Love and Romance Addiction: Key Points About Recovery

Love and romance addiction experts have been speaking about this issue for many years. Below is a capsulization of some key info and resources.

THE QUIZZES: Do You Have Love and Romance Addiction?

The 40-question quiz offered by Love Addicts Anonymous uses the work of Susan Peabody, author of Addiction to Love: Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships and the recent Recovery Workbook for Love Addicts and Love Avoidants. “More than a few yeses” may indicate you have issues.

Here are just the first five questions:

  1. You are very needy when it comes to relationships.
  2. You fall in love very easily and too quickly.
  3. When you fall in love, you can’t stop fantasizing—even to do important things. You can’t help yourself.
  4. Sometimes, when you are lonely and looking for companionship, you lower your standards and settle for less than you want or deserve.
  5. When you are in a relationship, you tend to smother your partner.

Brenda Schaeffer‘s book Is It Love Or Is It Addiction? (1997) now has a more recent and expanded third edition. Get 12 or more affirmatives on her 32-point “Romance Addiction Questionnaire” and there’s a possibility you have an addiction.

A brief sampling:

2. Do you like melodrama: being a rescued victim or the hero?

3. Are longing and melancholy familiar to you?

5. Is being wanted extremely important to you?

6. Is the attraction phase of a relationship what matters most?

10. Is there a familiar pattern in your selection of partners?

MORE RESOURCES

As Laura BarcellaThe Fix, points out, major credit is due Stanton Peele, who recognized in Love and Addiction (1975) that addiction wasn’t just about substance abuse. He continues to address this topic in his “Addiction and Society” blog on Psychology Today and elsewhere.

Pia Mellody‘s Facing Love Addiction “has been used as a sort of mini-Bible in addressing the issue for more than 20 years,” notes Barcella. One of Mellody’s contributions is her description of the “addiction/avoidance relationship cycle” in which a love addict has a pattern of becoming entwined with a “love avoidant.”

Although not a professional clinician like the above-listed, the writer of the popular Love Addict: Sex, Romance, and Other Dangerous Drugs (2011), Ethlie Ann Vare, is a recovering addict herself. Her alternate name for love addiction? Affection Deficit Disorder.

About a year ago on her blog (called Affection Deficit Disorder, of course) Vare listed “The Five Most Popular Paragraphs in LOVE ADDICT”:

1. Addiction is a disease of loneliness. Recovery is a process of community. Don’t try this alone. Your brain, an otherwise admirable tool of subtle complexity and divine reason, is a wee bit broken in this one particular area. Use someone else’s brain for a change.

2. When I stop doing the things that hurt me, I stop hurting. When I stop doing things that hurt other people, my self-esteem increases. When I have self-esteem, I am less inclined to do the things that hurt me. Simple.

3. The love addict is either chasing or being chased. As long as the person they’re chasing is unavailable, they’re madly obsessed and in love. But as soon as the person they desire is in their face saying, “I love you back and I want to be with you,” that’s when the love addict becomes the avoidant. They run for the hills, because they can’t handle the intimacy.

4. “We assign magical qualities to others. We idealize and pursue them, then blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and expectations.”

5. Love addicts and sex addicts tend to go together. Love addicts are often people who were severely abandoned. And they tend to idealize people. It’s sort of romantic love gone pathological. The kind of person [they’ll] idealize will necessarily be the kind of person who will abandon them. If that person suddenly comes around and forms a closeness, the love addict will sabotage the relationship.

RECOVERY LOVE AND ROMANCE ADDICTION: WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

Although some kind of “sobriety” is important, as indicated by therapist Robert Weiss (SexualRecovery.com), this will differ for each person. One proposal for early recovery: “Sobriety can be delineated as abstinence from any romantic or sexual activity that causes the person to feel shameful or hold secrets, or which is illegal or abusive to others.”

According to Jocelyn Voo, CNN, Brenda Schaeffer’s approach involves learning how to modify one’s thoughts. Steps she proposes:

• Assess yourself for love addiction tendencies honestly…

• Know healthy love exists and how to identify it.

• Be willing to face the pain letting go produces.

• Discover and address the underlying causes and psychological beliefs that support the compulsive/obsessive behavior. Ask yourself questions like, ‘What do I believe about relationships, love, and myself? Why might I fear closeness? Do I believe people will disappoint me or I will disappoint them?’

• Don’t forget the past; utilize it. Acknowledge that you will move beyond any painful experiences and focus on future relationship success.

• Find a support group such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous or a therapist trained in love addiction to help you through this transition.

You can consult any of the other resources listed above for additional love and romance addiction recovery suggestions.

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