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Is Love an Addiction?

You are in love. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you can’t do anything but think of the person. Are you addicted to love?

Ever since the beginning of time love has been described as an excruciating passion. We see it everywhere; in movies, in books, in songs. Almost two thousand years ago, Ovidsaid: “I can’t live with or without you” (Amores III, xi, 39) – a sentence that was made famous by Irish band U2 song. Other musicians sang about this too; legendary Led Zeppelinin their “I can’t Quit You Baby” as well as Ke$ha in her catchy song"Your Love Is My Drug." Similar feeling is expressed in the famous movie Brokeback Mountain by the character Jack Twist who said“I wish I knew how to quit you.”

It is far from true that only artists and poets feel this way as our everyday speech is full of such expressions. We often hear those in love saying: “I need you” and “I am addicted to you”. It seems like when we are in love, we experience a tremendous attraction towards another person and that attraction is persistent and often times impossible to ignore. 

Love is often thrilling but it can sometimes be dangerous. If our feelings are returned, we are in a state of euphoria. However, other times we might follow love’s pull to the point of suffering. It is hard to disagree with the fact that lovers sometimes become confused, unreasonable, unpredictable or even self-destructive. When relationships end in an undesirable way, lovers feel pain, grief and loss. 

These patterns of alternating euphoria and despair, frantic longing and harmful thoughts and behaviours that might occur after a relationship ends are strikingly similar to phenomena we see within ‘typical’ addictions to drugs, alcohol, nicotine or gambling. For example, a gambler might feel euphoric during the initial rush and excitement that comes along placing a bet and winning. When an unwanted loss occurs, the gambler feels desperate and often behaves in a destructive way – for example they may increase the bet with money that he or she is not in the position to spend. Nevertheless, while we often borrow phrases from the language of addiction when referring to love, there is at least one distinction between love and conventional addiction; while nobody desires to become addicted to alcohol, nearly everyone yearns to be in love. Is it therefore absurd to claim that there is a true resemblance between love and addiction?

Perhaps not. First, there is a resemblance between love and drugs even before an addiction develops. For instance, scientists suggestthat on a physiological level, falling in love and smoking crack cocaine are incredibly similar processes! This not to be confused with that slightly buzzed sensation you might feel after a glass or two of wine; it is rather the overwhelmingly euphoric and exciting feeling that follows the intake of crack cocaine that is similar to falling in love. So, if you are looking for a legal way to get high, perhaps consider falling in love.

What is really happening when we fall in love?  We start by experiencing a rush of emotions.  Some like to call it magic, others prefer the term ‘fate’, I like to say that I’m being love-struck. Whatever term we use, from a biological perspective, being in love causes a range of chemical reactions in your brain; neurotransmitters called oxytocin and dopamine get released. These chemical reactions affect your brain and produce the euphoric feeling that we experience during the initial stages of a relationship. 

The chemistry behind falling in love has been extensively studied and written about. However, many of us are not too concerned about that – we simply like the way it feels. Also, even without reading articles, many of us know that this overwhelming rush of feelings will fade away at some point. There is nothing wrong with that. The initial first weeks or months should help us build a solid foundation with the person we are in love with and hopefully form a relationship that goes beyond just a chemical reaction. Nevertheless, for some people this chemical reaction, this euphoric state is what they become addictedto and keep looking for even when it is over. This is then another similarity between love and addiction; just like drug addicts desire to feel the high cocaine gives them and are unable to resist it, love addicts have a hard time letting go of that initial rush. 

If at this point you feel like you are definitely a love addict, please bear in mind that almost everyone can relate to that initial rush experienced during the early stage of a relationship. We’ve all been there; the other person’s existence provides us with constant emotional excitement and distraction. However, most people acknowledge that healthy relationships will inevitably develop into something less exciting but more profound in the long run.

While the similarity between falling in love and taking a drug is there, being in love evolves into a healthy, happy relationship whereas compulsively taking a drug can develop into an addiction therefore it appears that there is a distinction between the two. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In the same way that drug addicts cannot resist the urge to get the high, love addicts choose to rely on the neurochemical rush. When the rush fades away (whether induced by love or drug), the addict feels pain and disappointment and compulsively seeks the rush again.

But what is the rush in love addition? Unlike the typical addiction, we can’t point into something physical such as pills, cigarettes or slot machines. There are, however, clear symptomsthat manifest in a person’s behaviour and might signal love addiction.

One of the most common signs of love addiction is assigning too much importance to the new love. Of course, we all feel a little obsessed about the person we fell in love with but only love addicts would do whatever it takes in order to keep the high; they jeopardise work, friendships and even family and prioritise the new person in their life. Furthermore, they neglect responsibilities in their life in order to chase relationship dreams. Once the new person becomes the centre of their world, love addicts tend to believe that he or she can fix everything. As a result, instead of the relationship enhancing their life goals, their lives become all about the relationship. Ultimately, love addicts find themselves in relationships driven by feelings of incompleteness and insufficiency and find it difficult to feel ‘whole’ without their partner. 

