About Love Addiction. The 4 Practical Steps to Overcome Love Addiction
It is well known that all people are born with numerous dependencies in life. Beginning at birth, in order to survive and cope we need to depend first on our parents then on various other supports, people and situations, in order to become competent in our struggle to grow. This instinctive need for support may degrade into some unhealthy patterns of addiction that are difficult to eliminate from our lifestyle and will lead to certain suffering when we grow up. It is not a problem of accepting individual responsibility to self, but rather a challenge to identify methods to get rid of our addictions/ passions and thereby find inner peace, harmony and happiness as a result of being free deep down.
Love addiction is one of the destabilizing and unhealthy forms of a person-person relationship that leads us to desperation and obsession, and it is the focus of this text to review this kind of addiction, demonstrate some ways to extinguish this behavior and the steps to help recover it.
What happens to us when we grow dependent on people, things, or situations? Let's take a closer look here and try to understand underlying details. The psychological “benefit” of this kind of addiction is similar to that of drug addiction. The first time we experiment with drugs/ alcohol we may get our first experience of "artificial" happiness as we enjoy euphoria and become relieved of stress. Step by step our body acclimates to the drug dose and becomes desensitized so that larger dose increments are necessary to achieve the same result. After a while we adjust to that larger dose, too, and any available euphoria somehow goes away, even by talking a larger dose. Since then, we need a considerably larger and always growing dose to make us feel “just alright”, our body system simply can't operate normally any more since now as the drugs become a necessary part of our metabolism and perceived well being.
The same kind of changes takes place within us when we grow psychologically addicted. Normally, and hopefully, we live a happy life full of different experiences. One day we just meet someone we believe to be "special' and we fall in love and become infatuated (so called “infantile love”) and since that moment our life is changed. At the first stage of this relationship, literally speaking, we want to jump with happiness and we live on cloud nine with happiness and joy. We feel the euphoria. We get emotionally involved, blindly, without even trying to get to know this person, their character, their inner world, values and flaws, their goals and preferences in life, their degree of socialization. We can see no flaws, no imperfections in our new partner as we bow to our counterfeit emotions. We just see our partner as perfect and we can't notice and recognize the REAL person behind our dream and we can't recognize their true real attitude towards ourselves either. Thus, the first stage of emotional transformation gets in our way - we mistake our dream for reality and we put this person on a pedestal and start worshiping him/her. Some behaviorists theorize subtle endocrine changes as contributing factors in this phase of behavior.
Eventually, slowly but steadily we begin to see something new about our partner that we didn't notice before. Infatuation gives way and our idol ceases being so perfect suddenly. Flaws and imperfections of our partner come to the surface and become so obvious that everything we had worshiped so willfully about our partner before instantly becomes unremarkable and normal. Besides, we are tired and even angry with the same things that made us happy before. Quarrels and constant conflicts often take the place of the euphoria. Often abandonment of the relationship results at this stage, only to reinforce our addiction to our -ex partner and to increase our need for the euphoria that we were used to receive at the beginning of the relationship.
Communication gets difficult as feelings ebb. Neither partner feels happy in this situation but since the relationship is based on psychological addiction and the need of the euphoria, it is typically difficult to cancel the relationship. In fact, we fall preys of our own fears, desperation and obsession. When the relationship is broken and comes to the end somehow, we feel deep bitterness, frustration, depression, desperation and pain.
We may fight for our relationship, hoping to bring our partner back - only to find that little satisfaction comes out of it as a new unhealthy cycle begins, based on previous offenses and rebukes produced by our wrong beliefs that we project on our partner, but also by our growing need for the euphoria. It is just for a short moment that we may feel that love is back, and is mutual and everything feels great, for just a moment - until all the previous offenses and insults appear again. The further removed from infatuation`s emotional reward (likened to endorphins) the deeper the addiction grows. One thing to note here - it is nearly impossible to understand and address this addiction by ourselves. To deal with it effectively requires persistence and patient effort.
Love Addiction is often mistaken for “Mature Love”. Stemming from early development dependencies, Love Addiction finds its roots in our insecurities, our need for nurturing, and is associated with “Infantile Love”- a form of narcissism required for the development of “self-appreciation” and part of the normal individuation process in our childhood years.
Love (Mature Love) is always giving, serving and sacrificing, while love addiction is based on our ego and selfishness. Our ego shows in everything we do though it is sometimes disguised.
