Are you addicted to ‘love’?
If so, you're not really addicted to 'love' or the person-- but the fantasy of love, that's right... a dream, an illusion, and yes... a fairytale.
Love addicts go into relationships in a disoriented fog of romantic idealism. We call it love addiction, but it should actually be called 'fantasy addiction', because the fantasy is what they fall for, the fantasy is a love addicts drug. Love addicts become dependent on a fantasy that they ‘make-up’ about who a person is (non-reality), rather than seeing and knowing a person, for who they really are (reality).
Some have romantic fantasies with people they don't even know (e.g., celebrities, a person walking down the street, a coworker, etc.). It's not uncommon for some people to have momentary fantasies like this lasting minutes or less. But for others, the fantasy about someone they never met or knew could lead to extreme obsessing, anguish, and compulsive behaviors, such as stalking.
More commonly, are love addicts who become romantically addicted to a person in which they form an addictive relationship. In a romantic relationship, a love addict doesn’t fall in love and get hooked to their romantic partner, they get hooked to the ‘fantasy' of their partner-- bear in mind, not the reality of their a romantic partner.
- It’s the fantasy love addicts ‘fall in love’ with
- It’s the fantasy love addicts obsess over
- It’s the fantasy love addicts become attached to
- It’s the fantasy love addicts yearn for
- It’s the fantasy love addicts grieve and crave when a relationship ends.
What triggers a love addicts fantasy in a romantic relationship?
Good question. When a love addict meets someone who they are physically attracted to, and this person is avoidant, emotionally walled-off, and/or is a narcissist… this in itself will be a trigger where a fantasy is sparked. They will form a fantasy in their mind and paste it over the face of a person or potential romantic partner (avoidant or narcissist).
Fantasy enables a love addict to deny, justify, and minimize blatant and observable truths of a partner/relationship. Their fantasy propels a romantic partner high on an imaginary pedestal, and he/she becomes their higher power. In the haze of their fantasy, they assure themselves, they have found “the one”… one who will always and forever be there for them, love them, reassure them, and cherish them... a lover who will forever hold them in high regard, and rescue them from the burdens of life, take their brokenness (perceived) away, and finally make them feel whole.
Smoking the pipe of a fantasy, love addicts may spend exorbitant lumps of their waking hours imagining a romance-fueled, quintessential life with their new (or ongoing) partner who will meet all their desired needs. With the fantasy in command and leading them forward, they become obsessed and preoccupied with their partner, going all in, relinquish important life goals or interests; abandon their true needs, hopes, and aspirations, and often personal values; even abandon friendships and/or family relationships, not to mention themselves.
The "love" emotions are real... however, are not connected to the reality of a romantic partner (who they really are)
A romantic fantasy triggers real emotions and feelings (‘feel good’ chemical changes) in their mind and their body-- it feels like romantic love, and it’s euphoric. The fantasy makes them feel like they are loved and are “in love” (with a passionate/sexual component).
Not unlike a powerful substance (cocaine, heroin, ecstasy), they get high off their fantasy-- it becomes a potent drug, a drug they come to rely on to feel like they matter. They fall for their ideal image of a romantic partner, get strung-out, and more often than not, unable to stop their fantasy without incurring detrimental effects.
The romantic fantasy will crumble... sometimes fast, sometimes little by little.
Love addicts eventually discover the person they imagined their romantic partner to be (their fantasy)… is NOT that person at all, but a person who proves continually incapable of meeting their (love addicts) true needs for intimacy and mutual connection.
It’s unavoidable-- a romantic fantasy formed in a relationship will, at some point-- blow up. It happens in all addictive relationships.
One love addicts experience:
Robin, a love addict was addicted to a fantasy about David. Her fantasy started meeting David on a dating site. Robin was instantly attracted to David when she first laid her eyes on David-- he was equally attracted to Robin. She was mesmerized by the hazel eyes that stared so intently into her own. He was charming, attentive, and seemingly very affectionate-- and he constantly lavished praise and adulation on Robin-- which made her feel very special. "He honestly was so sweet and endearing".
David and Robin quickly developed an intense romantic relationship. Robins fantasy was sparked on the first date, but was only starting… Within three weeks her fantasy accelerated into high gear…
By week four, Robin consciously came to a solid conclusion, “David is the one”. She declared to her close friend Jenny, “David is perfect, it’s like we’ve known each other forever, we’re best friends and lovers, I never met someone that's such a perfect fit for me. He’s so amazing Jenny! I’m so lucky and blessed to find such a rare man like him. Jenny, I love him so much, and I genuinely know he loves me as much. I know we are going to be, forever, together, I just feel it. We're already talking about our future together”.