These feelings, however, vary from person to person. That said, even if you exhibit all of these behaviours you might not be an addict, as everyone is different what makes someone addicted might be perfectly fine for someone else, in the same way that drugs don’t make everyone addicted to the same degree. In any case, there is advice for everyone who experiences the love addiction signs. In his book ‘How to Break Your Addiction to a Person’, Howard Halpern describes techniquesthat might help in breaking or preventing the addiction to a person

1.    Keep a Relationship Diary

Log the events and happening of your relationship in as much detail as possible. Most importantly, be honest, express your thoughts and feelings openly. Doing this may help you understand your feelings better and the way they relate to your actions. For instance, you might spot that every time you feel bad, you reach out for your phone and text your partner. When you are more aware of the situation, coming up with solutions becomes easier.

2.    Connect with others

Try and reconnect with your friends and family. The value of this network can be precious and those addicted to love often neglect it. Although it might seem that only your partner can provide support and understanding, you will be surprised to see that sharing your thoughts and feelings with your friends or family can be equally comforting.

3.    Become Aware of Your Body

Our minds are deeply connected to our bodies. The way we feel is related to our body functioning and it is therefore important to be aware of that relationship. Become aware of your body; it can be something as simple as focusing on your breathing. This will enhance the feeling that there is a central core within you and that you are actually the one who has control over it.

4.    Allow Multiple Attachments

Just like we can connect with people, we can also connect to something more timeless. Go out in nature, read books, listen to music – the world is full of things to explore. In a way, whereas people come and go, these things will always be around. This is not to say that we should not connect with people because one day they might not be there, but rather that we should get the best out of everything that is out there be it people, places or things. 

So, is it love or is it addiction? Probably it is a little bit of both. While some dose of addiction can be nice and poetic, in its essence, addiction is not about enjoying something but rather having a hard time staying away from something that gives you pleasure. Therefore, just like with everything in life, the best would be to find the balance between the two and enjoy a happy relationship. 

References:

Dr Kurt Smith. Yes, it is Possible to Be Addicted to Love. Retrieved from: https://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/yes-it-is-possible-to-be-addicted-to-love.aspx

Earp, B. D., Wudarczyk, O. A., Foddy, B., & Savulescu, J. (2017). Addicted to love: What is love addiction and when should it be treated?. Philosophy, psychiatry, & psychology: PPP, 24(1), 77.

Fisher, H., & Holt, H. (2004). The brain in love. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.

Halpern, H. M. (2003). How to break your addiction to a person. Bantam.

Don’t Give Up on Love

Finding love can be both exciting and also at times discouraging, you may meet someone accidentally, you may be introduced to them, you may think someone is the one and they don’t feel the same, essentially the path to finding love is different for us all. It is vital to remember that this is the case and therefore to not compare our relationship paths with others. All of us can find love, if that is what we are looking for, if we have an understanding of whether we are in the right place psychologically for it and put the right amount of effort in. Remaining open to finding a partner can be one of the key factors in success, as discussed in our podcast ‘First Dates in Relationships’. It is therefore important to not give up hope nor make finding a partner the sole purpose of your existence but to strike a balance.  

 With an increase in access to potential partners, whether it be online or matchmaking services, it can increase the chances of success but also the potential for doubt in a new relationship. With so many options we have somewhat become a throwaway society, when we hit a bump in the road, people are often quick to jump ship and simply move on to the next potential. However, love takes work and not putting the effort in to overcome initial hurdles will prevent you from finding meaningful long-term relationships. 

As the saying goes, ‘the grass isn’t always greener’, and you could find yourself wishing you’d tried that little bit harder with someone and wondering whether it could have gone anywhere. Although love does take effort it shouldn’t always feel like hard work, there needs to be a balance of putting energy into your relationship, without it sucking all of your own energy, leaving you exacerbated. It is important to remember that love won’t always be easy, that’s not to say it will be difficult to find but holding on to it long enough to establish true connections is key. This is highlighted by Michelle Birge  in her article ‘Love Takes Work, But Not Too Much Work’when she says that “all relationships take some work. But the right one doesn’t take that much work”.   

In order to give someone a chance, you need to be engaged, ask questions and to be curious about them. Putting in the time will allow you to see if connections will be formed and time will establish whether these connections are likely to last. If you jump at the first instance you disagree or fall out with someone, issues cannot be resolved or discussed and what could have been cleared up with a bit of communication, has resulted in the break up of a relationship. It can be frightening being vulnerable. Even having an honest conversation about what you want or need from someone to form a relationship can leave you feeling that way. However, you open yourself up to so much potential by being vulnerable, but if you’d given up on it, love would be that little bit further away. Emma Seppälädiscusses this issue in her blog ‘Why Being Vulnerable is the Key to Intimacy’whereby she states that “the quality that makes a relationship last is its degree of affection and true affection implies vulnerability”.

