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The Toxic Cycle of Love Addiction

The new year is here and your list of goals are set for 2012. Do you find yourself thinking that this is the year you will finally be able to have a fulfilling intimate relationship? However, based on past experience, you wonder if that is even possible.

Many people long to have an intimate connection, yet because of events and wounds in their childhood, they find this a very difficult and oftentimes scary task. Perhaps they had some sort of abandonment in their past, such as parents involved in a nasty divorce, or neglect of some kind, so they keep picking people who are unavailable. Some may have been abused either physically, emotionally or verbally, and consequently have difficulty trusting and pick untrustworthy people. Or they felt unwanted as children and therefore have a rejection theme and no matter what, end up feeling rejected by their unavailable partners.

The events they experienced in childhood have created patterns and habits of negative thoughts, feelings and even behaviors, which in turn become self-fulfilling prophecies.

One extreme outcome that can occur from abandonment or neglect in childhood is love addiction. Love addiction is an addiction to a fantasy about love or about a person. There is actually a powerful chemical released in the brain which promotes passionate love, phenylethylalanine. This is the same chemical that makes chocolate so addictive. It is said that it is the chemical spike of phenylethylalanine in the brains of love addicts that causes them to become addicted.

The love addict’s fear of abandonment drives them into a cycle of obsession and aggressively pursuing the object of their affection (drive-bys, obsessively calling, etc.) This toxic cycle has the effect of pushing their partner away, the opposite of what the love addict wanted, but what they subconsciously expected. They continue this cycle over and over which produces the exact same painful feelings they had in childhood: abandonment, fear, anger, pain, emptiness and most especially yearning.

Not helping the situation and a part of the cycle is the fact that love addicts usually pick someone who is emotionally unavailable. To the extreme, this can be a person who is actually love avoidant.

According to Pia Mellody, author of Facing Love Addiction, love avoidance is the systematic use of walls to avoid intimacy. They avoid intimacy by creating intensity outside of the relationship, usually with some addiction such as sex, gambling, drugs or alcohol. Love avoidants were often enmeshed with a needy parent of the opposite sex. Since taking care of one’s parents was overwhelming to them as a child, the love avoidant’s main fear is that of being suffocated, overwhelmed or engulfed. They tend to stay in relationships usually out of duty or guilt instead of love, and in a repeat of their childhood, feel they must take care of their partners. The love addict’s neediness combined with the love avoidant’s original wound causes them to eventually leave.

What ensues is a dance, or toxic cycle, which leads to both partners stuck in the loop of anger, pain, loneliness, and yearning… always the yearning. And even if they do leave each other, they start the cycle over with someone else. Either one of these scenarios makes having a loving connection with another virtually impossible.

Fortunately, not everyone fits into those two extremes. So, what’s the solution to finding the love of your life if you don’t fit into these two categories? The following are some tips to help you on your quest to attract your soul mate:

  1. Pursue health – make a decision to become as healthy and happy as you can be in body, mind and spirit! True health glows and that glow is a love magnet!
  2. Hire a nutritionist or a health coach. The right food, exercise and supplements can go a long way in promoting the healthy new you!  Find out about food sensitivities. Believe it or not, food sensitivities, gluten intolerance or insulin resistance can cause mood swings and/or anxiety when you eat the wrong foods.
  3. Feed your soul. A spiritual practice such as worship, prayer,  scripture reading, or yoga causes us to be at peace. Meditation has been proven to bring more peace and actually can change our brain waves. An intimate relationship with a higher power that provides solace, comfort, guidance and wants the best for us, is very healing and an important step toward being intimate with others.
  4. Get in touch with negative thoughts that may be affecting you. These are negative programs that have been running subconsciously since childhood, so they might be a bit challenging to reach. Such beliefs as, “I’m not loveable”, “I’m not important”, or  “I’m ugly”, effect what we will attract into our lives. Pay attention and write down all such thoughts. Then challenge them with a more accurate and positive thought.
  5. Finally and most importantly, learn to love yourself. We can’t expect others to love us if we don’t love ourselves. You might find it necessary to hire a coach or counselor, and even explore some of your childhood history or relationship history to look for patterns that may be sabotaging you.

If you find you can’t take the above steps for any reason, or if you feel you might actually have a problem with love addiction or love avoidance, look for a therapist trained to help you. There are support groups as well that can help. Love Addicts Anonymous, AlAnon, and Adult Children are good adjuncts to recovery from this insidious addiction.

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