Atwater:

A question came up recently about love relationships and whether they can be addictive.

The word addictive, I think, gets overused to the point it has little meaning, but in its purest form, I would suggest the answer to the above question is a resounding “yes.”

I think addictive love is based on a foundation of the fantasy of what the relationship could or should be rather than what it is. Love addicts aren’t necessarily sex addicts because, although sex may play a role, the primary addiction is the drive to find that perfect combination of security, adoration and attraction. Some would say the love addict is perpetually looking to be in a state of infatuation, literally getting high on attracting, flirting or drawing attention to themselves.

“Julie” was the youngest of four kids from a home that had, in addition to a physically abusive dad, numerous live-in aunts, uncles and cousins. She was basically ignored as a kid and left to fend for herself, as were her sisters and brothers.

Her introduction to love and sex was early and unpleasant. She received little nurturing and no explanation of how to interact with the opposite sex, so she learned, as kids will, from what she experienced.

Sex and love were operationally the same for “Julie.” The only way she had to feel loved was through the “game” of flirtation and the fantasy of a relationship that would give her the love she longed for. She found flirtation and the promise of sex, even though it wasn’t what she wanted, gave her power in the relationship, something a person who felt powerless could only attempt to grasp. Unfortunately, the way she sought the love resulted in the same empty results time after time.

Deeply unhappy and lonely, she continued to compare herself with other women. When she came up short, she would try harder and harder to improve her appearance to make herself more attractive. She avoided the underlying emotional pain by working out to excess, getting multiple cosmetic procedures, dieting and spending way too much time in front of the mirror.

Her relationships usually proceeded from intense physical attraction and infatuation, often with unavailable (married) men, to short stormy liaisons and dramatic breakups often in a matter of months and sometime weeks.

The answer “Julie” found was on the inside not the outside. She eventually crashed and found a therapist who understood her “love addiction” and helped her to find her inner beauty, to love herself and finally to feel whole instead of always searching for “the other half.”

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