Individuals with love addiction feel compelled to be in a relationship. This is not just a desire to be in a relationship, but the actual need to be part of a couple to feel complete. Women and men who are love addicts will stay in destructive, damaging, and abusive relationships rather than leave the relationship.
Love addicts also put the needs of their partner over their own. While in a normal, healthy relationship it is often essential to temporarily focus on a partner rather than yourself, a love addict has a permanent fixation on the needs of the other.
It is important to keep in mind that love addiction is not based on a sexual need or a romantic desire. Instead, it is the deeply rooted belief that they are not whole and completed unless they are in a relationship. This is often caused by issues with neglect and abandonment as a child, and as it plays out in romantic relationships, it becomes a pattern of behavior.
Love addiction, like any addiction, can be managed and changed. People with love addiction can learn to be content with themselves, and to find partners who are healthy, emotionally well-balanced, and who are interested in a give and take relationship.
Sometimes, in an over-correction of the behavior, a love addict may turn into a love avoidant person. Love avoidance is often seen as emotional distancing or emotional unavailability, where the thought of relying on another creates anxiety, distress, and discomfort. These are people that want to be in a relationship, but fear becoming lost or overwhelmed.
Signs of Love Avoidance
A person with a history of love addiction should be aware of the following signs that may indicate love avoidance:
- Change in attention to the partner – people who are initially attentive and charming and then become cold and distant are intentionally setting up barriers to protect themselves from becoming emotionally available to the partner.
- Lack of emotional intimacy – fear of being yourself, or fear of being seen as vulnerable and open on an emotional level triggers the fear of authenticity and emotional intimacy. In some cases, emotional intimacy may occur only to be immediately withdrawn or denied.
- Doing other things – people may prioritize other behaviors and "things" over the relationship. This could be spending long hours at work, in the gym, or with friends, or it may be more serious types of behaviors such as an addiction.
- Inability to talk about feelings – love addicts often talk about their feelings all the time, while the love avoidant does not open up to the other. For those who are emotionally unavailable, both negative and positive feelings are difficult to express.
Most love avoidant people are very defensive about their inability to connect and to have a healthy relationship. They are often in denial and use anger and defensiveness as a further barrier to creating emotional intimacy and connection.
Learning to Trust
Distrust in the safety of the relationship is often at the heart of the issue when a love addicted person becomes love avoidant. Learning to trust themselves is the first step, and this can be done through counseling and therapy.
Becoming comfortable as a single and focusing on what is desired in a relationship will be critical. Unless the individual understands what a healthy relationship and emotionally available partner looks like, they will continue to have fear and anxiety around a relationship.
Taking the time to learn how to talk about and process emotions is beneficial for many love avoidants. Recognizing when to be open and vulnerable to selected, trusted people in life is essential to building the skills to be able to express their needs and desires while maintaining healthy, safe boundaries.
While it is impossible to predict the success of any relationship, learning how to trust, what to look for in a healthy, safe partner, and how to express emotions provides a set of skills and a safety net for anyone with a history of love addiction.