Men Experience Love Addiction, Too

Posted by on 08 04 14 in Love Addiction News | Comments Off on Men Experience Love Addiction, Too

Men Experience Love Addiction, Too“I never saw a more promising inclination. He was growing quite inattentive to other people, and wholly engrossed by her. Every time they met, it was more decided and remarkable. At his own ball he offended two or three young ladies by not asking them to dance, and I spoke to him twice myself, without receiving an answer. Could there be finer symptoms? Is not general incivility the very essence of love?” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

If you were to create a timeline of Andrew’s life, you might notice a distinct pattern. Interspersed between the binge drinking in high school, the drug use in college and the Internet gambling addiction in his late 20s and early 30s, Andrew’s story was laced with near identical romantic dramas. The time just before each addictive jaunt was marked by an intense romance and a subsequently crushing heartbreak. Now in his late 30s, he’d immersed himself at turns in religion, psychotherapy and every 12-step program he could find. But before each of these shifts, there was always a woman, someone with whom he fell madly and deeply in love.

These women were similar: emotionally distant, easily distracted, often cold. An outsider might have noticed the similarity to Andrew’s mother, but it took him years to see it. The intensity of his devotion was maximized by the degree of a woman’s aloofness; he seemed to be more attracted to women who were less able to give him what he needed, which of course, was love. Once he’d zeroed in on the “right” woman, nothing could deter him. They were like the women on magazine covers, beautiful and silent, and he would shower them with praise and attention, time and money and devotion. Andrew imagined any woman would be happy to have these things but his experience showed him that, after a time, the women he adored did not. This left him feeling unworthy and alone, heartbroken.

During the romantic intrigue phase, when Andrew was pursuing a woman, he was filled with vitality. He couldn’t get enough of her. He missed work in order to be present for a woman’s needs. He made impulsive decisions he’d later come to regret, but in the moment, he floated with the stars. After a breakup, Andrew became invariably depressed. He felt fatigued and listless, unable to leave the house or concentrate on work. The swings in emotions and physical discomfort were palpable and protracted. Soon enough, he’d fall headfirst into a new obsession – a substance, process or self-help enterprise. But once the obsession became routine, he’d find himself needing the distraction of love.

Love as Addiction, for Men

There’s a pervasive myth that dominates both popular culture and the addiction treatment world, and it sounds like this: sex addicts are largely men, and love addicts are mostly women. If you are a woman who experiences sex addiction and you attempt to read about your disorder, it’s nearly impossible to find treatment literature that acknowledges you exist. The same is true of male love addicts; it’s as if they are unicorns. But the reality is that male love addicts do exist – many of them. Due to societal gender stereotypes that bleed into mental health communities, their disorder is frequently missed – not only by clinicians, but by the men who suffer from love addiction. Many times, sex and love addiction go hand in hand, regardless of gender.

More Global Roots of Addiction

Psychologists and addicts frequently discover the roots of addiction buried in childhood attachment issues, in relationships to early caregivers that felt insecure to the child. Addicts may reach for substances or processes like sex and love in order to replace these unmet needs and the unresolved emotions that arise in their absence. Researchers agree that both genes and environment play a role in the emergence of addictive behavior, and as more evidence from the field of epigenetics attests, environmental conditions have the power to “turn on” genes.

Both men and women are susceptible to genetic and the environmental conditions that take place in families and which have the power to shape and reinforce addictive behavior, but social conditions treat men and women differently when it comes to the performance of both sex and love. Men are taught to withhold their feelings, to be strong and stoic. Women are taught to be sexy and pleasing to men, but not “too” sexual, lest they be somehow degraded by activities that do not equally degrade men. These messages are at odds with men and women’s emotional, psychological and physical needs, because the vast majority of adult humans – both men and women – require emotional intimacy and sexual connection to be optimally healthy. When societal strictures become imbalanced, we see men who become love-addicted and women who become sex-addicted – both trying to meet needs they could never quite meet, not just from childhood, but likely due to the limitations of more extreme social conditioning. As we see with epigenetics, there are frequently multiple causes in the creation of dysfunction.

It is healthy for men to express emotion, and as a society, we could benefit from promoting the safe emotional expression of men and boys. It is healthy for women to experience autonomous and healthy sexual lives, and as a society we could benefit from supporting women rather than tearing them down. If we want to help sex and love addicts, we need to remove the restrictive gender assumptions. More men and women will step forward, and more will be helped.