A love addict knows they do not want an emotionally unavailable partner, and the love avoidant knows they want an emotionally distant mate. Yet, the love addict and love avoidant still end up being attracted to each other.
The love addict, having experienced childhood emotional and/or physical abandonment, will look for someone who can “rescue” them. The love avoidant, having experienced childhood enmeshment, will look for a person to “rescue.”
Love avoidants recognize and are attracted to the love addict’s strong need to be rescued, or their fear of being abandoned. Avoidants know that they have control with a love addict. All they have to do to trigger their partner’s abandonment fear by being distant or threatening to leave. Love avoidants, whenever they pull that ‘I am leaving’ trigger, use it so they are in control. This allows them to be distant, to escape and avoid intimacy whenever they want. The avoidant’s behavior makes the love addict do anything to keep the avoidant, anything at any cost in order not to be abandoned. This interplay is what we refer to as “the dance.”
What does the love addict/love avoidant dance look like?
The love addict enters any relationship in a haze of fantasy, whereas the love avoidant feels compelled to take care of a person who presents as “needy,” even though the avoidant is unsure of their long-term staying potential in the relationship. The dance of the love addict and love avoidant goes something like this:
Love Addict: “I am SOOOOO happy…I met this man and he’s everything I’ve always wanted…he has a fantastic job, loves travelling and loves children. We’re trying to see each other every day and I text him every morning, we talk at least 20 times a day… ”
Avoidant: “I met this girl, I’m not too sure about her, but she’s nice, I mean…I may as well give it a try…”
The love addict uses denial to protect their addictive rituals and fantasies, not wanting to look at the avoidant building up walls and starting to back away. The love avoidant, in order not to be controlled and to fulfil his or her duty, appears to be two things: being available to help, maybe even being sexually available, but hiding behind a wall that protects the avoidant from any emotional connection.
Love Addict: “It’s great, I mean, he works a lot – weekends included – and with his volunteer commitments, we don’t spend a lot of time together but that’s okay….Guess what? He’s invited me for a get-away weekend at the beach!
Avoidant: “OK…I’d better give her something or she’s really going to get mad….I’m going to send her flowers and maybe book a hotel room at the beach….”
Something happens and reality comes crashing in on the love addict, the fantasy of a relationship with the perfect person is destroyed. The love addict enters emotional withdrawal from the fantasy and in this withdrawal phase they experience an overwhelming sense of pain, shame, rage or panic. At the same time, the love avoidant starts to feel controlled or smothered. An entitlement characteristic comes forth and the avoidant says they deserve their independence, their life, they have work or family responsibilities, etc. The avoidant turns from the white knight into a wall of brick.
Love Addict: “You’ll never believe it…first he said he’d phone me and then he didn’t. At the last minute, he cancelled the weekend at the beach because he needed to work… I don’t know how I can get through this: I feel rejected, abandoned, alone.
Avoidant: “I can’t believe she’s so angry about me cancelling the trip… I have to work. Where does she think the money comes from for the gifts, the dinners, the flowers? I’m through with her, I am done, this relationship is too much work….”
To return to the fantasy, and avoid feeling this sense of helplessness and hopelessness, the love addict either medicates, obsesses about the person or starts getting even. The love avoidant begins to feel hurt, and remembers that this is why he choose not to get close in a relationship, they create distance, and wants to numb out. The avoidant will numb out by creating an intensity outside of the relationship, often with substances, risk taking, or by sexually acting out.
Love Addict: “I’m useless and I will die alone as a bag lady, and homeless. No one wants me. How am I going to live on my own? Maybe if I change, if I go on a diet, say I am sorry…”
Avoidant: “I can’t breathe anymore… She is always telling me what she needs, wants… Gee, I need some space…I need to relax… I’ll just have this one drink (or joint, affair, etc.).”
The final part of the dance is for the love addict to return to the fantasy with the same love avoidant partner or find a new love interest…and for the love avoidant they will either return to the relationship with the love addict because they subconsciously fear being alone, and return out of guilt, or they will move on to a new partner.
Love Addict: “He called me, it’s fantastic! I think he is going to ask me to marry him!” or “You won’t believe it, I met a new guy, he just split up with someone…”
Avoidant: “If I ask her to marry me, she’ll forgive me for my affair…” or “I can’t handle her anymore…so I met this girl last night…”
What if you identify with the love addict or the love avoidant ?
The love addict has a conscious fear of being abandoned and a subconscious fear of being controlled. In contrast, the love avoidant has a conscious fear of being controlled and a subconscious fear of being abandoned. They are two sides of the same coin. Both have experienced childhood trauma, both need to learn about how to face their fears, and their abandonment traumas. Both need to embrace a desire to achieve healthy intimacy with their partner.
If you find yourself enmeshed in this ‘Dance”, consider speaking to a professional. The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health has certified therapists in your area that may be able to help.