An example: A married woman tries to please her husband by doing things for him and taking care of him and she has no “life of her own” and apart from him - leading to her becoming obsessed and needy. When her husband loses his interest, rejects her company or status in the relationship, the wife feels desperate and broken, she feels her life makes no sense any longer...A typical situation, isn't it?... You may ask what could possibly be selfish about this woman? The point is that she didn't give love for unconditional reasons; her motivation was to get paid with the same coin, from her husband, all her care is based on the hope to win his love, not for the sake of his comfort and happiness alone. This behavior (Infantile Love) is actually a passive/ aggressive behavior motivated by narcissistic needs of the female (or the male, accordingly) partner. Thus, she is doing things for her husband the way that she wants it and the way she views it and she insists on her way only, ignoring his TRUE needs and wishes. In other words, she is trying to get into his soul and find comfort in his soul as she doesn't feel comfortable in her own soul. In may be compared to the situation when we make our own home messy and then we come to the neighbors and settle down in their house and deviously dis-arrange everything there…. and we are then sincerely surprised to find out that our neighbors are not happy at all to see us visiting their home.
One partner may be aware deep down that he/ she doesn`t make the other partner happy by giving him/her all this "care" that they impose unnecessarily, but they still insist on this kind of behavior that they believe to be justified, in their own view, since it satisfies their “Infantile Love” pattern.
When we truly love someone (“Mature Love”) we will never impose our feelings on them, rather honoring their space and privacy, and when we know we are not very much welcomed, instead of taking offense we will try to win their attention by getting to know our partner, their TRUE needs and expectations, their character, inner world, life values and goals. We will find out first what makes them happy and comfortable. We won't be hurt in the situation when they reject our intrusion but we will take it as it is, with no hurt or offense. After all, ultimately, everything we want is their happiness. When we act out of love and give ourselves out of love and for the sake of love we never expect something in return as a reward. Our actions are unconditional and similar to the actions of mother who sacrifices herself for the sake of her child.
Then, when we really love our partner, unconditionally, we accept the end of the relationship, if so, quietly and we make no drama of it. After all, what we need is for our partner to be genuinely happy, even if with someone else. We let our partner go, since we realize we can't make him/her happy and we let them go despite we may feel bitter pain ourselves, since there is no love addiction, just unconditional love.
In the case of Love Addiction, we want to believe we are loved even when it is not the case in reality - but yet we make up complex patterns of emotions that we invent on behalf of our partner, we believe we are loved, and then we happily settle down on this delusion...step by step our imagination takes us far away and we begin to believe it to be our reality, a sweet invented reality that has little to do with the current real situation.
We lie to ourselves and we enjoy our own lies and delusions. We feel we are ready to do anything for our hero, for our idol on the pedestal, but we need in return something too - we need to dissolve ourselves completely in our hero, and we need to live his/her life as our own as it makes us feel the euphoria, the way that a drug addict feels when he takes a dose. In case the relationship breaks up we feel it impossible to get it over and we feel desperation and pain like a drug addict feels when he has no access to his drugs. If we have a look at the content of this relationship not at its form, we will find out that it has nothing to do with Mature love.
In order to better understand the nature of Love Addiction and to recover it we need a basic understanding of the nature of addiction in general.
As I mentioned before, we all have many different kinds of fears. Our mind seeks ways to protect our ego and suggests some wrong beliefs about reality in this search of ego protection.
We gladly perform and accept some reality we create in our mind and dwell in it. In this reality, we feel comfortable and have no fears. This reality has nothing to do with the real world. The roots of our addiction are in fact in our fear of the real world. The stronger our fears grow, the stronger our addiction to our fantasies grows.
Naturally, when we become love addicts, our fears of being abandoned grow together with our love addiction. So, the more we get addicted, the stronger our fears grow.
Thus, we create a world in our mind where we feel comfortable by making delusions about our partner and by inventing love on their behalf. We can't see reality as it is since, then, we will have to discover something unpleasant about our 'love'. The world we created in our mind is full of delusions and comforts us and we stick to it. We need to change nothing about ourselves and take no decisions in this invented world in our mind. We dwell in this unreal world even if, within the times, our love addiction brings nothing but pain and frustration. However, we take it dear and hold to it.
