August 3, 2005
In the last decade,
a lot has changed in the world of love addiction. Not that love addiction
itself has changed. It is pretty much the same insidious disorder it always
has been. What has changed is how the world looks at it. Twenty years ago,
our understanding of love addiction was still emerging out of our
understanding of codependency. Therefore, love addiction and codependency
seemed to be one in the same. However, today we understand that this is
not true. Love addiction stands alone, and codependency is only one of
several underlying personality disorders. To make it perfectly clear how
one love addict differs from another here is a list:
Addicts (OLAs) cannot let go, even if their partners are:
emotionally or sexually
Afraid to commit
something outside the relationship (hobbies, drugs, alcohol, sex, someone
else, gambling, shopping etc.)
Addicts (CLAs) are the most widely recognized. They fit a pretty
standard profile. Most of them suffer from low self-esteem and have a
certain predictable way of thinking, feeling and behaving. This means that
from a place of insecurity and low self-esteem, they try desperately to
hold on to the people they are addicted to using codependent behavior. This
includes enabling, rescuing, caretaking, passive-aggressive controlling,
and accepting neglect or abuse. In general, CLAs will do anything to
“take care” of their partners in the hope that they will not leave—or that
someday they will reciprocate.
Addicts (RAs), unlike other love addicts, are no longer in love
with their partners but they cannot let go. Usually, they are so unhappy
that the relationship is usually affecting their health, spirit and
emotional well being. Even if their partner batters them, and they are in
danger, they cannot let go. They are afraid of being alone. They are afraid
of change. They do not want to hurt or abandon their partners. This can be
described as “I hate you don’t leave me.”
Addicts (NLAs) use dominance, seduction and withholding to
control their partners. Unlike codependents, who accept a lot of
discomfort, narcissists won’t put up with anything that interferes with
their happiness. They are self-absorbed and their low self-esteem is
masked by their grandiosity. Furthermore, rather than seeming to obsess
about the relationship, NLAs appear aloof and unconcerned. They do not
appear to be addicted at all. Rarely do you even know that NLAs are hooked
until you try to leave them. Then they will no longer be aloof and
uncaring. They will panic and use anything at their disposal to hold on to
the relationship—including violence. Many professionals have rejected the
idea that narcissists can be love addicts. This may be because they rarely
come in for treatment. However, if you have ever seen how some narcissists
react to perceived or real abandonment, you will see that they are indeed
Addicts (ALAs suffer) from avoidant personality disorder—or what
SLAA calls emotional anorexia. They don’t have a hard time letting go, they
have a hard time moving forward. They desperately crave love, but at the
same time they are terrified of intimacy. This combination is agonizing.
ALAs come in different forms too. They are listed below.
are ALAs who obsess about someone who is unavailable. This can be done
without acting out (suffering in silence) or by pursuing the person they
are in love with. Some torch bearers are more addicted than others. This
kind of addiction feeds on fantasies and illusions. It is also known as
are ALAs who destroy relationships when they start to get serious or at
whatever point their fear of intimacy comes up. This can be
anytime—before the first date, after the first date, after sex, after the
subject of commitment comes up—whenever.
Withholders are ALAs who always come on to you when they want sex or
companionship. When they become frightened, or feel unsafe, they begin
withholding companionship, sex, affection—anything that makes them feel
anxious. If they leave the relationship when they become frightened, they
are just Saboteurs. If they keep repeating the pattern of being
available/unavailable, they are seductive withholders.
many people, the term "Seductive Withholder" is self-explanatory.
SW’s are men and women who vacillate between being available and
unavailable. One moment they are romantic, alluring, in pursuit and
then suddenly (often without warning) they pull back and withhold
affection, sex, and/or companionship. SW’s can drive you nuts.
place SW’s into two categories. First you have the Narcissistic SW’s
who enjoy toying with others because it gives them a "high." Some
narcissists feel remorse and continue doing this anyway, but most
lack any kind of compassion for those they seduce and then abandon.
An analysis of the narcissistic personality is beyond my area of
expertise, but I do know it is a personality disorder rooted in
childhood trauma. Unfortunately, treatment for this disorder is very
ineffective. Narcissists don’t get better because they don’t get
treatment. They have illusions of grandeur and don’t think they need
help. If they do get into therapy they drop out quickly because their
grandiosity is all that keeps them from falling apart. It is best to
just stay away from narcissists, especially narcissistic SW’s.
second kind of SW is the man or woman whose ambivalence is fear
based. These people feel safe when they are alone and uncommitted.
Then they get lonely and start dreaming about being in a
relationship. Next they start looking around for companionship (and
sex) and go into seductive mode when they meet someone they are
attracted to. As the relationship progresses, they become frightened
and pull back. Anything can trigger their anxiety. Intimacy and
commitment are the two most common triggers.
is hope for this kind of SW. With therapy and a few good books about
relationships, they can carefully choose the right person (someone
who is independent and self-sufficient) and then stick with the
relationship even if their fear comes up. SW’s cannot do this alone.
They have to first get treatment for being attracted to the "wrong"
type of person (a common problem for SW’s. Then, when they learn who
they should be looking for (and they find this person), they need a
lot of help bolstering their resolve to stay committed.
SW only seduce and withhold once; then they move on. Others engage in
this dance with the same person over and over again. The more
codependent the victim of a SW, the longer this will go on because
codependents are have a high tolerance for suffering in relationships
and tend to hold on despite all obstacles. See my book Addiction
to Love for more about codependency.
do you do if you are a SW? Get help and CHANGE. If you are attracted
to SW’S, or have a history of getting involved with them (by
accident) please read about this and get some help. As I say in my
book, The Art of Changing, this involves both therapy and
are ALA who are addicted to multiple partners. Unlike sex addicts,
who are trying to avoid bonding altogether, romance addicts bond with
each of their partners—to one degree or another— even if the romantic
liaisons are short-lived or happening simultaneously. By “romance” I mean
sexual passion and pseudo emotional intimacy. Please note that while
romance addicts bond with each of their partners to a degree, their goal
(besides getting high off of romance and drama) is to avoid commitment or
bonding on a deeper level with one partner. Often romance addicts are
confused with sex addicts.
