We humans are capable of becoming addicted to just about anything, be it drugs, food, chocolate, or shopping. The list is endless. If it exists, it can become an addiction!
So it’s not surprising to learn that we can also become addicted to love. And like any addiction, the end result is pain. But surely love isn’t a vice? Well, it is when we become addicted to the actual feelings we experience when first we fall in love, and not the actual person themselves. When we fall in love, we are literally bathed in a sea of hormones; enveloped in a chemical high. While we all love this part of a relationship, the sobering fact is that if the relationship is to continue on a stable basis, those first, heart-shuddering weeks must inevitably be replaced by the more predictable ebb and flow of daily life.
But for some people those intense feelings of infatuation become an addition, one that ultimately takes over their lives. The problem starts when someone gets a buzz from the excitement that accompanies being “in love”. Love addicts truly believe that they actually love the object of their affections, but in reality they are simply “in love with love”, or to put it more bluntly, they are just addicted to the chemicals.
Hollywood celebrities probably comprise some of the most well-known love addicts and we enjoy following their tumultuous love lives spattered all over the tabloids. Paris Hilton has a seemingly endless string of love interests, Jack Nicholson is notorious for loving and leaving, Jennifer Lopez has had three marriages and an engagement to her credit and she’s still in her thirties. Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor both were famous for their many partners, and Warren Beatty seems to have had it all (literally) until he was finally snared by Annette Bening. Hugh Grant is the British equivalent of these famous US love addicts.
For people with a love addiction, life is a roller coaster of intense highs as they move from partner to partner; changing lovers like the rest of us change our clothes, in order to achieve that continuous high. And for the most part, they can often sustain this behavior for years, moving on once the more boring, mundane reality of being in a relationship intrudes. It seems like a wonderful way of living: forever “in love” and feeling on top of the world. But, as with any addiction, there is a flip side.
When the “high” wears off, depression sets in, and the desperate search for the next partner occurs. Exceedingly attractive or wealthy love addicts have less trouble accessing the next “high” but ultimately depression becomes a frequent visitor even to these seemingly “lucky “ people. Love addicts often have problems with real intimacy, and as soon as boring familiarity sets in, they set off for greener pastures. For this reason, many addicts will choose partners who also have low intimacy needs in an unconscious attempt to delay the so-called “boredom” that the normal progression of a love relationship inevitably brings.
So, how do you know if you are a love addict? Frequent changes of partner, unusually intense relationships which burn out equally quickly, impulsive behaviors including marriages or engagements that last for only weeks or months, feelings of depression once the relationship loses its buzz: all are signs of love addiction.
Need help? Counseling will help you to sort out the reasons why you behave as you do, and offer ways to change long-standing beliefs and behaviors which contribute to the problem. Changing the way you think about yourself will ultimately lead to more satisfying, long-term relationships and long-term happiness.
Contact Beth McHugh for further information or assistance regarding this issue.