Falling in love is one of the most exhilarating experiences that life has to offer. It’s downright wonderful, no doubt. But what happens when we fall in love with falling in love? What happens when our favorite part of the relationship is the first couple months?
Well, under those circumstances we can fall in love with any innocent bystander. Really anyone will do, because it’s the falling in love experience that we’re after, not genuine human connection and healthy intimacy. Have you ever seen a dog hump someone’s leg? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
Projecting Desires Onto Others
Ok, maybe the leg-humping was a bit crass. Let’s try another analogy. Get a brown paper bag and a sharpie. Write down all the things you want in a partner (“amazing, funny, sexy, talented, adventurous, smart, caring…” etc.) on the bag. Now go find a random street person and put that bag over their head. Then get sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach as you fall deeply in love with all of the wonderful qualities you just found in your new partner. Oh, ohhhhh, it’s maaaaagic!
Just so we’re clear, I’m talking about Love Addiction here. The cat’s out of the bag (see what I did there?). Falling in love is for sure a chemical experience – a tsunami of vasopressin, adrenaline, dopamine and oxytocin that feels like a bump of raw MDMA. When you hit it off with someone, you’ve got “chemistry,” am I right? Very appropriate word choice.
So for those of us with addictive tendencies or a propensity for escape, this chemical cocktail is nature’s free dope. Can you imagine? Free drugs? Completely legal? Oh, I love that! The only problem is that falling in love could take a while, especially hampered by the inconveniences of logic, maturity and good judgment. Not to mention the tedious process of actually getting to know someone, vetting them through your family and social circle, developing trust, etc. That sounds like work. Yuck. Can’t we bypass all that and jump directly onto the psychotropic rollercoaster? You bet your sweet ass we can.
Denial vs Delusion
When people are in denial, they are well aware of the truth, but they lie to themselves and others about it. When people are in delusion, however, they are completely oblivious to the actual truth, even if it’s readily apparent to the rest of the world. I like to say that, by definition, delusion is something you don’t know you’re in when you’re in it. Ask any wackadoo in the booby hatch if they think they’re crazy. Good chance they’ll say, “I’m not crazy. YOU’RE the one who’s crazy. Blahhhhhh!” Like they slipped on a banana peel and accidentally got admitted to the psych ward for the seventh time.
This, unfortunately, is why many Love Addicts never get help. They don’t even know that they’re junked out on pheromones. They call themselves “hopeless romantics.” They say that they “love hard.” They “wear their heart on their sleeve” and so forth. So many great euphemisms – all of which, to be fair, sound way better than “delusional junkie.”
The problem is that you can’t get arrested for falling in love too many times. Most people won’t end up in a family intervention because their relationships keep failing. Frequently even our closest friends are completely baffled or afraid to comment on our relational shit show. Many either don’t know what to say or they think it’s not their place to say anything about it. So there’s often no paper trail, obvious signs or flaming wreckage to point at and say, “I think I have a problem.”
In fact, Love Addicts can actually get lots of support and sympathy from the people in their lives: “He’s such a great guy, but he keeps getting ghosted,” “She just can’t find a good man,” “It’s like he only dates abusive men – my heart goes out to him,” etc. So, as you can see, the people around us can actually reinforce our delusion. We can generate a whole identity out of being a broken-hearted, innocent victim of unrequited love, battered by a cruel world.
Why Love Addiction Sucks
At the heart of all addictions is the deep conviction that, “I can control this – I just need to try harder.” I have seen both love addiction and heroin addiction, many times, up-close and personal, over several decades, and I can say that they are pretty much identical. The biggest difference is that heroin will take you to jails, institutions and death with relative certainty, so there is a clear end in sight and many people get into recovery before it’s too late. Love addiction, on the other hand, will just keep you coming back for more – locked into a holding pattern of delusional, ticking time bomb relationships forever.
But similar to heroin addiction, love addiction never works out. It’s not like two Love Addicts can get married and then mutually worship each other in spasmodic glee for all eternity. No, the Love Addict needs a dragon to chase (which is why they link up with Love Avoidants, ironically enough). Love addiction is a real problem. Gabor Maté describes addiction as, “Any behavior that a person craves, finds temporary relief or pleasure in but suffers negative consequences as a result of, and yet has difficulty giving up.” No one just grows out of love addiction. It’s a condition that needs to be treated.
Hope For The Love Addict
I hope that I’ve made the case that love addiction is not romantic, healthy, adorable or sustainable in any way and actually has nothing to do with love. Many Love Addicts really do want a healthy and loving, long-term, intimate relationship with an equal partner. It’s just that they don’t know the difference between that and a hole in the ground. They are truly a baffled lot. If you know my story, then you know I was once in that same boat.
The good news is that Love Addicts can and do recover. I have done it personally and I have helped others to do it. It takes strenuous work, dedication, perseverance and lots of guidance, but it is possible. If this article resonates with you, I pray that you won’t take it as an indictment of your deficiencies, but rather a beacon of hope for your recovery.
This is a thing that other people have. You are not terminally unique. You are not crazy or broken. Maybe you just need a little help. And it’s my hope that you’ll let me help you. Take a short diagnostic quiz. Book a free consult. Sign up for one-on-one coaching. Follow my Instagram. Subscribe to my blog. Just do something. But you’ve got to take action because hope alone is not a strategy for success.