I never imagined I’d be writing about this topic…and especially writing about it from a personal experience. Yes, since 1992 I have coached, counseled, and assisted hundreds of people through the rigors and joys of relationships, even at times going so far as to suggest that what they were experiencing had the feel of an “addiction ”, but never looking in the mirror and realizing that I was drawing these people into my world because I had the same tendencies and sometimes the same end results as they did. Love, or the fantasy of love, can be as addictive as heroin….alcohol….nicotine…or any of the other habits and substances that we can fall victim to on a daily basis.
So today, on the very first day of my blog , I find myself coaching someone going through the throngs of love addiction. The “I can’t live with him, I can’t live without him” dance of relationship death. Ok, maybe all love addicted relationships don’t have to die a slow and prolonged death, but from both my personal and professional experience , unless we are in the care of someone with experience in the field, most seem to go through the cycle of drama , drama, and more drama.
The constant breakups, makeups, broken promises and more. An addiction can be defined as a process in which we return to a substance or behavoir even though we know it is not in our best interest, or as some might say for our highest good. So as I sit there listening to my client rationalize her return to someone who has lied again….mislead her again… I had to reflect on my own experiences as a “love addict”.
From a male perspective I might add, this topic will never be discussed in a locker room or over a few beers. Most men, and probably women as well, cannot see their staying in an unhealthy relationship as an addiction. It took me a solid year and one half of hell in a relationship before a very good friend of mine, who is an amazing healer, and an excellent psychotherapist were able to shed light on a very taboo subject. Finally it all made sense. I had seen the effects that another addiction had on my life, and with their help was able to see this as the same thing. I was “hooked” by the desire for love, but was with someone who was not capable of offering what I desired, needed, and wanted.
To this day, it still amazes me what I was willing to go through , all of the pain, misery, breakups and more for the sake of this addiction. I had broken all of the promises I had made to myself about the type of person I wanted to be with. When I found out that this person was still married, seperated but legally married, after she intially told me she was divorced, I stayed. When I found out she was in active addiction with nicotine after being told she was not, I left but came right back. When I was accused of having affairs during our relationship even though I had the proof that it was not true, I left…but a short time later again came right back. The addiction had me in its death grip, and I was holding on for dear life.
You see, I was the enabler. I wanted to be the “hero” and save this poor woman from her terrible marriage, and help her to heal at every level possible. Even though I had set one boundary after another…”I can’t see you until you’re officially divorced…until you’re free of addiction…until you’re emotionally free to date me”…I continued to break down my own healthy walls and either seek her out, or let her back in when she called….In the throngs of love addiction, we’ll stay in unhealthy relationships for months, years, even decades!! The fantasy of love was my drug, and up to a point regardless of what I had to endure, just like the addict who absolutely needs a drink at 7pm, a cigarette first thing in the morning or after a fight with their partner….I needed this person. And, at any cost. For a while we were both victims of this insane dance, and even though I knew this was far from normal behavoir, I rationalized my reactions all in the name of love. As I see it now, in the name of addiction.
It does’nt mean that this relationship was without power, intensity , attraction, romance ,fun and more…but it was lacking respect . I had a lack of respect for myself, that even though I knew this person from the beginning had not told me the truth, I continued in the relationship. I can now see my role more clearly than ever, and look to help as many people as I can to first see the truth of what their situation is. To see the role they are playing. To get out of denial, and into reality. For until we can see our own role, nothing can really change. Until we can stop blaming the other person for all of the problems in our realtionship, nothing can really be healed at the deepest level inside. And more often than not, we are destined to repeat our past mistakes.
Forgiving ourselves is crucial to growth. Forgiving the other person follows this first step. Surrendering to the truth of our behavoirs, not the fantasy of love is not an easy move, but the freedom that eventually appears is so very worth the effort.
So today as I watched my client struggling with the very same issue, I smiled broadly inside as she turned before leaving my office and said, “David, I swear this feels like I’m addicted to him or something. I know that sounds crazy, but he’s like a drug I can’t leave alone. Can we look at that possibility next session?”
“Your inner voice is speaking very strongly” I replied. “Yes, it’s the perfect time to explore your thoughts…you might be on to something really important to your future.” I could see relief instantly sweep across her face, and I know she’s on the perfect path to healing. Definitely her own healing, and hopefully her partners too.