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Love Addiction vs. Healthy Relationships

Codependence and Love Addiction

Codependence is commonly known as an unhealthy over-reliance on another person, and a disregard for one’s own needs and boundaries. This often takes the form of caretaking, people-pleasing, and enabling someone else’s dysfunction. Some additional symptoms of codependence include low self-worth, low self-esteem, cloudy communication, and relating to other people through control, denial, compliance, or avoidance.

Love addiction, including love avoidance, is one of the ways codependence can manifest in relationships. Typically, love addiction is expressed in romantic relationships, but it's also possible to engage in love addicted dynamics with friends, family members, and authority figures.

Read more: Codependence is incredibly common. Discover more about codependence, self-worth, and boundaries.

Love Addiction is less of an addiction to love, and more of an addiction to the idea of love. More specifically, it's an addiction to intensity, fantasy, denial, control, and excitement. Love addicted relationships are fueled by unresolved trauma, and people in love addiction dynamics tend to bond through trauma wounds. They project abandonment or enmeshment trauma from childhood onto their partner or become lost in fantasies about being saved, losing sight of the reality of the situation.

Healthy Relationships

When you're in a healthy, conscious, loving relationship, you'll feel calm, relaxed, stable, and supported. Healthy love is learned and cultivated over time, in a way that might seem slow and steady or even boring at times in contrast to the extreme highs and lows of love addiction.

When you're in a healthy relationship with someone, you honor each other’s freedom and independence because your relationship is grounded in trust and self-worth. You give each other plenty of time and space alone to enrich and take care of yourselves. This dynamic encourages both people to be their best selves and embody a sense of wholeness instead of trying to use each other to fill a void. Together, you share a healthy dynamic of interdependence as opposed to codependence.

In a healthy relationship, you keep promises to yourself and the other person. You trust each other, and your own instincts and boundaries. Communication is clear, compassionate, non-violent, and mutually respectful.

How to Identify Love Addiction

In a love addicted relationship, you may feel like you complete your partner or you need them in order to feel whole. The relationship serves as an attempt to fill an emotional void from childhood. In love addiction, people will often play out abandonment or enmeshment trauma with their partner and project a parent or savior fantasy onto the other person.

Love addicted dynamics are usually fast-moving, intense, thrilling, electrifying, based solely on sexual chemistry or physical attraction, and will feel like love at first sight. Yet ultimately, this type of relationship is not sustainable and is void of lasting intimacy. You might feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster and deal with intrusive thoughts or impulsive tendencies, such as excessive fantasizing, preoccupation with the other person, too much texting, or online stalking. Love addicted relationships will also lack boundaries, and communication is often cloudy or passive-aggressive. This includes lying, disloyalty, codependence, blame, shame, insults, deflection, manipulation, controlling behavior, and avoiding personal responsibility.

Love addicted relationships are often immersive, meaning that you lose sight of your life outside of the relationship. This includes ride-or-die behavior, where you have an undying devotion to someone despite dysfunctional dynamics, manipulation, or toxic, abusive behavior. You might abandon your hobbies, your friends, your needs, values, boundaries, and your sense of worth in order to stay connected to your partner. Spending time alone or being apart from your partner may activate intense feelings of fear, anxiety, paranoia, and suspicion.

A Guide to Healing and Growing Beyond Love Addiction

STEP 1: Commit to Reparenting Yourself

Addressing your attachment wounds and childhood trauma plays an essential role in healing love addiction tendencies. If you struggle with low self-worth, this may be rooted in attachment trauma. This means that your bonding patterns were disrupted during your formative years in early childhood, due to a parent or caregiver’s inability to be a stable and consistent emotional support system for you. This type of trauma can lead to avoidant or anxious behaviors in your relationships. Instead of looking to your romantic partner as a parent or as a means to fill this void, you will have to accept the responsibility of reparenting yourself.

Read more: Many people have an anxious or avoidant attachment style. Learn more about the anxious or avoidant attachment style.

STEP 2: Self-Care to Cultivate Your Worth

Consistent self-care will help you to cultivate a healthy sense of self-worth. At the core of love addiction lies unresolved trauma, a deep sense of unworthiness, shame, and emptiness. Your self-worth will need to be nurtured in order for you to feel good about yourself and empowered to communicate clearly and set healthy boundaries. The first step in this process is to get in touch with your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, and to take responsibility for tending to these needs. Write down your needs in each of these areas and how you will meet these needs on a daily basis. Over time, as you take care of yourself and your needs, you will generate a sense of strength and healthy self-worth within yourself instead of seeking worth from external factors.

STEP 3: Boundaries and Communication.

The process of setting healthy boundaries begins by being honest with yourself about your needs and boundaries and making a commitment to maintaining your boundaries. Sometimes your boundaries will require you to have clear and compassionate conversations with other people. This is important because other people cannot read your mind, and they are not responsible for your needs. It’s your responsibility to communicate and uphold your boundaries, even in situations where other people do not understand or accept them. The goal is to uphold your boundaries instead of abandoning yourself for the sake of people-pleasing. Clear communication might feel vulnerable or awkward at first, but with practice, it becomes easier and is in the service of healthy love, self-respect, and respecting others.

Read more: Explore non-violent communication and how to be assertive without being controlling or bossy.

STEP 4: Seek Professional Help.

Love Addiction and avoidance exist on a spectrum. If you're dealing with moderate to severe love addiction, or can’t seem to break out of a recurring pattern in your relationships, it's important to seek professional help. Being in a safe, therapeutic setting with a trusted professional can help you work through childhood trauma, cultivate your self-worth, practice boundary setting, and identify red flags early on in a relationship.

Recovering from Love Addiction Tendencies

Although codependence and love addiction are chronic conditions, these tendencies will have less of a hold over you as you work through childhood trauma, strengthen your self-worth, implement healthy boundaries, and improve your communication. As you move through this process, you will be able to show up differently in your relationships, with a stronger sense of empowerment, inner stability, independence, and strength. This will put you in the way of conscious love and healthy interdependence instead of codependent dynamics.

Below you'll find a quick navigational guide to help you identify red flags and distinguish the difference between healthy love and love addicted/codependent relationships. Thanks for reading!

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