A Note about ALAs:
Not all avoidants are love addicts. If you accept your fear of intimacy
and social situations, and do not get hooked on unavailable people, or
just keep your social circle small and unthreatening you are not
necessarily an ALA. But if you eat your heart out over some unavailable
person year after year, or sabotage one relationship after another, or
have serial romantic affairs, or only feel close when you are with
another avoidant, you may be an Ambivalent Love Addict.
You may find that you have more than one type of love addiction. Many of
these types overlap and combine themselves with other behavioral problems.
For instance, you may be a codependent, alcoholic love addict. Or a
love/relationship addict. The important thing is to identify your own
personal profile so you know what you are dealing with.
Robert was a love
addict, relationship addict, romance addict and sex addict. He was married
but did not want to divorce his wife of twenty years even though he was not
in love with her (relationship addiction) His hobby was masturbating to
pornography when his wife was not home (sex addiction). He had affairs with
several other women simultaneously without his wife finding out. He really
cared about each of these women (romance addict). One day he met Jennifer
and fell in love with her. It did not take long before he was obsessed with
her. She did not want to be with him because he was married, so he began
stalking and harassing her (love addict). Robert finally got into recovery,
divorced his wife, gave up the pornography and affairs and married the
woman he was obsessed with. At first his jealousy was out of control, but
after a few years of therapy and 12-Step meetings he began to trust his new
wife. Because she was mature, well-grounded and had high self esteem, the
relationship began to normalize. Today, all of Robert’s addictions are in
Codependents: It is very common for love addicts to end up in
relationships with other love addicts. The most common kind of
love-addicted couple is, as you might have guessed, the codependent and the
narcissist. In the beginning, narcissists are often seductive. After they
have hooked their codependent partners, however, they change. Here is an
example of a narcissist/codependent relationship.
Nancy and James met
at a bar and were instantly attracted to one another. Within days, Nancy
(the codependent) had fallen madly in love with James (the narcissist).
From the beginning, she was helpful, nurturing, attentive and went out of
her way to make him happy. James, on the other hand, appeared to be able to
take or leave the relationship after they made love. He canceled dates,
neglected to return phone calls, saw other women, became very domineering
and for the most part seemed aloof and detached. Still, six months later,
Nancy married James because she was in love with him and secretly hoped
that he would change.
After Nancy and
James were married, the pattern of neglect continued—especially his affairs
with other women. When Nancy objected, James bullied her until she stopped
nagging him about it. This went on for years. Nancy tried to save her
marriage by placating James in every way she could think of, but he
continued to do what he wanted. Eventually, Nancy stopped loving James and
thought about leaving him, but she just couldn't bring herself to face the
loneliness of being single again. This was better than nothing she thought.
So she continued her codependent behavior, always trying to keep James
happy and comfortable even if it meant sacrificing her own happiness in the
process. Eventually, Nancy sought counseling and within a year she felt
strong enough to leave James. He had other ideas. The first time Nancy
brought up the subject of divorce he laughed at her. Then he threatened her
verbally. The day she presented him with divorce papers, he beat her so
badly she had to go to the hospital. It seems that despite his lack of love
and respect for Nancy, James was addicted to her and the relationship they
shared. He also felt that if he couldn't have her, nobody else could.
got away from James even though he stalked her for months—threatening to
kill her if she didn't come back. Thankfully, he eventually let go.
However, you only have to read the newspapers to realize that such a lethal
combination of codependency and narcissism can lead to homicide.
Many love addicts switch-hit because they have more than one underlying
personality disorder. For instance, a relationship addict may play the role
of a codependent for years, then finally get out of the relationship and
fall in love with someone who is unavailable. Suddenly, our relationship
addict is an obsessed love addict or a torchbearer. Even narcissists
switch-hit—believe it or not. For years they be in one relationship after
another playing the role of the dominant, uncaring partner. However, if
they ever fall hard, they can easily turn into a torchbearer or obsessed
love addict. If they fall in love with another narcissist then they have no
choice but to become the codependent love addict in the relationship
because the narcissist will not stand for anything else. Even ambivalent
love addicts will start obsessing instead of running away when they are
switch-hit because of separation anxiety. If another form of behavior is
necessary to placate a partner and to hold on the him or her, the love
addict will adopt that behavior. Is it an act? Sometimes . . . but if the
love addict has weak personality boundaries, they may actually become the
other person while under the spell of the addiction.. The point here is not
to identify all the kinds of switch-hitting going on, or to even explain
it, but o point it out and learn from it.
The Importance of
All This: If all this seems complicated, it is. And, to be honest, the
only reason it is important is because it makes a difference when it comes
to treatment. Codependent love addicts, for instance, need a boost in
self-esteem and self-acceptance. They must learn to think better of
themselves. Narcissistic love addicts, on the other hand, use grandiosity
to bolster their low self-esteem and need to come down to earth. They need
to learn some humility and how to become “unselfish.” Ambivalent Love
Addicts need to find a healthy relationship and stay engaged in it even
when their fear threatens to overwhelm them. Most of all, understanding as
much as you can about love addiction will form the basis of your Fourth
Step Inventory in a 12-Step Program or give you a head start if you opt for
Copyright Susan Peabody. Reprinted by
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