So, we go on living in this fake world to comfort our ego. We depend on the fake, flattering images of the relationship and our partner. When the relationship is broken, our fake world shakes and gets broken either. In this case, instead of analyzing all the facts and giving them objective estimation, and instead of performing a new objective view on our partner, ourselves and the relationship and improving the relationship by changing ourselves and growing, we still prefer dwelling in our fantasies and, as a result, our love addiction grows. This, in turn, makes it even more painful in the end of the day.
To accept reality is a challenge, for it takes a lot of patience, effort, and self-discipline. Unfortunately, most of us are not yet emotionally experienced enough and have no idea how to handle our immature emotions by simply working on ourselves, our fears, and our flaws to properly change ourselves. We prefer making no efforts since it is easier to stay as we are, to make no changes and stick to our fears and delusions.
For that very reason we stay blind to the facts. They may be painful. Our vision is blocked with our fears and we don't even try to analyze the facts in order to see our partner and our relationship in the right light. We chose to live in lies, we paint our partner white, idealize them, put them on a pedestal and worship them. This way we try to protect our ego. We prefer sticking to a false image of the relationship rather than becoming sensible to reality and making our choices based on our sensible perception of reality. But, instead, we make choices based on our delusions that only bring pain and sufferings. We prefer sticking to the false, sweet images created in our mind, by all means, much in the same way as alcoholics and drug addicts continue the usage of their drugs even when they start to destroy their body.
In order to overcome this situation we need to make a concentrated effort in working on ourselves. However, most of us suffer from laziness and don't want to work. As a result, it seems that we have no control of ourselves, no power and no will.
Being weak, needy and dependent, we feel that we can't find a way out of the situation. First, because we don't understand the reasons of our crisis, we believe that the reason of our crisis is the result of being abandoned.
In fact, the true reason of our crisis is different - our fears don't let us accept the real world, situation, our REAL partner, and our REAL selves. We can't understand that we create an unhealthy kind of relationship based on wrong beliefs. We feel desperate, obsessed, addicted and full of fears and don't seem to know how to improve the situation.
Second, even if we logically accept that the nature of our relationship is unhealthy and we are incompatible the way we are, we are still emotionally dependent on the relationship, despite the fact that we may be aware that we deserve a different partner, and in the end of the day - love and respect. As well as our partner deserves the same.
Thus, we experience a conflict deep down when logically we acknowledge our relationship as inefficient BUT, emotionally, we need it back. Our emotions get in our way.
So, why do we still want something for ourselves that doesn't work and is unhealthy? The reason is - we can't control our emotions and pull ourselves together. We have been raised to trust our heart. When, in fact, our emotions are often deceptive (read an article The Drunk Commander or Our Emotions May Take Us Way Too Far.) By the way, women are more emotionally addictive and needy than men as women are inclined to submit to their emotions and be taken by them more than men.
Besides, our fears are a kind of fuel for our emotions and both our fears and emotions reinforce each other. This is a cycle that is hard to break. All kind of fears - of the future, of some changes, of being lonely...all of them are based on one main fear - a fear of reality.
What factors are to support this cycle working? We are afraid of reality as it is. Our fears don't let us accept it as we don't know how to deal with it, we feel uncomfortable in our real world and we tend to escape from some problems instead of accepting them, honestly, bravely, by studying the laws of the real world and by following them. We try to stick to our delusions, to our sensual perception of life, and first of all, to our emotions to the partner who abandoned us. That is how our fears feed our unhealthy emotions and reinforce them.
Conversely, our emotions feed our fears. Our unvoluntary emotions and our ego take power and control our reactions. Our ego distorts objective perception of reality. Thus, we produce some irrational world full of delusions to feel comfortable. This is a world where we feel at ease and where we need to change nothing and we may go with the flow without any work to do. As a result, we fall prey to our own delusions.
In fact, it resembles a situation when an alcoholic is reluctant to get sober for one only reason as he feels uncomfortable with reality. His addiction is not a matter of addiction to some certain brand of the drink but a matter of addiction to the state of being drunk. Thus, ultimately he fears to face reality as then he will have to deal with it and be responsible and adequate. He feels uncomfortable in being responsible and seeks ways to escape from responsibility in any way possible.
