“Lesbian Love Addiction” by Lauren D. Costine

Lesbian Love Addiction fills a critical gap in the literature on sex and love addiction. Lauren Costine uses research and field knowledge to shine a light in a problem area that desperately needs to be addressed, and her examples make the reading easily accessible for all. It’s a welcome resource for professionals, lesbian love addicts, and their loved ones. Psychologist Samantha Smithstein, PsyD

New resource Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things go Wrong by Lauren D. Costine, PhD, came about in large part because Robert Weiss, author of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, suggested to the author that there was a need.

Costine, both an experienced therapist and in recovery herself, was later interviewed by Weiss for Psych CentralShe describes the three different styles of lesbian love addiction: true love addicts, the love avoidant, and the love ambivalent.

  • Women who are true love addicts rush into love, are addicted to the brain chemicals elicited in this early stage, spend too much time together too soon and often rush into getting the “U-Haul,” often lose themselves in the relationship, choose partners who are unavailable in some significant way, don’t give themselves time between breakups before finding someone else.
  • The love avoidant “are the Romeos and Casanovas of the lesbian world.” Once the honeymoon period is over, they feel emotionally smothered and tend to create distance by finding fault with their partners.
  • The love ambivalent “have love addict characteristics in one relationship and love avoidant characteristics in the next” or “vacillate between love addict and love avoidant behaviors within a relationship.”

Four significant differences she’s found between women and men:

  • The potential in two women to experience the “beyond intoxicating” effects of the release of oxytocin and dopamine.
  • Women “seek relationships because our brains are wired to need them.”
  • “Lesbians, being naturally female-centric, are deeply impacted by our relationships with our mothers and their style of loving and relating to us. This deeply affects our romantic relationships later on.”
  • “Lesbian-phobia”: what Costine calls having to deal with both homophobia and misogyny in this culture.

Sex addiction, Costine finds, is not as prevalent in women as in men, though it can at times co-exist with lesbian love addiction.

What about recovery? “The healing process from love addiction can prove to be one of the most difficult things a lesbian will ever have to endure. It starts with the withdrawal process. Symptoms of withdrawal usually manifest in the following ways,” she notes.

  • Cravings to act out irrationally with love addicted behaviors
  • Inexplicable aches and pains
  • Physical illness or exhaustion
  • Switching to new addictions
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Overwhelming self-doubt
  • Desperation and fear
  • Feeling like you are going crazy
  • Suicidal thoughts or impulses
  • Desire to isolate
  • Obsessive thinking or fantasizing about the woman you gave up
  • Sadness, despair, or depression
  • Emotional highs and lows
  • Irritability, anger, or rage

Costine emphasizes, of course, that it’s both doable and worth it to commit to a program of recovery if love addiction is a self-destructive pattern in your life. Seeing a knowledgeable, lesbian-affirmative therapist and/or participating in a group such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) are two suggested routes.

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