- Emophilia is related to indiscriminate romantic attraction and can lead to unfortunate life outcomes.
- Dark Triad traits, narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy can be especially attractive to those who experience emophilia.
- Emophiiacs can begin to recover by learning to maintain boundaries and having a trusted friend provide feedback on any new partner.
While most of us enjoy the feelings that come from being “in love” with another person, there are some of us who are much too quick to “fall in love” with people. The word that describes the tendency to fall in love easily, quickly, and repetitively is emophilia. It springs from the desire to be “in love” and to enjoy all of the “buzzy” feelings that come from that feeling of mutual intense romantic and sexual attraction.
Anxious Attachment vs. Emophilia
This type of attraction to the feeling of being “in love,” though, is different from the deeply felt and almost addictive need to be in a relationship with someone that some others experience. When it’s a “need to be in love” versus a “desire to be in love,” this reflects a pattern of anxious attachment.
While attachments can come in a variety of types, from secure to anxious and stops in between, there are some of us whose behavior is shaped by the anxious attachment style we learned in childhood, characterized by the inability to view oneself as “whole,” as a person’s identity is wrapped up in their relationship to another.
Such individuals experience a great deal of insecurity in their connections to their partners and often live their lives with a strong fear of rejection due to the integral role that even a bad relationship plays in their sense of self. Their partners are often idolized and idealized by partners willing to debase themselves or be debased in order to maintain a relationship.
Emophiliacs, in contrast, look to relationships as sources of excitement, exhilaration, and pleasure. They are able to move from relationship to relationship—but they aren’t running in search of a bolstering of their identity. They are chasing down novel experiences and romantic stimulation. And they imbue relationships with deeper emotional meaning than they might warrant.
Dangers of Falling Too Fast and Too Often
Most of us have felt that deep pleasure found in being in love with another, many of us tend to feel confused and challenged when we feel ourselves falling in love with someone else when we are already in love with a partner. Emophiliacs, however, are quite capable of being “in love” with multiple people at once and tend not to be as picky about whom they choose to create a romantic bond. In fact, researchers (Lechuga & Jones, 2021) have found that individuals who simply “love being in love” will not recognize the behavioral warning signs in their targeted love interest or any potential personal danger inherent in the relationship. They found that individuals high in emophilia were more attracted than other folks to individuals who were high in the dangerous Dark Triad traits; these traits are Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism.
While we might think “to each their own” when it comes to picking partners, relationships with individuals high in the Dark Triad traits can lead to significant emotional distress and volatile situations. However, one of the hallmarks of Dark Triad individuals is their ability to manipulate, attract, and charm others—and individuals high in emophilia are seeking someone who can do these exact things. They love the thrill of early attraction and may also be a lot more willing to engage in uncommitted and unrestricted sexual activity, which can lead to both physical and emotional health issues.
Exiting Relationships With Dark Triad Individuals
While it can feel invigorating and sexy to be always riding the “in love” high, it’s also important that you safeguard your health. Falling for risky partners, because that’s sexy in itself, can be dangerous when their aim is manipulation and destruction. If you find yourself in a relationship that has edged from dizzyingly seductive to dangerously controlling and you're plotting your escape, make sure you have a strong support group and allies around you. If you’re fearful of physical violence, make sure you have a friend present during any engagement with this person. Make sure you have a place to go that is safe and move out in one fell swoop—move quickly and leave nothing behind that would require another meeting.
Change Isn't Easy, but It May Save You
Emophilia has also been connected to having higher numbers of engagements, earlier engagements, more marriages, more children, but also more divorces (Jones, 2015). That’s a lot of upheaval to manage in one’s lifetime. Now is a perfect time to reassess your choices and your needs versus your “wants.”
Learning to be more selective in your romantic pursuits isn’t easy—when it’s the buzz of early romance that you’re chasing, stepping out of the chase takes strength and likely a fair amount of distraction. Do some self-assessment and figure out what you really want in a partner—and keep yourself honest by checking in with your list when you find yourself chasing potential partners that are far from what you need in a partner. Maintain boundaries, too, that help you maintain perspective on the speed and frequency with which you’re falling for others. Have a trusted friend who is willing to do a “reality check” with you when they notice you’re getting too deeply invested in a relationship too quickly.
Lechuga, J., & Jones, D. N. (2021). Emophilia and other predictors of attraction to individuals with Dark Triad traits. Personality and Individual Differences, 168. Doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2020.110318.
Jones, D. N. (2015). Life outcomes and relationship disposition: The unique role of emophilia. Personality and Individual Differences, 82, 153-157.