“Seeing her in the afternoon was like being in heaven,
it took away all of my worries”“This is the only woman who has ever understood me.”
“She is the woman I have dreamed of being with my whole life.”
“She will fix me.”
You are a guy—can you be a love addict? There are many men who have thought these thoughts. There are many men who are dedicated to their wives, yet, seek love in the arms of other women. There are other men who do, do, do for their wives and their families without ever considering their own needs. It is very hard for a man to admit he is a love addict. But there are many men in the 12-step rooms of Love Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous that recognize they have a behavioral addiction: love addiction.
People fall into love addiction because the behavior is transformative. In this case, feelings of love, romance and fantasy are a “fix” or a sedative for the negative feelings of anxiety, despair, self-doubt, rage, fear of abandonment, etc. The problem is that the fix doesn’t last. Just like any sedative, it wears off.
All healthy relationships transverse from euphoria to loving. Along that trail you receive the knowledge that your partner is a separate person with faults as well as gifts. You don’t feel rebuffed by your lover, for being you. You know she loves you, warts and all. Or does she? Love addiction is built on relationships that form heightened feelings of anxiety instead of feelings of safety and nurturing. Have you ever felt your relationship has moved from feelings of euphoria to feelings of doubt, depression or anxiety in a nanosecond? A love addict will often think “I love you, but, please stop hurting me.” I say think, because very often these thoughts are stuffed down and never verbalized after the first or second comments were met with a disdainful response. The love addict will deny reality, search for a flicker of the early magic, and tolerate anything in order to obtain a sense of security from their partner. But that sense of security rarely is obtained.
The love addict’s dependency on another person is characterized as maintaining the connection, approval or fantasized attachment to the other person. Occasionally, the term fantasy addict is heard in the “S” rooms. How often has a love addict, hurt and emotionally abused by their wife or girlfriend, retreated into the computer fantasy world of porn to seek what they are really looking for in their relationship? The love addict can live in the non-reality or fantasy that their lives are working, because they have the outward trappings of success (the house, clothes, cars, kids doing well). The denial of reality for the love addict is based on their fear of being abandoned, so the love addict makes up in his head that his miserable, love-less life is a small sacrifice as compared to him being alone.
One of the greatest losses a male love addict experiences is his loss of self. The constant acting out in an unhealthy relationship results in an increasingly devalued view of self by the love addict, and an increasing idealized version of his love interest. There is an increased need to depend on the wife, partner, boss or friend as the stakes get higher. It is, at times, as if reality has become obscured. A businessman complains:
“I think she is trying to trick me to slip up, so she can leave me.”
“I will lie to avoid conflict.”
“I can last a year on just one compliment.”
The ability to trust is absent in addictive relationships. The pattern of these relationships involves more and more dependence, less and less fulfillment and many negative consequences that can border on abuse. The cost of being a love addict can affect any part of a man’s life, all of his relationships, family as well as in his career.
If a love addict actually loses his “fix,” he suffers not only psychological devastation; but a physical feeling of withdrawal which could include sleeplessness, eating difficulties, disorientation, sweating, cramps, anxiety, and nausea.
Can I recover?
It is often from these intense feelings of withdrawal that recovery begins. It begins with the end of denial and the recognition that these feelings could be an addiction. Withdrawal involves the wish to change, even when that wish comes from loss and pain. Recovery is not about finding another person or reclaiming your former lover, but about reclaiming yourself. Recovery from love addiction most often necessitates seeking professional help to regulate your feelings, grow your acceptance of self, improve your self-esteem, heal your past wounds, to look at your dependency issues and to forgive yourself.
You might want to consider attending a 12-step mutual support group such as:
To find a professional with counseling experience in love addiction go to The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) web site. SASH is a nonprofit organization dedicated to scholarship and training of professionals certified in sex and love addiction treatment.