promises Treatment Centers.
Recovering love addicts who have worked on themselves in therapy and 12-step programs like Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) can relate to the idea of having used a well-rehearsed repertoire of manipulation to find and hold on to sexual and romantic partners.
Jose, a 32-year-old IT administrator put it this way –
I was always hunting in one form or another to find the special attention and sense of importance that only the right girl might make me feel if I could get with her. I figured I could make it happen with someone if I just wore, said or did the right thing or was good enough in bed, etc. In recovery it was necessary for me to recognize all the manipulative strategies I used to employ to attract and seduce women. As I slowly began to cast these aside, with the support of 12 step members, friends and therapy I actually began to learn my own value and real human worth, which over time has helped to remove the powerful and empty fantasy life that I lived in for so long.
Unlike the kind of partnership and dependency that many of us seek to compliment our lives, the love and romance addict searches for someone outside of himself to provide the emotional stability he or she lacks within. Working hard to catch someone who can to fix them, rather than learning about and growing beyond their own emptiness, they can become fixated on troubled or emotionally unavailable partners, often providing others with the very love and security they themselves most desire. Ultimately as the love addict’s own emotional needs remain unmet, they may himself act out through verbal or physical abuse of a current partner or though excessive spending, sex addiction, affairs or drugs, experiences that will ultimately reinforce their underlying sense of shame, self hatred and loneliness.
For those seeking a long-term a relationship, healthy romantic intensity is the catalyst that brings about the bonding necessary to sustain love and attachment. The beginning stages of a potential love relationship are the most exhilarating because that emotional state helps us bond and attach. This is when how HE looks, walks, talks, eats and thinks is the subject of endless fantasy, excitement and late night phone calls.
Romance itself, with or without sex, does encourage personal growth when we are open to learning. Then each new relationship can offer insight and self-awareness. Most people easily relate to that “rush” of first love and romance; the stuff of endless songs, greeting cards and fantasy. More than romantic intensity or great sex, true long-term intimacy is an experience of being known and accepted by someone over time. Loving relationships develop in part as those first exhilarating times together form a foundation of a deeper, long-term closeness. It is that deeper closeness which ultimately feeds our hearts and keeps us content; long after the rush of new romance has passed.
Love and Romantic addiction are not defined by gender or sexual orientation. The men and women who suffer from these challenges do however have underlying attachment, trauma and/or personality based issues that will require a period of healing to work beyond. It is strongly recommended that love and romance addicts both attend 12-step sex and love addiction meetings and therapy with a specialist trained in behavioral addictions. Hope and change are highly possible – but first the addict has to fully withdraw for some time from the active dating/sex/love game, while being guided by others toward self-reflection, grieving and improving social (non-romantic, non-sexual) peer relationships.
15 most common signs of love or romantic addiction:
1. Frequently mistaking intense sexual experiences or romantic infatuation for love
2. Constantly searching for romance and love
3. Using sex as a means to find or hold onto love
4. Falling in love with people met superficially or solely online
5. Problems maintaining intimate relationships once the initial newness and excitement has worn off
6. Consistent unhappiness, desire to hook-up or anxiety when alone
7. Consistently choosing abusive or emotionally unavailable partners
8. Giving emotionally, financially or otherwise to partners who require a great deal of care-taking but do not or can not reciprocate what they are given
9. When in a long-term relationship most often feeling detached, judgmental or unhappy, when out of a relationship, feeling desperate and alone
10. Making decisions about what to wear, how to look, what to say etc., based on how others might perceive you, rather than on self-awareness, comfort and creativity.
11. Using sex, money, seduction, drama or other schemes to “hook” or hold onto a partner
12. Missing out on important family, career, recreational or social experiences in order to find, create or maintain a romantic relationship
13. Giving up – by avoiding sex or relationships for long periods of time to “solve the problem”
14. Being unable to leave unhealthy or abusive relationships despite repeated promises to self or others
15. Returning to previously unmanageable or painful relationships despite promises to self or others not to do so