If you adore him but he just refuses to commit, you could be in danger of becoming a love addict, says Jini Reddy.
I can’t think of too many women who haven’t, at one time or other - and to varying degrees - been mired in the toxic romantic toffee known as love addiction.
It goes like this: your devotion to Mr You’re Sure He’s Right (if he could just get over that little thing of not wanting to commit to you) outweighs all reason and logic. You hammer away, confused by the mixed signals he gives you, because one minute he’s an adorable, charismatic sweetheart, the next – usually when you’ve asked for that little bit more to move the relationship on – he does a pretty good imitation of the Iceman.
You end up trying to coolly mirror the art of non-communication that he has perfected – and feel like you’re cutting off a vital part of yourself in doing so. Whatever the scenario, the bottom line is you’ve an uncontrollable appetite for the object of your desire. There are rollercoaster highs and lows, moments of intense joy, but too often these are followed by frustration and hurt. You’ve never met his friends or family – but the sex is as erotic and delicious as it gets. Deep down you know things aren’t quite right, but you can’t seem to let go. He cares for you after all. Sort of. You really want it to work out – you’re almost there. Or are you? Welcome to a world of phantom love.
Psychotherapist Annie Bennett, author of The Love Trap (£12.99, Hammersmith Press) and a love addiction expert, believes such disempowering, undignified, painful relationships are a reflection of a profound lack of self-love, and the result of early life experiences. She explains: “These experiences involve physical or emotional abandonment from a major caregiver, usually a parent. The pain is carried into adulthood, and a pattern of love addiction develops as the inner child attempts to heal the original pain, by recreating bonds with people who, ironically, will ultimately reject them.”
She says we do it because subconsciously we’re hardwired to. So while you may be consciously rejecting scenarios of this nature, your inner wounded child is leading you to them like a lamb to the slaughter. But even if you are aware of all the danger signs, there are cravings to contend with.
Hypnotherapist Georgia Foster believes love addiction develops when a woman’s desire to be loved overrides her intuition. “It’s a common problem and stems from a strong ‘pleaser’ personality, which means you put everybody else’s needs first. A pleaser will attract men who are selfish, egocentric and narcissistic by nature, because they don’t believe they deserve true love.” Of course, the bloke who is all those things is probably hurting too, deep down, and has a truckload of issues of his own – perhaps he has a deep fear of intimacy, stemming from his childhood experiences. Regardless of what’s going on inside him, believing we’re not worthy of true love, because we were denied emotional nourishment as a child has dangerous consequences.
“A love addict may have a lot of casual sex in the hope that if they give a man sexual pleasure they may get him to fall in love with them,” says Foster. “They ignore the telltale signs of rejection, such as phone calls not being returned, unreciprocated affection and being kept separate from other areas of the man’s life. The love addict will become neurotic, overly suspicious and obsessive.”
Even if you are aware of all the danger signs, there are still those intense physical cravings to contend with – that heady feeling of skin on skin, and the exquisite pleasure that only your lover can give you, and which you want to return to again and again.
Relationship expert (aka Psychic Love Coach) Alison Chan Lung believes a woman may develop a chemical reaction in the brain that creates an intense, addictive high. “If the person you are addicted to is distant or unavailable this could make your addiction to them stronger – people want what they can’t have,” she explains. “Sometimes people become addicted to the feeling of being in love as a way to fill the hole inside of them. But if what follows isn’t a healthy, loving relationship, the person can get stuck in a cycle of highs and lows. Sometimes there is the belief that you couldn’t have this intense connection with anyone else.”
Lucy Adler*, 43, started dating Matt* when she was in her mid-30s. Six months later, he ended the relationship. She was devastated and, unable to accept it was over, carried on seeing him for sex – which he was only too happy to provide. “I loved the way he made me feel about myself physically and I wanted to explore the sex as much as possible because it was the most powerful thing I had ever experienced in my life,” she says.
Of course, her lover didn’t want to share anything of his life with her – he always kept his distance, making it clear that he felt they weren’t compatible, emotionally or intellectually. Unable to give him up, Lucy carried on seeing him on his terms – bar a few unsuccessful attempts to walk away – until, eight years on, he began a relationship with another woman. This was a wake-up call for Lucy, who, feeling profoundly hurt and rejected, found the strength to stop seeing her lover. Still the addictive feelings persist. “Because I completely adored his body – and he mine – I can’t imagine feeling the same way about anyone, which worries me, because I really do want to meet someone and be able to have a normal relationship,” she admits.
So just what does it take to move on? For starters trust that, although you may feel powerless to break your addictive behaviour, it can be done. Psychotherapy, the ‘talking therapy’, can bring about great change although, as Annie Bennett says, recovery is a lengthy process and needs a serious level of commitment.
Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, works by planting new and positive behaviour patterns into your subconscious mind. Lucy Adler swears by Provocative Therapy, which radically uses reverse psychology and humour to tackle self-defeating patterns of behaviour. Whatever method you choose, take a leap of faith and believe that letting go is possible, and that a committed, healthy relationship lies in your future.
Are you a love addict? You may be if you answer yes to some of these questions, according to psychotherapist Annie Bennett…
Try these tips on letting go from Alison Chan Lung’s Soul Mate Relationship programme:
1. Cutting the ties/cord
Imagine the person standing facing you and see a cord running from your navel to theirs and see yourself cutting it with a pair of golden scissors. See the cord being absorbed back into yourself and sealed with golden light and the same for them. Imagine the golden light flowing down through your legs and feet and down into the core of the earth, grounding and anchoring you. Say: “I bless you (name) with love and release you to your highest good. You are you and I am me. I cut the cord and set us free.” Then imagine drawing down a bright white light all around you and see yourself walking away confidently with your head held high.
2. Positive affirmations
These are very good for raising self-esteem. I ask my clients to write down their negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves, relationships and the opposite sex. I then come up with affirmations for them to use, for example: “I am willing to release the need to stay addicted to this person”, or “I now attract loving men where there is mutual attraction who honour and respect me”, or “The more I honour and respect myself the more men do too.”
3. No contact
Try it as a form of abstinence: also, instead of remembering the excitement and ‘high’ feelings remember the pain and the ‘low’ feelings. Meditate, pray or ask your higher power for help. Think about what your triggers are when you want to contact that person and how you can deal with ‘cravings’ by identifying what feeling is coming up, letting it be there and then letting it go.
4. Identify your needs in a relationship
Try to find ways to meet some of your own needs and tap into your own self-love. Also, when you are ready, start picturing/visualising what a healthy, loving relationship looks like and what qualities and values you need in a partner.
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