Sunday, February 5, 2012

Love Addiction

by Brenda Schaefer

Real love is not addiction nor is addiction love. Yet, because of the human condition, these two experiences seem to come together and result in the incredible pain and suffering we are witness to or experience directly. We are drawn to the chemical highs love, sex and romance produce. The neurochemistry of love can become a drug as difficult to give up as alcohol or cocaine. Words we often associate with addiction include obsessive, excessive, destructive, compulsive, habitual, attached, and dependent. And when you think about it, some of these words are also used to talk about love. And the similarities do not stop there.

The love addict may understand intellectually that their behavior is self destructive, but physically and emotionally they are drawn into it over and over again. The number and variety of out of control behaviors when love is withdrawn are becoming legion in the daily news: “Young woman ends abusive love relationship and is brutally murdered.” “CEO charged with sexual harassment.” “Coach sued for child support by a former lover.” “Domestic abuse charges filed by wife of a professional sports star.” “Public official caught in scandalous affair.” How is it that we are simultaneously seeking wellness and love but descending into a well of violence and obsession?

What is Love?

Love. Of all the mysteries that enchant us, love may be the one most sought after. On earth we have elevated love in art and song and at other times used the word love in such a sloppy manner that it has come to mean almost everything and nothing at all. The word we use for the enormous power has been known to shape wars and history, create national scandals, justify crimes of passion, turn strong men and women into weaklings, and make fools out of kings. And perhaps because of these same things we are embarrassed by love. We blush when we talk about love, we feel weakened when in it, ashamed we have fallen, and reluctant to admit to it.

But what is love, really? And what does it have to do with stress free living? Everything! Most of the issues I encounter daily as a psychotherapist can be downsized to the most over discussed, under experienced and misunderstood word in the human language, love. Clients ask me: "How can I love myself more?" "How can we have a more loving relationship?" "How can I heal from this failed love affair?" "If he loves me, why does he betray me with endless sexual affairs?" “Why am I afraid to love?” "Am I in love or am I in an addiction?” When I ask outright, “What is love?” clients stop dead in their tracks. Though desperate in their search for it, they have trouble defining that which they are looking for. The search for love too often results in loneliness, anxiety, depression, low self esteem, physical and emotional distress of all kinds.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Here are four questionnaires to test whether it is love or addiction.
Love Addiction Questionnaire
Romance Addiction Questionnaire
Sexual Addiction Questionnaire
Relationship Assessment – Test Yourself

Among the questions asked are:

  • Has your personal growth stopped? Love-addiction concentrates so much energy on a relationship, sex or romance, that there's little left for individual growth. 
  • Is there a lot of "poor me" or "let me do it for you" going on? Addictive lovers play psychological games, becoming the victim, rescuer, or persecutor. 
  • Have you fallen into the "if only" syndrome? "If only he would stay home"; "if only he were more sensitive"; "if only she weren't frigid". Addictive lovers have a never-ending list of "if onlys" in a never-ending attempt to find solutions outside of themselves.
  • Do you feel abandoned when your lover is away? Addictive lovers have a hard time with routine separations.
  • Do you say "yes" when you want to say "no"? 
  • Are you into power plays? Do you try to "get even"? Are you better at giving advice than accepting it? Addictive lovers are into power and control often feeling that being "one-up" is better than being "one-down".
If you answer "yes" to any of the above questions you may have a problem. Is there a way out? Yes, and it takes time, commitment, support and hard work. And, it can also be fun! To focus on oneself through a guided program of self discovery like the one in my book, is incredibly exciting. The rewards? An awareness of what healthy love is and how to achieve it.