Relationships in Recovery - Romantic Relationships

Love Addiction: Understanding How Intimate Relationships Become Toxic and Detrimental

There’s no question that most of us love the idea of love as much as the sensation of love itself. But what if our obsession with love turns on us?

 Love Addiction: Understanding How Intimate Relationships Become Toxic and Detrimental

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

August 18, 2021

The Edge Treatment Center

Who doesn’t love falling in love? The euphoric cocktail of hormones! The exciting novelty! The intense, imaginative future scenarios of the two of you living happily ever after! There’s no question that most of us love the idea of love as much as the sensation of love itself. But what happens when our obsession with love turns on us? What happens when the pattern of love addiction keeps us sick and miserable?

Understanding The Perils of Love Addiction

When you think about it, love addiction is a complicated idea. After all, how can we be addicted to something that can be so natural and healthy? What can be so dangerous about connecting with another person? Love addiction comes in many flavors, but symptoms of problematic behaviors include:

  • Feeling empty or incomplete without another person

  • Disrespecting relationship boundaries (i.e. being unfaithful) in a compulsive manner

  • Pleasing your partner despite actions going against your morals or values

  • Jumping into new relationships very quickly

  • Struggling to feel excited and connected once the initial novelty fades

  • Constantly seeking emotionally unavailable or abusive partners

  • Sacrificing individual interests or passions to “please” someone else

  • Using sex or other manipulation tactics to “keep” a partner

  • Regularly engaging in impulsive sex or compulsive pornography viewing

  • Tolerating chronic physical or emotional abuse

Like all addictions, love addiction likes on a continuum. Some people may struggle with 1-2 of the symptoms, and others may have all of them. Unfortunately, love addiction is an exhausting cycle that can be frustrating and devastating for both the couple and their loved ones. Individuals find themselves reenacting old, ineffective patterns, and relationship cycles through intense periods of disconnect, shame, and terror.

Why Love Addiction Exists

We cannot pinpoint a single trigger as the cause for love addiction. Instead, it appears to manifest as a representation of numerous experiences in the individual’s life. That said, common underlying factors include:

  • Low self-esteem and self-worth

  • History of childhood abuse or neglect

  • Presence of a substance use disorder and/or mental illness

  • History of intimate partner violence or sexual abuse

  • Lack of healthy relational role models

  • Episodes of real or perceived abandonment

Each of these factors can be traumatic for an individual. To mitigate the pain, people often unconsciously seek unconditional support, validation, and attention from a romantic partner. Unfortunately, they often attract people who are likely to hurt them- which results in constant cycling of the same, treacherous pattern.

Recovery From Love Addiction: Is It Possible?

Toxic relationships can be exhausting and frustrating. People may feel like they’re “doomed” to stay in these unhealthy and miserable relationships. They may look at happy couples with envy and wonder why they can’t experience that same level of satisfaction and closeness. Recovery can be a multifaceted process. Individuals often need to examine the emotional and behavioral symptoms that caused the addictive tendencies. Rather than relying on a facade of “love” to fill emotional voids, they also need to identify healthier strategies for managing daily feelings and stressors. Thus, the recovery process may include:

  • Learning individual boundaries and practicing implementing them

  • Increasing self-esteem

  • Processing childhood trauma related to neglect, abuse, and abandonment

  • Learning healthy and assertive communication skills

  • Identifying essential values and morals in a relationship

  • Engaging in healthy, adaptive coping strategies regularly

  • Creating an effective relapse prevention plan to reduce ongoing relational distress

Getting The Help You Need

Unfortunately, love addiction and substance use disorders go hand-in-hand. Both represent a diversion for confronting and managing emotions. Furthermore, both represent a vicious cycle of intense “highs” and debilitating “lows.” It is very challenging to maintain a healthy and mature relationship while actively abusing substances. This is why individuals benefit from seeking appropriate treatment to learn healthier systems for managing compulsive and ineffective behavior. At The Edge, we focus on a whole-person approach. That means you receive support for your substance abuse- but you also receive support for the additional struggles that coincide or exacerbate your addiction. Interested in learning more about what we have to offer? Contact us today!

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