Relationship addiction is otherwise known as love addiction. The same behaviour that we see in substance abuse addicts or alcoholics is evident in the behaviour of love addicts.
These behaviours are focused on obtaining the hearts desire – not necessarily love and affection but the emotional high that is obtained in the early stages of a romance, and are totally compulsive in nature. We see a continual preoccupation and obsession with the fantasy of a new relationship. Control over usually restrained behaviours begins to slip away and as a result negative consequences begin to emerge.
Much like other addictions the obsession engages the love addict for much longer and more intensely that meant to. Cutting down on the obsessive behaviour is not possible and the behaviours take up a lot of time and at the cost of home and work. Love addicts continue to engage in their behaviours despite the problems that it causes in relationships with others and takes the place of engaging with other important work, social or recreational activities. It can even lead to the love addict being put in danger and lead to physical and mental problems such as depression or anxiety. The high of engaging in a romantic fantasy or relationship becomes ever more difficult to reach (tolerance). Even feelings of cravings or withdrawals can become apparent when not engaging in the problem behaviours.
Whilst the rush of new love and emotional and physical attachment is a healthy and normal facet of human behaviour – when it is repeatedly sought after to achieve the ‘high’ or to avoid emotional discomfort it can become a serious problem.
So what does this behaviour look like?
Adam is not able to sustain an intimate relationship. He fixates on one particular person and obsessively attempts to engage in a relationship with that person. He uses multiple methods to achieve his goal, choosing his work place and social activities to ensure contact. He obsessively abuses social media in order to track the person’s family and social life. He has twice been caught hacking into other peoples social media accounts and has an outstanding restraint court order for invading privacy. He engages in fantasy about the potential relationship and becomes highly anxious and depressed when he does not make headway. No sooner than he obtains some sort of response from the person involved – whether positive or negative he quickly switches his attention elsewhere. And so the cycle continues.
Carla is an attractive woman and finds it easy to enter into relationships. She flings herself into the partnership mistaking the intensity and intimacy of a new sexual relationship for long lasting love and starts planning her future accordingly. Her every moment is filled with obsessive and controlling thoughts and feelings about her new partner. Her sense of self and self worth quickly becomes tied up with the other person. She gives up all her other activities, friends and social life to focus on ‘the one’. More often than not the new partner quickly draws away fearing the intensity of Carla’s behaviour leaving Carla devastated as yet another relationship fails. On the rebound she places herself in dangerous situations just to be able to hook up with someone new. Her friends make her promise to stay single for a while but she can never stick to her good intentions.
Like all addictions it is usually easy to identify the vulnerability of the addict towards these behaviours. Inadequate attachment and nurturing as a child, poor sense of self and low self esteem, poor role models, trauma and societal conditioning all contribute towards an unconscious drive to seek out the love ‘high’.
If you or a loved one find themselves caught up in a pattern of addictive behaviour in love and sex relationships help is at hand.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27(21) 7617348.