To love and be loved is something everyone strives for. People see it portrayed in fairy tales from an early age. The crush you’re taking to the middle school dance is always the hot topic of conversation among preteens. Love is a beautiful experience that everyone deserves to enjoy. But love can come in unhealthy forms. Love addiction and codependency are two similar concepts that can be sneaky forms of unhealthy relationships with love.
What is Love Addiction?
Love addiction is the compulsive and unhealthy pursuit of romantic love. The intense focus of addiction is directed toward a love interest to gain a sense of security and self-worth.
It’s helpful to think of love addiction as similar to any form of addiction, with an intense need for the thing that helps you experience a feeling of euphoria. The feeling of infatuation and falling in love can be exciting, but a person with a love addiction becomes obsessed with pursuing this feeling.
Love addiction looks different from person to person. Calling a partner too frequently or following their location obsessively are some signs you might be experiencing a love addiction.
Other signs of love addiction include:
- Fear of being alone
- A history of abusive relationships
- Convincing a partner to remain in a relationship using manipulative behaviors
- Becoming unhealthily attached to partners
- Inability to maintain a relationship once the newness wears off
- Having multiple short-term relationships
- Feeling “unhappy” without a relationship
- Feeling desperate to please others
- Fear of disapproval
- Continually searching for romance
- Choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable
People with love addiction are often from families that leave them feeling neglected and abandoned, according to Irving Najman, Clinical Manager for the Intimacy Disorder Program at Integrative Life Center.
“They recognized that their need for validation, love, and co-regulation from their caregivers was not met as children. This fear of abandonment causes them to rely on the other person to make them feel secure, leading them to mistakenly believe that their love obsession is actually real intimacy.”
Love addicts also often confuse experiencing the intensity of a sexual relationship with love and intimacy, Irving said.
“They must first recognize that sex does not equal love. Also, learning that a healthy relationship requires individuation, self-acceptance, and self-love is essential for healing from love addiction.”
What is Codependency?
Codependency is an emotional illness in which you consistently put the needs of others above your own to the point of sacrificing what you need to keep yourself healthy and happy. It’s a learned behavior that often stems from growing up in a dysfunctional home. There is a fine line between love addiction and codependency. Codependency doesn’t always turn into love addiction, but codependency is where love addiction stems from.
Experts have not created specific diagnostic criteria because codependency is not yet considered a mental health condition. Each codependent relationship is different.
Characteristics codependency include:
- Difficulty identifying your feelings
- Difficulty making decisions in a relationship
- Challenges communicating in a relationship
- Having fears of abandonment or an obsessive need for approval
- Having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- Valuing the approval of others more than yourself
Any relationship can become codependent. It’s usually challenging to see anything wrong with a codependent relationship from the inside one, but codependence prevents either partner from reaching their goals. The codependent person’s self-worth becomes completely wrapped up in their partner. Knowing the signs can help you evaluate your relationships.
Limiting Beliefs of Love Addiction and Codependency
Codependency often results from a history of neglect, abandonment, and abuse. These childhood traumas can lead to difficulty developing healthy relationships and possibly love addiction later in life. You may harbor some negative beliefs leftover from these childhood experiences.
Examples of limiting beliefs you may tell yourself:
- I am responsible for the way other people feel.
- If someone is angry or upset with me, it’s my fault.
- My feelings aren’t as important as the feelings of others.
- I need to bend over backward to make others feel more comfortable.
- If someone mistreats me, it’s my fault.
- I need to try harder to win other people’s approval.
If you relate to these ways of thinking, you may have learned them from a codependent relationship in the past. You can correct those beliefs and heal from those experiences with love addiction and codependency.
Love addiction and codependency are similar in the way that the love addict gets wrapped up in caring for the other person at the expense of their own self-care, Irving said. This obsessive quality of self-neglect often leads the love addict to have resentments and anger and creates conflict in their relationships.
Love addicts and co-dependent people show similar traits, not just in their romantic relationships, but also with friends, families, and co-workers, Irving stated.
How to Heal from Love Addiction and Codependency
It may be difficult to see a way out of a codependent relationship or a love addiction. As with any other addiction, a love addict must first break through denial to recognize their obsession and work to repair the damage their behaviors caused, Irving said.
To recover your sense of self:
- Don’t be a people pleaser
- Own your happiness
- Love yourself first
- Beware of abusive behavior
- Get professional help
Only you know how you feel about your relationships and your relationship with love. If any of this resonates with you, it may be helpful to address those feelings so you can begin to move forward from them and break the cycle of codependency.
Irving said professional help is necessary to help people work through their family issues and past trauma. He said people have to work through their feelings of abandonment so they can learn what real intimacy is all about.
How Integrative Life Center Can Help
It’s not easy to break the cycle of codependency or overcome love addiction. You may not be able to overcome them on your own, especially if your partner is also experiencing addiction. Integrative Life Center is here to help you recover. Contact us today to start your journey of personal growth.