Yesterday I wrote an article on Love Addiction? Did you take the quiz? If you are a love addict, don’t feel bad. Many of us are conditioned to become one especially if we were raised in a codependent environment. Co-dependency is defined “as a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (as in an addiction to alcohol or heroin); and in broader terms, it refers to the dependence on the needs of or control of another.”
The dependence on controlling another is the foundation of an addictive relationship. Like any addict who is addicted, the more he or she thinks they need something to control – the more out of control they become. The more out of control they become the more control they seek to gain and so on and so on. This is because the loss of control leads to rejection and love addicts will do anything not to be rejected:
“The difference between healthy and obsessive lovers becomes apparent when rejection enters the picture. If healthy lovers are rejected, they generally grieve the loss of the relationship and get on with their lives. But obsessive lovers become flooded with panic, insecurity, fear and pain, which drives them to resist tooth and nail the deterioration of the relationship.” Dr. Susan Forward, Obsessive Love, page 28.
I recently ended after ending after ending my addictive relationship. I put on 3 endings but there were many more – addictive relationships usually have sequels, prequels and multiple, unhappy endings. The cycle of relationship addiction is like any other addiction. It repeats itself until it’s over and when it’s over the addicted person experiences a sensation similar to getting off drugs: withdrawal.
New studies suggest that love rejection affects the primitive areas of the brain associated with motivation, reward and addiction cravings – the chemical responsible for these feelings is dopamine. Dr. Fayr Barkley, Ph.D., in an online article entitled “Relationship Withdrawal – Why You Feel Like You’re Going to Die” explains that “Dopamine is the “feel good” transmitter that our brain produces in response to something that triggers it. The trigger can be positive: exercise, falling in love, being surprised with some wonderful gift from a loved one; and it can also be triggered by something negative: spousal abuse, an unexpected response or event, drug/alcohol abuse.”
My addictive relationship wasn’t even a relationship. It was a 2-ships-passing-in-the-night kind of exchange. However, at the time I met this person, I had recently ended a more meaningful relationship and was looking for someone to fill in the void – or pump up the dopamine levels in my brain. Many times, I stood outside myself wondering why I cared so much about a person who was clearly more CON than PRO. Yes, he was handsome witty and well-endowed but he was also narcissistic, non-communicative and a liar. How willing I became to overlook a cornucopia of problems just to get my “fix.” Many relationship addicts put up with terrible things just so they can feel okay because feeling abandoned is even worse.
In the end when it was over, I lost my appetite, couldn’t sleep, became irritable, angry and depressed. I craved his attention, his presence even his smell. He was poison in my veins – and I still wanted more – until there was no more to give. It hurt. It was uncomfortable. It’s heroin in human form. And just like heroin, the more I put off withdrawing from the relationship the harder the withdrawal would be.
So how does one withdrawal without clawing their eyes out? Well, here’s a few resources:
There’s also several suggestions made by Susan Forward in her aforementioned book. My favorite is taking a 2-week emotional vacation from the subject of your obsession. During this time you keep a log of your feelings, emotions, thoughts and behaviors about your obsessive relationship. You also cease all contact with the target of your obsession. This allows you to identify obsessive thoughts and avoid obsessive triggers. The goal, Susan explains, is show you that “Thoughts create feelings which lead to behaviors which trigger more thoughts which starts the cycle all over again.” If you know what makes you tick in the wrong direction – you can stop the cycle before it begins.
Finally, there are support groups such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous that provide free help to those suffering from relationship addiction. No matter who you are or where you’ve come from love should never hurt – even if songs made in 1976 tell us otherwise: