Why are Love Addicts and Love Avoidants, or Love Ambivalents attracted to each other?

The last person a love addict should be attracted to is a love avoidant or love ambivalent. But all love addicts are attracted to love avoidants or love ambivalents. Why? In order to answer this we have to go back and look at the relationships these addicts experienced with their primary caregivers.

Childhood experiences

The love addict has had a relationship with their primary caregiver that proved to them they can be abandoned at any time. That is a familiar fear, holding-hands1prompting love addicts to try harder to get the attention and love of their partners. Love avoidants have experienced a highly dependent caregiver. One who smothers the avoidant, requiring the attention that was difficult for an immature child to bring forth. As a result, the avoidant sees relationships as work. Love ambivalents have experienced both a smothering caregiver and an abandoning caregiver. For example, a father who left the family, resulting in a mother who uses the child as a surrogate spouse to take care of her emotional needs.

Even though each of these addicts dislike the role they were given in childhood, it is a familiar role, and they feel comfortable in it. A role that when engaged in adulthood, feels like the same type of love that they had as a child for their caregiver. Because they were so young when experiencing these feelings, the child knew they had to love their caregiver, with the child thinking these feelings of being smothered or abandoned equaled a type of love.

So a love addict, avoidant or ambivalent is attracted to the unconscious display of these traits from a new adult coming into their lives. After a few weeks, or months, these behaviors start to spark the feelings inside that the love addict, avoidant or ambivalent recalls, albeit unconsciously, from their youth. Their old frustrations with their caregiver are placed onto the new adult relationship. These feelings are akin to love for the love addict, avoidant or ambivalent, but actually just recreate the relationship they had with their parent or caregivers.

The love addict, avoidant or ambivalent wants to heal these old childhood wounds and fix what wasn’t right with their first “love” (their parent or caregivers). In doing everything in their power to do this, they believe there is a possibility of fulfilling the childhood fantasy of having the perfect mate (cue the Cinderella or the Shrek DVD). Avoidants are programed to rescue, so when they see a damsel in distress, they move very powerfully, even seductively, to take up that challenge. I say seductively, because the avoidant wants unconsciously to rescue, and to be in control of the relationship. If they control, they cannot be controlled, as they were in their formative years. However, there is always a rear-exit door left open. Ambivalents were chastised for showing too much emotion in their youth, so in adulthood, they commit to being detached in emotional settings.

What can these addicts do to change?

As an adult, the love addict, avoidant or ambivalent may be able to realize these are not healthy behaviors and re-think these acts. Perhaps the love addict, avoidant or ambivalent has learned from the consequences of past, broken relationships. As adults, these addicts may be able to realize these are not healthy feelings and identify their actions, like acknowledging when the love addict grasps for more attention, it is in order to not be abandoned. Recognizing that when the avoidant flees from intimate relationships, they are reverting to childlike behaviors. And being aware of when the ambivalent starts feeling undecided about a lover does nothing for the relationship.

These individuals want desperately to have a healthy, long-term relationship, so perhaps trying some new behaviors can be possible. I suggest taking more time in courting. Spend more non-sexual time with the prospective partner. Learn how to speak more about their feelings of fear and work out some common responses to the feelings of flight, fight or freeze. Every new relationship brings a new set of “situations” to resolve. Being more open to dating people who do not send the charge of electricity or chemistry through the addict’s body is another suggestion. These addictive feelings, thoughts and/or behaviors are not present in a healthy, non-addict adult. These healthy adults are often passed over by the addict, because they see them as boring, or the addict acknowledges the “chemistry” was not strong enough to capture their interests. I suggest giving these healthy adults another chance, another date or another month, or two, to develop the relationship further. The addict may be surprised in the result. Above all else, avoid sexual contact as long as possible during this courtship phase. I suggest embracing a healthy dating plan (Google it!) that includes a minimum of three months of non-sexual dating.

A very intimate discussion is a conversation on why saying the word love is difficult or challenging, or perhaps too easy (as in the case of the love addict). Another intimacy exercise is the game of ‘In to me, I see’, which one person closes their eyes and says ‘When I look into myself, I see…’ and then explains what they see. This isn’t an after dinner game for a party, but is an interchange between two lovers, using a simple statement that will spark a similar response with the other.

How does a healthy person think about love?

A healthy person doesn’t compulsively fantasize about a white knight rescuing them or a beautiful girl on their arm making them a better person. Each of us have the potential within to feel whole and fulfilled. We are the ones who develop our own competence, our own self-esteem. We use self-love, self-nurturing, self-protection, self-awareness and self-care to build these strengths.

Each of us finds the meaning of life for ourselves. The only part a partner can help with is sharing their search for the discovery of the meaning of their lives. Ultimately, no one can make us do anything. If they do, we will reject them. Don’t even go down that path. Allow your partner to do what he or she needs to do for themselves, and stop yourself when you feel you are falling back into old, addictive behaviors.

A healthy relationship is not based on need, fear, compulsion or obsession. It does not thrive on that electrical bolt of energy or chemical reaction. It is like a little seed, in the fresh, spring earth, that needs nurturing to grow. Not too much water, not too firm earth. Get the picture?

Healthy people love themselves. Shed the fear of ego or dread of being viewed negatively. Speak to your therapist about these fears. Allow yourself to grow emotionally and spiritually. It may take a few relationships to allow this self-nurturing and growth to happen, it’s not an overnight thing. During your development as a healthy person, someone will walk into your life, and both of you will experience a blossoming of growth, just like that little seed.

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3 Responses to Why are Love Addicts and Love Avoidants, or Love Ambivalents attracted to each other?

  1. Darren says:

    I liked this article quite a bit. As a codependent and love addict, I have frequently been entangled with love avoidants (and perhaps love ambivalents, a type I had not seen before). The information in this piece is helpful and enlightening. It gives me hope for a healthier future. I want to learn more. Thanks!

    • Melissa Killeen says:

      Yes, love ambivalents was a new term for me too…that’s why I introduced the term in this blog. Men rarely identify as codependents or love addicts, that you for being so enlightened.

    • Melissa Killeen says:

      I suggest you read Pia Mellody’s book “Facing Love Addiction” and Melody Beattie’s book “The New Codependents”

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