Maladaptive Messages, Beliefs, Distortions from Childhood
In childhood, most love addicts may have experienced a variety of dysfunctional family environments such as chemical dependency, chronic mental illness, chronic physical illness, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, divorce, hypercritical or non-loving environment, or loss of loved one through death, etc.
Love addicts tend to carry over unhealthy learned-adaptations and abandonment issues into their adult lives and relationships. They generally have a deep sense of being unlovable, unworthy, and less than, and therefore need a person in a relationship to feel alive, valued, and worthy.
When most people first begin a romantic relationship and fall in love, it is normal to feel some passion, euphoria and excitement. There is that glitter in the eye, that new smile, and the hope of a happy future with the new person. Chemicals in the brain are enhanced when love is new--these are our "happy chemicals"-- the dopamine neuro-transmitter. In a normal healthy process of falling in love, there is a core component of "reality".
Hooked on "Love"
When a love addict falls in love, the euphoric feelings are greatly intensified & falsely mistaken for true love blocking out reality that really exists. "If the chemistry is great, it must be true love, my soul mate", the love addict believes.
In their fantasy, reality is greatly distorted when attachment to another person occurs. They disconnect all logic rational and replace it with distortions and denial. Reality is thrown out and delusion is thrown in. The romantic "high" they feel when falling for another is created by a fantasy of their partner and what the future will bring with their new "King Savior" or "Princess-Wonder Woman".
In their infatuation, the love addict never notices who their partner truly is. Love addicts make up who they want their partner to be, and ignore who their partner really is. The obsession to a person (their object- drug of choice) allows the love addict to feel alive, have a sense of purpose, and gain a sense of meaning and self worth in the world. If the love addict had any purpose or sense of self before the relationship, it is lost in the dependency to the fantasy.
Ignoring Red Flags
Red flags--negative behaviors, addictions, disrespect, and emotional walls by another person--go unnoticed by the love addict. Love addicts idealize their partner and put them high up on a pedestal believing they have the power to fulfill the intense desire for love and acceptance. They view theirs partner as being better than-- "the strong and independent person who has it all together"--and/or will make up in their fantasy that "he/she has so much potential as a person", which will often hook the love addict in becoming their savior.
As the relationship continues on and reality starts setting in, love addicts become angry and resentful because of their partners failure to meet expectations (expectations that are impossible for any person to meet). The partners unavailability and increased avoidance triggers anxiety and feelings of abandonment which causes them to smother and demand more and more as they try to get that euphoric feeling back (or a feeling of normalcy) and the toxic dance begins between the two.
As the love addict desperately tries to get the partners attention, the partner further creates distance by focusing outside the relationship (other addictions or compulsive behavior's for the avoidant addict are common), and the love addicts denial slowly begins to crumble. It is like the cocaine addict losing his supply of the drug--withdrawal symptoms begin to set in, and reality becomes more present. But even when it becomes crystal clear that the relationship is going nowhere, the love addict will fight with every nook and cranny to avoid the inevitable reality of their partners disengagement and often intolerable behaviors.
Love Addict- Denial of Reality
Even if the love addicts partner becomes verbally abusive, manipulative, blaming, and controlling, the love addict will often continue the extreme denial to avoid losing the relationship. The love addict will tolerate more and more intolerable behaviors because being with this person would be better than being alone. The love addict will give more and do more (and lose more of his/her identity) in the relationship while receiving less and less. The love addict will take blame for things that he/she wasn't responsible for and blame him/herself for the avoidant partners unhappiness. "Anything" but losing the relationship will do. If a love addict does leave, the fantasy and denial will get transferred on to the next "one" who will make them feel special, and the destructive pattern repeats itself once again.
In effect, each romantic connection for love addicts brings a fleeting sense of safety and aliveness. The fantasy and delusion they create holds the false promise of emotional security driving away the gnawing emptiness, anxiety, and loneliness--if only for a moment. Their relational patterns are compulsive, out of control, and continue in spite of adverse effects on their relationships and their lives.
Breaking the Pattern
For love addicts to recover from this problem involves treatment of the core issues. For example, healing the shame and low self worth, unhealthy boundaries, breaking the toxic relationship patterns; and changing unhealthy beliefs about what relationships are really suppose to look like.
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