Most of our fears are made of false beliefs about the world and other people and we tend to project them on our relationship. These wrong beliefs are a stumbling block for us and they don't let us be happy. It is of great importance to be able to distinguish our false beliefs and separate them from what is objective reality. We need to learn to understand that they have been performed as a result of our previous negative experiences. These wrong beliefs are our baggage and they don't reflect the true world, instead, they get in our way. Once we realize our wrong beliefs and identify them, it is the first step to recovery. ( Read the article The Mental and Spiritual Ways to Overcome Wrong Beliefs.)
To summarize, our fears, wrong beliefs and unvoluntary emotions grow deeply in our soul and are the roots of all our problems. Altogether they feed all kind of unhealthy addictions like sex addiction, status and money addiction, addiction to pleasures, and all false stereotypes that have been performed during our life and imposed on us by society and mass media. I think, I won't be too far from the truth when I say that all these addictions are called "passions" in Christianity, the "passions" of the flesh that run our life and that were mentioned by Apostle Paul, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice." (Romans, 7 :18-20)
One of the Christian Saints once said that our flesh "passions" are our evil enemies and our challenges. These passions may give us some joy when they are satisfied, but only at the very beginning, and this joy doesn't last for long.
On the contrary to a pleasant feeling of satisfaction which doesn't last long, our "passions", when not satisfied, bring strong sufferings and discomfort that sometimes are hard to tolerate and that are LONG lasting.
In order to overcome mental/emotional addictions, we need to fight our "passions", first and foremost. This is the only way to reach true freedom deep down, to become strong, someone who may keep control of their own choices in life and doesn't blame the rest of the world in their misfortunes. This is a way of growing mature, spiritually and emotionally. The more mature we grow, the more realistic we become, and the more responsible approaches we finally take in life
and that is a way to be free of all addictions.
This freedom provides a feeling of balance and harmony. We find our way to God ultimately and we get dependent on God in everything.
Thus, we make our own choices in life and it is up to ourselves to come to depend on God OR on people and situations. There are no other choices except these two. We may choose to depend on our flesh, on something temporary and earthly, OR on something eternal and profound. The paradox is that the more we get dependent on the outer world, the farther away we move from God and, vice versa, the more we grow dependent on God, the less we are dependent on the rest of the world, allowing us to finally get immune against all kind of additions.
Our dependence on God is similar to that of a baby's complete dependence on its mother. This kind of dependence makes the baby secure, comfortable, at ease, safe, and protected. As this dependence is based on its mother's unconditional love, the baby feels this love and finds security in it, trusting its mother and relying upon her in everything. The baby is happy and entrusts its life and its well being in mother's hands and finds consolation and security in all moments of life, knowing that mother will protect and sacrifice as mother's love knows no limits. The baby will never test mother's love and her competence in terms of how good she is in care giving, and trusts unconditionally.
Conversely, the baby is miserable when he has no mother, is abandoned, and has no unconditional dependence. Being raised by some other people who don't love him unconditionally, he loses his trust. He begins to know grief early and often doesn't know what true unconditional love is and therefore he doesn't have his own capacity for love. Nobody controls his life and it seems he has unlimited freedom but, in reality, this kind of freedom is a kind of burden and never brings happiness.
Dependence on mother is similar to our dependence on God but, the latter DEPENDENCE is profound, complete, eternal, and it never stops.
Losing unconditional dependence is like a stray sheep lost from the flock that becomes dependent on different situations on the outside such as weather conditions, wild animals, etc. HOWEVER, by remaining in the flock and following the shepherd, it gets all security and trust.
The Holy Scriptures teach us that we should not become slaves of men but, instead, we should become the slaves of God. It is our primary task to make the right choice on whom we wish to depend.
Our dependence on God is the only one that doesn't make us suffer and, on the contrary, it leads us to a complete and profound joy. This dependence is the only one that may take the place of our addiction to people, things and situations. It seems like a paradox but, in finding dependence on God, we find our inner freedom.
Often times we are not aware of our addictions/passions and we, therefore, lie to ourselves by thinking we are free but, in fact, our addictions destroy our life and create more problems making us slaves to our passions. We mistakenly believe that we are free but we are not. We submit to our sinful nature. Perhaps, our emotional crisis that we happen to endure in life is the right time to call ourselves for changes as we start asking ourselves why we feel so miserable if we believe we are so free. This is the right time to change our mindset and start looking for the right solutions.
Ultimately, true freedom is not a freedom to satisfy our unhealthy, destructive passions, rather, true freedom is the independence from our wrong beliefs and stereotypes.
