Should You Consider Separation as Part of Love Addiction Therapy?

Posted by on 10 02 14 in Love Addiction News | Comments Off on Should You Consider Separation as Part of Love Addiction Therapy?

Love addiction can be a silent killer of relationships that largely goes unnoticed by those who are caught up in the vicious cycle of drama and toxicity. Sure, they may understand something is not quite right, but that they actually have an addiction often doesn’t cross their minds.

I used to fall into that category. Before I knew what love addiction was, I thought my relationship problems stemmed from my partner’s lack of common sense when it came to how to partner. I blamed, judged and criticized every time I felt neglected or rejected. That is, until someone recognized my addiction and told me I needed to get help.

I assure you I was appalled. Me? Addicted to love? Suffering from codependency? No way! I’ve got myself together. It’s my partner’s lack of relationship skills and emotional detachment. It’s fine. I’m fine! But deep inside I knew something was wrong. I could not control my emotions like I used to do. I was jealous, controlling, afraid. I was an emotional mess and the only time I felt good was when I was in the presence of my partner. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my partner was my drug. My fix. The Band-Aid that soothed my wounds.

To Stay or Go?

Love addiction is an unhealthy emotional or psychological attachment to another person. It can be likened to any addiction. You need another person’s attention in order to feel good or to numb the pain. You manipulate, control, and do your best to please the other person in order to get attention and approval. You revolve your life around that person.

For those who struggle with love addiction and are in a relationship, the question often comes up: Should you stay in the relationship or separate while trying to recover? Can an addict successfully overcome her drug of choice while that drug is right in front of her every day? Is it possible to make internal and relationship changes while emotionally attached or living together?

The answer will vary for each individual. There have been some men and women who have recovered from love addiction while in a relationship, and there are some who absolutely could not. They had to leave permanently or separate in order to get to the root of their addiction and spend some concentrated time maturing emotionally. Regardless of the route you take, a healthy detachment does need to occur.

For me, I had to separate. One of my biggest fears was to be alone. I could not contend with that fear while in my relationship. In fact, I spent nearly five years knowing this and still could not bring myself to cut ties out of intense fear. I knew this because when we would break up for a couple of days to a week, the withdrawal symptoms would start and I’d be shaking like a leaf, petrified and contending with a deep ache in my heart that I did not want to contend with. That feeling of pure aloneness made me go
back to my drug of choice over and over again despite the toxicity of the relationship. It wasn’t until I left completely that I finally began to make great strides in recovery.

Four Stages of Recovery Codependency expert and therapist Ross Rosenberg asserts that love addicts go through four stages of

Whether you do this while in a relationship or you decide a separation is needed, you’ll likely progress through each stage.

1. Setting boundaries. According to Rosenberg, when a love addict decides to jump on the road to recovery, it is the first stage – setting healthy boundaries – that will be the most intense. This stage lasts about three months. It is best if you seek therapy before heading full force into recovery. There you will be able to discuss what boundaries need to be set and ways you can
maintain them.

Understand that your partner, or whoever you have an unhealthy relationship with, might become angry at you during this stage. They may pressure you to break boundaries. Be strong. Boundary setting for a codependent is just plain tough. I know for me when I would put my foot down and really commit to setting a boundary, it rarely went over well. I would feel immense
pressure to remove it and endure great guilt trips.

This first stage of love addiction recovery is likened to a drug addict putting down the drug and going through withdrawal. For the love addict, setting boundaries may entail putting an end to “people pleasing” tactics to gain approval, stopping any controlling, manipulative or jealous behavior in an effort to gain attention or approval, and standing up for yourself should your partner or another person treat you like a doormat.

2. Maintaining boundaries in a hostile environment. The second stage involves maintaining your boundaries even in an angry environment. This stage will last from three to six months and as you progress in therapy, you will begin to feel empowered as you work through the root issues of codependency; typically, grief, shame and the fear of abandonment.

3. Building new relationships. In the third stage, you will begin to build new relationships with those who are healthy for you. By now, you may or may not still be connected with the person you were addicted to. Some will have left for good and others may have stuck it out and worked on their own issues as you worked on yours. You now see that relationships are about reciprocity of love and respect. This stage lasts for about three to six months.

4. Strengthening new relationships. After about a year of recovery, you’ll feel like a new person. You won’t be as afraid or anxious. You’ll know how to set and maintain healthy boundaries. The cravings for your drug of choice dissipate. You’ll want to build relationships with healthy people.

It is important to recognize if you are struggling with love addiction and reach out for help. If you’re not sure whether you need to separate or stay in your current relationship as you embark on your recovery journey, talk to a therapist. Success has been recorded in both scenarios. It won’t be easy, but addictions cans also be a doorway into self-discovery and healing.