Shooting Up Love: Women and Love Addiction

Posted by on 09 09 13 in Romance Addiction | Comments Off on Shooting Up Love: Women and Love Addiction

Wren’s earliest memory of her mother was of the back of her head, that wild mane of brunette curls, cigarette smoke curling perpetually above, closing the door in her wake. She doesn’t remember crying after her or even being sad to see her go; it’s just the way it was. She and her sister would be alone with the boxes of macaroni for days, weeks sometimes. Even at 3 and 5, they were familiar with the intricacies of a hot plate.

Wren didn’t know then that a mother was supposed to be loving, caring, responsible for them. She only knew that she liked when her mother got her monthly check and remembered to bring home groceries; she preferred when her mother drank beer to wine (beer made her happy, wine made her sad); and that if her mother brought a man home, she preferred if he had a beard to just a mustache. Bearded men seemed to understand children better.

Two decades later, some of this might explain why Wren had been in and out of so many punishing relationships, most of them with bearded men. While a child Wren may not have cried at her mother’s irresponsible, abandoning behavior or even recognized the repeated neglect, adult Wren was doing far more than her share of crying.

As soon as a reasonably unavailable man appeared in her sightline, Wren zeroed in for the kill. She had to have him. She grew obsessed, not from the first sign he might be interested, but the first sign he wasn’t. If a man told her she was “too skinny,” she was hooked; if he left her bed without saying he’d call, she’d cry for days then show up at his job. Whenever a new boyfriend seemed to grow distant, Wren called and texted and emailed every loving word or sexy thought she could think of in order to lure him back. The quieter, more distracted types the better, though the more critical ones were the best. If they were married or lived nine months out of the year overseas or deployed with the military? These men were her kryptonite.

By the time Wren finally knew she needed help she was staring herself in the face. Not herself exactly, but a version of herself. She’d been following her most recent boyfriend, Cal, night after night because he hadn’t responded to any of her calls or texts. She knew where he worked—inside a gated manufacturing plant in San Marcos, California. She’d hang outside the gate until his shift let out around midnight and follow him home. It was predawn on a Tuesday morning when Wren found herself running up Cal’s driveway, begging him to come back to her. He was whisper-yelling at her to get off his property when suddenly the flood lights cut on. Then a woman in a terrycloth robe was in front of her screaming in Spanish. She had long breakneck brunette curls. But it wasn’t this woman who stunned Wren to attention. It was the sight of the little girl on the porch, small and wiry, passive—acting as if she saw this all the time. The little girl locked eyes with Wren for a second. And then she turned on her bare feet and slipped back inside.

Love Addiction Explained

Love addiction refers to a pattern of compulsive thoughts and behaviors centered around accessing or maintaining romantic relationships. People who find themselves addicted to love are frequently anxious and fearful, especially in regard to romance. As a way to avoid pain and soothe fears, they frequently engage in fantasy, romantic intrigue, and the incubation of anxious hoping. A love addict will usually go to any length to avoid rejection and abandonment. At base, he has little belief in his self-worth and very poor actual knowledge of the real experience of love.

What love addicts have in common are early childhood attachment issues. In short, their desperate need for healthy attachment—critical to health and wellbeing at all stages of life—went largely unmet when they were young. They may have been neglected or even abused as young children. So love addicts feel not just familiarity toward emotionally unavailable people, but a desperate need to finally be loved by them. Of course, their vinyl recording is stuck there, replaying the dance of unavailability, longing, and desperation over and over until it ends inevitably in abandonment, just as it did when the love addict was young. If a new record were to play, one in which the love addict were to receive everything she thought she wanted, she’d likely discover that she no longer had a use for it. Kind, loving people bore love addicts. They need the drama of painful rejection. Love addicts subconsciously need to feel desperate and anxious because that is the enemy they know.

Rachel Resnick, author of Love Junkie, a memoir about her experience with love and sex addiction, offers the following:

You can tell if you’re a love junkie if you meet someone new, and instead of a spark, you get the whole meteor shower. It’s like you’re shooting up that skin-tingling, electric feeling of love, right into your heart. And “love” wakes you up. Now this could maybe be a sign of chemistry between two people—if you’re healthy. But love junkies aren’t healthy. You’re a love junkie if you have a core of neediness and dependency that’s waiting to grasp onto someone. You want someone to rescue you, take care of you—the way your parents should have (and probably didn’t). You have a big gaping hole that the wind howls through, and that distorts your perceptions of the world, especially of the destructive lovers you choose.

Love addicts tend to fall in love extremely quickly. Once they are “hooked” on a potential romantic partner, they begin to fantasize and may have a hard time stopping. Love addicts are people who feel so desperate for love that they frequently lower their standards in order to become involved in a relationship, and may love people who are untrustworthy or even abusive. They tend to smother the objects of their love, to obsess, and to become involved with people who are unavailable—physically or emotionally. Love addicts are notorious for ignoring all the red flags about a person or relationship. And once a love addict has become emotionally involved with someone, he cannot let go.

Getting Better

Just like with chemical addictions, love addiction has both psychological and physical withdrawal. A person withdrawing from the love/loss tango can experience cold sweats, inability to sleep, nausea, immense craving, inability to concentrate and restlessness. Getting past this painful period takes both clarity and willpower, and it can be truly difficult.

Such a change requires a deep down willingness to want, not suffering, but a life of clarity—to love oneself more than one’s sickness. For many, this requires the support of others, especially those who understand love addiction. Recovery is possible, and for many, inevitable—though it requires choosing to become aware of our patterns and the ways we have been shaped by our life’s history. Though we cannot change our past, we can change the way we choose to allow it to affect us going forward.

Under the floodlights on a Tuesday when Wren looked into the indifferent seeming eyes of a little girl not unlike the little girl she had once been, she realized that what she had seen was not truly indifference. And she knew that morning in that driveway that the little girl she’d been was still inside her, begging, pleading for someone to love her. But that it was time to grow up. The only one who could love her now, in fact, the only one who even knew she existed at all, was Wren.