God gives us true freedom, unconditional and permanent. When we are truly free, our fears don't run our life any more. When we choose to change our mindset and evolve internally we overcome our passions and, instead, take new positive approaches in changing ourselves for better.
· we learn to be "sober", realistic and fight our passions, then
· we perceive the world as it is, with no delusions, then
· we accept the circumstances of our life that we can not change the way they are, with no depression, then
· we overcome our fears that are based on the main fear of reality, then
· by overcoming our fears and passions we overcome our wrong beliefs and addictions, then
· instead of wrong beliefs and addictions we find God to rely and depend on, then
· we find freedom and become happy
In terms of our relationship with our beloved ones, we also should base it on different values than before. When we tend to find love from our beloved one and strive to be loved first of all, we just tend to comfort our ego. By progressing our relationship based on this false belief, we finally do not develop strong, mature love but come to feel love addiction, more or less. We depend on our partner because he/she satisfies our need to be loved. In case he/she stops loving, we have to endure a painful crisis.
True mature love is, on the contrary, based on freedom. If we love God then our love to our partner will be based on our Love to God, first and foremost, and, thus, we will learn to see the inner beauty of our partner, his/her soul, the unique beauty that almost every soul has and glows from within.
We don't need to invent some new methods to recover from love addiction and all other kinds of passions as these methods have existed for ages. We need to turn to the wisdom and fulfiling experiences that are found in living life with God. We have nothing to lose but we have the whole world to find. We just need to be diligent in working on ourselves and this work is all we need to do to overcome the crisis.
Here are the 4 Practical Steps to Overcome Love Addiction:
1. Focus on reality, make up a realistic and objective view on ourselves, our partner and the whole situation.
2. Moreover, keep our special focusing on making up an objective view of our -ex partner and our relationship. This is important. We need to analyze their actions, not so much their words and, based on their deeds and actions, we need to make up our opinion.
Apostle Luke said that A Tree is Known By Its Fruit:
"For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit." (Luke, 6: 43-44)
This objective view doesn't mean we need to judge our -ex partner but we need to somehow preform an objective estimation of all their flaws and weaknesses, as well as their good qualities, and estimate their attitude to ourselves based on objective perception on their actions. When we see their flaws and imperfections and their actions, objectively, and still may love the person, it manifests our mature love and contributes to our love growth, instead of worshiping our "idol on the pedestal".
3. Learn to control our emotions by means of our mind. We should not let our heart get ahead of our mind. If our emotions tend to bring us back to our false beliefs about our -ex partner, see steps 1 and 2 above. In step 3, we need to discipline our way of thinking and focus on something pleasant that will help us get rid of our false beliefs.
One of the good remedies to control emotions by our mind is to get in touch with our sensible Inner Self. One of the exercises is to let our sensible Inner Self give questions to our sensual self. It is very likely that our sensual self will find no answers in this dialog and will have to recognize defeat. That is exactly what we need finally.
Example: why do I think that my -ex husband will come back to me? Are there any logic reasons to it? The answer is: NO. Then, why do I suppose this to happen and think about it 90% of the time?
We may also need a diary to write down our thoughts produced by our emotions and then try to look at them logically and question them with our mind.
4. It is necessary to forgive our - ex partner. As long as we remain offended by our partner, we keep emotionally attached to them via our offenses. But, every emotional attachment is, again, a kind of addiction.
We need to perform a Christian attitude to our -ex partner despite any sufferings he/she might have caused. We need to pray for them, to find some strength.
It is also important to analyze everything and find our own mistakes as well. Then, we need to ask our -ex partner to forgive us for our mistakes, in person or in our mind. Also, we need to learn lessons from our mistakes to avoid making them again in the future.
Moreover, we need to try to understand the reasons for which our -ex partner abandoned us. Yes, he/she might be wrong, in many cases, but we need to learn to deal with it with no anger or judgement. We need to treat their mistakes with understanding and empathy the same way as God treats our own mistakes.
It is important to understand and forgive, and overcome our passionate, emotional attitude to the situation. Our perception of our -ex partner should become realistic and objective.
This is a way to recover from love addiction and grow spiritually and emotionally. It certainly is not an easy way, but a worthy one and the most rewarding, ultimately bringing us freedom, peace and harmony.
translation by Anna Fesenko
Michael Hasminsky, crisis psychology
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Dependence on love (Psychologist Natalia Domkina)