Love addiction is when being in love means being in pain, and you are repeatedly drawn to unhappy destructive relationships with men. The concept first originated in the 1970's with psychologist Stanton Peele's book Love and Addiction. It was the first time that this method of relating was likened to an addiction, which could have serious consequences to a persons happiness. The concept quickly spread in popularity with many people identifying with being a love addict. This lead to the formation of a worldwide support group; Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (S.L.A.A) in 1976. There is also now a specific Love Addicts Anonymous support group as the challenges related to sex addiction are quite different.
How the condition specifically effects women is explored in a book by Robin Norwood; Women Who Love Too Much. I would highly recommend this book as being instrumental to understanding the condition and beginning recovery:
"When we excuse his moodiness, bad temper, indifference or put-downs as problems due to an unhappy childhood and we try to become his therapist, we are loving too much.
We will see that loving turns into loving too much when our partner is inappropriate, uncaring, or unavailable and yet we cannot give him up-in fact we want him, we need him even more. We will come to understand how our wanting to love, our yearning for love, our loving itself becomes an addiction.
It means in truth, obsessing about a man and calling that obession love, allowing it to control your emotions and much of your behaviour, realizing that it negatively influences your health and well-being, and yet finding yourself unable to let go.
If you have ever found yourself obsessed with a man, you may have suspected that the root of that obsession was not love but fear. We who love obsessively, are full of fear-fear of being alone, fear of being unloveable and unworthy, fear of being ignored or abandoned or destroyed."
Causes of Love Addiction
Love addiction is a result of growing up in an emotionally dysfunctional family, where emotional needs were not met. This could be due to parents who worked often, authoritarian parents, emotionally immature parents, parents with addictions, parents who fought often to name a few examples. Most often your feelings and perceptions got denied or mostly ignored. When a family has the inability to discuss root problems, dysfunctional copying mechanisms are developed. Full range of feelings, emotional needs, wants and experiences were not encouraged in childhood. Rather, non-discussion is practised, which leads to a child learning to deny their own reality, perceptions and feelings so that they are cut off from their own emotions.
Healthy emotional tools for relating do not develop and a woman becomes unable to determine if situations or people are good for her. If you do not trust your own feelings then you will be unable to use your feelings to guide you away from unhealthy situations. Even though we may not know it, we are often seeking to recreate childhood dysfunctional situations, as this is what love is to us. Your childhood was spent seeking or hoping that your caregivers would change and become warm, loving, and able to meet your emotional needs. Therefore you seek an emotionally unavailable man, whom you repeat the pattern of trying to change. You will often have a need for superiority and suffering in a 'saviour' type role similar to childhood, where you may have had to take on a comforting type role to one of your caregivers. Therefore you will be attracted to men you can help or 'rescue'.
Symptoms of Love Addiction
There are different types of love addiction which I will discuss in part 2 of the article. Therefore you do not need to identify with each symptom on the list, as it may be related to a different type of love addiction to the one you most relate to.
Neediness when it comes to relationships.
Falling in love easily and too quickly.
When falling in love, unable to stop fantasizing—even for important things.
Lowering standards and settling for less than you want or deserve in a relationship. Self-esteem is very low and deep down you believe that you do not deserve to be happy rather you must earn the right to enjoy life.
Repeatably getting involved with someone who is unable to commit—hoping he or she will change.
Unable to let go of someone once you have bonded to them.
Ignoring warning signs or red flags that a person is not good for you. Often getting into a relationship to avoid loneliness.
Not attracted to kind, stable reliable men that are interested equally in you. You find them boring.
Strong need to control your men and relationships due to having received little security during childhood.
Initial attraction is more important to you than anything else when it comes to falling in love and choosing a partner. Falling in love over time does not appeal to you and is not an option.
When in love, trusting a person who has not earned your trust. Other than that you have a hard time trusting people.
When a relationship ends, you feel your life is over and in the extreme suicidal thoughts due to a failed relationship.
Willing to take more than your share of the responsibility for the survival of the relationship
In some of your relationships you were the only one in love.
Overwhelmed with loneliness when you are not in love or in a relationship. Feeling inadequate when not in a relationship.
Fear of never finding someone to love.
Unable to say no when you are in love or if your partner threatens to leave you.
Trying to be who your partner wants you to be. You will do anything to please him or her—even abandon yourself and sacrifice what you want, need and value.
Seeing your partner through rose-tinted glasses. You are more in touch with your dream of how it could be than with the reality of the situation.
High tolerance for suffering in relationships. You are willing to suffer neglect, depression, loneliness, dishonesty—even abuse—to avoid the pain of separation anxiety.
Need for initial romantic high. You have had more than one romantic interest at a time even when it involved dishonesty.
Fantasies about someone you love, even if he or she is unavailable, are more important to you than meeting someone who is available.
Fear of being abandoned. Even the slightest rejection feels like abandonment and it makes you feel horrible.
Chasing after people who have rejected you and trying desperately to change their minds.
Overly possessive and jealous when in love.
More than once, you have neglected family or friends because of your relationship.
Overwhelming need to check up on someone you are in love with. Constantly checking their social media.
Pursuing someone you are in love with even if he or she is with another person.
Even when not in a relationship, you fantasize about love all the time— either someone you once loved or the perfect person who is going to come into your life someday.
Feeling powerless when you fall in love—as if you are in some kind of trance or under a spell. You lose your ability to make wise choices.
Read the conclusion article part 2 - Love Addict types and recovery.