Robin was on a high, and she was sure she knew him, had him pegged, he was the man for her... she felt it, right? Unfortunately, only after a few months, Robins fantasy began getting a bit shaky, and her high was dissipating.
There was an energy Robin sensed that started changing about David. She started to notice Davids interest and adoration for her started to wane. He didn’t seem so eager to get together on the weekends, and would make weird excuses for it. Overtime, he didn't respond to her texts and phone calls like he use to, where before he would usually respond within a couple of hours, changed to maybe 24, sometimes 48 hours. When Robin would ask him if anything is going on, if he is feeling different about things, David would seem enraged, automatically become defensive and respond critically, "You're crazy, why do you say that, you're so insecure and sensitive".
Robin became more and more anxious, and sometimes she felt pure panic and distress. Robins fantasy, the person she imagined David to be, was cracking.
One day, four months into the relationship, Robin saw Davids phone laying on her kitchen table, she picked it up and noticed a text from a woman, opened his phone to see who it was and discovered David was having sexual encounters with two women; they were emotional/sexual back and forths encounters for sure, but she wasn’t sure if he was actually getting together for for sexual encounters. But it didn’t matter at this point… this was the beginning of her fantasy 'blowing up' to pieces.
Robin went from one the best romantic high she's ever experienced, to one of the lowest lows she's ever experienced... soon enough, she was in full withdrawal, and meltdown mode.
Robins fantasy of who David really is/was, and the relationship she thought she had with him was her heroin... The fantasy of David, was her drug.
If it were possible for any person on earth to fulfill a love addicts fantasy… in no way (no how) could the type of person love addicts enter relationships (walled-off, avoidant, or narcissist). Moreover, they are also the least likely type of individuals to even meet legitimate relational needs that love addicts desire (e.g., closeness, intimacy, and mutual connection)... * note: these relationship needs/desires are normal and healthy.
If fantasy can talk!
When love addicts start noticing realities of their partner that fly in the face of their fantasy, the fantasy will try hard as hell, to excuse and justify these realities (denial). If the fantasy could talk, it may justify the noticed realities (e.g., immaturity, callousness, distancing tactics), by voicing things like: “he/she had a hard childhood”; “just be patient and love more, give more, do more”; “just be a better partner, stop being needy, stop talking about your feelings, stop telling him what your needs are, stop being so imperfect”; or “This isn’t the real him/her, he/she is the person I had in those first several weeks/months together…I want that person back”.
Even when a love addict begins to notice stark realities about their partner, like Robin, the fantasy won't suddenly disappear, as a love addicts fantasy is quite often overpowering. But that doesn't mean it cannot be broken. It can. In fact, to get over an addiction to a person, it must be broken... even though grief and withdrawal is a necessary process, it is a worthwhile task to take on.
Recovery becomes possible when we break free from the fantasy... (when we stop using the drug)
Love addicts cannot break out of their love addiction so long as they continue medicating themselves with fantasy. It would be like a drug addict trying to get sober, while continuing to smoke their dope or popping oxycontin. It doesn’t work.
What is required to break our fantasy of a romantic partner? What are the benefits?
To overcome a fantasy or a romantic partner, we have to first start accepting that we’ve been in fantasy and this is a drug, the real drug. We have to explore: What we initially ‘made-up’ about the person, what the fantasy looked like (who we thought he/she was in fantasy); and thoughts and feelings of the fantasy. We then have to examine the reality of the person/who the person, in fact, really is. This part is the bigger challenge. This takes some legitimate work and effort, and brutal honesty. With continued examination, we steadily move into the truth and reality of who the person is. Overtime we clearly begin seeing the distinction of what we made up about someone ( fantasy) vs the reality of the person.
For many love addicts, going through this process brings relief and is actually is very freeing. As they comprehend more and more, the reality of their avoidant partner, the more they see and realize, "this is not the kind of person I want for a long term relationship, and yes, who he/she is made me unhappy, and I deserve better, and it was not my fault".
We can’t just wish a romantic fantasy away in order to heal.
This process takes work and effort. It is not an easy task. In some cases, it is possible to do it on our own-- however, this route can be risky, as love addicts are often very vulnerable to cycle back and forth into the fantasy, and/or find someone else to replay the fantasy with.
From my personal and professional experience, my view is that getting help and guidance from an expert from a professional who understands love addiction, is much more effective, as well as a more speedy path to crushing the fantasy.
Remember, if you're addicted to a person, you're not addicted to the reality of him/her but the fantasy (the real drug)-- and yes it is toxic.