What is a love addiction?
When people were singing along to Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” in the ’80s, few people knew that love addiction was a real thing. However, it is very real, and many people struggle with this lesser-known addiction. According to Psychology Today, a love addiction can be defined as a “maladaptive, pervasive, and excessive interest” in one or more romantic partners. The love addict can feel a lack of control, lose interest in other things they normally enjoy, and experience a variety of negative consequences. On the other hand, these are the signs of a healthy, solid relationship.
According to psychologist Erika Martinez, up to 10 per cent of the general population has a love addiction, which is a behavioural or process addiction. Like people who are addicted to food, love addicts cannot reasonably be expected to abstain from giving and receiving love, but they can learn to manage the addictive behaviour. Having just one symptom of a love addiction does not mean that you are addicted to love. However, having a combination of symptoms can be problematic, though a true addiction can only be accurately assessed by a therapist. But if you are experiencing dissatisfaction with your love life, it might be time to take a long, hard look at the patterns in your relationships and see whether any of these classic signs of love addiction apply to you.
Feeling desperate when a partner needs a little space
Do you find it intolerable when a partner puts even a little distance between you? Does your level of upset rise to outright devastation right away? That level of pain and anxiety is disproportionate to the situation and can indicate a love addiction. According to psychotherapist Joyce Houser in her book Someone To Talk To, you should talk to a professional about these intense feelings. Willpower alone is often not enough to overcome a love addiction, and therapy can play an important role in recovery, as can other sources of support such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
Finding it hard to set boundaries
Billy Joel may have sung about going to extremes in relationships, but if you consistently go over the line in real life, serious problems may be brewing. The solution? Setting boundaries. Unfortunately, the term “boundary” can seem like a scary thing for a love addict; it may inspire thoughts of keeping your partner separate from you. However, healthy boundaries actually bring people closer together because it empowers them to show a mutual respect for each other.
Boundaries can be literally anything that you need in your relationship to feel good. For example, you may get irritated if your partner calls you a certain nickname. However, if you have a love addiction, you may irrationally fear that your partner will leave if you explain that you don’t want to be called the irritating nickname. Therefore, you suffer in silence when your partner would probably be more than happy to accommodate your request. For an example that’s a little more serious, experts explain that some love addicts don’t turn down sex even if they don’t want to have it. They instead do whatever their partner wants. That’s ultimately not healthy for the relationship, and it certainly isn’t good for the love addict who repeatedly does things they don’t want to do. Part of overcoming a love addiction may include setting firm, healthy interpersonal boundaries and sticking to them.