How to identify love addiction and live with it
As young girls, we are taught to search for a prince charming. The idea of being ‘saved’ as young ladies is drilled into us from the moment we are old enough to put on a Cinderella nightgown. Of course, girls grow into young women. Many of whom thrive independently and maintain healthy, loving relationships. But some women remain unwittingly trapped in the fantasy of being saved, and fall into a pattern with love that is neither self-serving nor able to make them happy. Though society might be a piece of the puzzle, Cinderella is just a fragment of the picture.
Love addiction, or Sex and Love Addiction as it’s known, doesn’t really have as much to do with sex as the name might mislead people to believe. And, of course, it’s not reserved just for women, although women make up a larger portion of the love addicted population. It’s actually an addiction to chaos in relationships to the point of searching for and even creating it. What it comes down to is an unhealthy attachment style developed early on in childhood. Parental abandonment and a chaotic childhood are familiarized and internalized in individuals who then seek it out as adults. They unconsciously look for partners who are unavailable and who are more likely to abandon them, so that they can cling to the chaos they’ve become accustomed to. These unavailable people often exhibit a ‘love avoidant’ attachment style in that they never truly allow themselves to become vulnerable.
To guard their hearts, love addicts will put the love avoidants on a pedestal and regard them as heroic as they are so reminiscent of their own parental figures. Love addicts irrationally believe that love avoidants can save them. In reality, the pain that the love avoidant brings to the addict’s life is the very thing that the addict wishes to be saved from.
To people with sex and love addiction, that chaos feels much safer than true intimacy because love and appreciation are foreign and actually scary. When it goes undetected, it can lead to a lot of unhappiness and goes hand-in-hand with other addictions or disorders in the attempt to create the pandemonium they are addicted to.
It can be difficult to identify whether or not you are a sex and love addict. In fact, the name for the addiction feels almost silly. And again, sex is part of it but it’s not a sex addiction per se.
If you are having trouble identifying yourself as a sex and love addict, take a look at these characteristics of sex and love addiction, interpreted from the 12-Step Book:
- Lacking healthy boundaries: People with a love addiction will often let others push their boundaries to avoid being alone.
- Fears of abandonment: This is the deepest fear of the love addict.
- Having multiple sexual partners: Love addicts will use sexual encounters, often with multiple partners, to fulfill their intimacy needs.
- Confusing love with neediness
- Feeling empty when alone: When a love addict is single or lonely, he/she feels totally empty. Fulfillment depends on the affection of others.
- Sexualizing stress, guilt, loneliness, anger, or shame: Love addicts will often sexualize negative feelings.
- Using sex as a way to manipulate others: In an effort to make sure that patterns stick around, love addicts will utilize sex.
- Becoming immobilized by sexual or romantic fantasies: The love addiction manifests in many ways, but largely in fantasy.
- Attaching to people who are unavailable: Again, this is where the love addict feels most comfortable.
- Assigning magical qualities to others: Love addicts will give their love avoidant partner’s qualities or traits that don’t actually exist in order to fuel their fantasies.
Coming to terms with sex and love addiction is tough. However, at the same time, it can be incredibly liberating. Because there isn’t a ton of information in the media about sex and love addiction, many people don’t know that they have it and therefore are unable to put a name to their destructive behaviors. Once you can name your issues, you can take ownership of them. Not to mention, you can begin to implement change. There’s no ‘cure’ for sex and love addiction, but there are behaviors that you can implement in order to steer your life in the right direction.
Here are some things you can do that will help you live with, manage, and control your sex and love addiction:
- Visit a local SLAA meeting: Meeting others who share your frustrations and goals to lead healthier lives is motivating. It’s a community that is structured to lift you up and get your life on track.
- Set firm boundaries: Write down your boundaries and stick to them. This is one of the hardest things for a love addict to do, but also one of the biggest ways in which they can work to change their behavior.
- Identify indicators of ‘love avoidant’ partners: These are going to be the people who are emotionally unavailable to you and make you feel unsatisfied in a relationship.
- Give up intoxicated dialing or texting: When our inhibitions are lowered, it can be easy to slip back into an unhealthy pattern. It can also make us vulnerable to getting in touch with unavailable partners.
- Reconfigure your view of sex with others: Try to put yourself in positions in which your sexual experiences are valuable and pleasurable to you, rather than letting them serve the purpose of filling a void.
- Understand what sex is to you as an individual: Acknowledge your own potential to give yourself pleasure. For love addicts who don’t also have a sex addiction, partaking in solo-sex activities like reading erotica can be an exercise in building self-esteem.
- Take relationships slowly: When you are ready for a relationship, make sure to take it slowly. Diving into a relationship too quickly can lend itself to falling back into a pattern of addiction.
Author’s Bio: Gabi Levi is a sex expert and artist from New York City. Between sips of coffee and evening walks, she runs and art directs the erotica site Shag Story.