Another key factor to getting the love you want is to know what you want, understand what you expect and only accept the relationships that fulfil this.  When it comes to relationship advice, we are littered with articles telling us what we should accept, what we should expect and telling us how we should feel. Whether it be contradictory advice of taking control as a woman or to follow traditional dating practices, right down to whether we should abide by strict first date rules. The truth of the matter is that in order to feel comfortable and happy in a relationship you need to understand what behaviours you are willing to accept and what kind of relationship you want to have, whilst remaining open to being vulnerable and meeting someone. Only then will others around you understand your expectations and adhere to them. 

Setting boundaries and having self-worth does not mean you relinquish all abilities to be open and forthcoming to new relationships nor does it allow you to exhibit controlling behaviour over others. It simply means that you are allowing yourself to have the right kind of relationships. Here are a few tips that may help you remain open to finding love but also keep hold of the standards you are looking for.

-       Communication is key, a concept that is outlined in the blog ‘Don’t lose a fantastic relationship to poor communication – understanding the differences between how men and women communicate’written by Dr Georgina Barnett. You need to express clearly and concisely as and when you feel a potential partner has treated you in a manner you find unacceptable. Here you can keep things light hearted, so as to get your point across but ensure any negative feelings are not amplified.

-       Internally process your own behaviour and ensure you are justified in your feelings. Sometimes we may over dramatize situations to validate how we are feeling, yet if we are mindful about what it is that has affected us then we are able to communicate this clearly to others. Conversely, we also need to ensure that our internal monologue does not turn into negative self-talk. “Negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities, and reach your potential.” This was outlined by Elizabeth Scott, MSin her article ‘The Toxic Effects of Negative Self-Talk’.Whether we move to blaming or negative self-talk behaviours, both need to be addressed and we need to ensure we are taking an objective view or at least a realistic subjective one. 

-       Explain your thought process or your reasons as to why you feel the way you do e.g. I do not like the tone you used as it makes me feel belittled. This allows your potential partner an insight into your thought processes and will help them understand what you need from them. After all we are not mind readers and our true meanings can be altered through incorrect perceptions. 

Further to these tips, we have all heard the common phrase that in order to find love you must first love yourself and that having this self-worth is a pre-cursor to a wonderful relationship with a potential partner. However recent research has shown that yes, it is important to love yourself but that it is more important to have self-security. Self-security is defined as the open and non-judgmental acceptance of one's own weaknesses as discussed in the article ‘Accepting our weaknesses and enjoying better relationships: An initial examination of self-security’(Huang & Berenbaum, 2017). It is this honesty and acceptance with yourself that allows you to be open in relationships and also to be open to finding a relationship. Fully understanding yourself, having self-security, setting boundaries and taking an active role in finding a relationship is what will propel you towards a successful relationship.  

 This was supported by the research which found that self-security predicted relationship quality and that participants’ greater self-security significantly predicted experiencing less conflict and emotional distress in their relationships. We live the life that we accept, and this is the same for relationships. We have the type of relationship we accept and in order to ensure we are having successful, fulfilling ones you need to be with those who treat you the way you want to be treated. Mutual respect, understanding and clear communication will allow both you and a potential partner to learn and teach each other exactly what it is you want from your relationship and in turn prevent you from turning away from love.   

In conclusion, it is important to remember to live your life as a whole but to remain open to exploring a potential relationship and giving it the chance both you and the other person deserve. If things don’t work out, after you’ve been engaged with this person, then continue to be open to finding love. Just because you look for love for today and don’t find it, doesn’t mean it won’t turn up tomorrow.  Go at love with a realistic view, no it won’t be easy, but it will sure be worth it when you find someone you want to make the effort for. As the saying goes; If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.   

References

Huang, A. B., & Berenbaum, H. (2017). Accepting our weaknesses and enjoying better relationships: An initial examination of self-security. Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 64-70.

The Impact of Family on Your Progressing Relationship

Finding a companion you really care for and adore is truly one of life’s many joys. The time you spend together is cherished and can sustain your desire to see them until your next meeting, as well as the fluttering presence of butterfly like sensations when a phone call or when a text message from your companion appears. Hence demonstrating that your new-found love is seriously exciting and engaging. NBC news’ Nicole Spector presented a wonderful article explaining why falling in love gives you butterflies- Nicole’s article explores the physiological phenomenon of feeling butterflies in our stomachs. It is our body’s response to our mental state in that moment in time, whether we realise what our minds are thinking or not. However, there are a number of reasons as to why we feel those sensations; as such the activation of feeling nervous or excitement that stimulates the gut and our real and unconscious desires of sexual passion with the person we are thinking about.

Over the course of a few weeks or even months perhaps, we will have our intense passionate moments fulfilling needs like sex, intimacy and closeness, but with meaningful, passionate sex it almost always leads to the developing of meaningful emotions. The developing of our emotions and connecting on another level allows undiscovered feelings to emerge, and the love between you both to most definitely blossom. Clinical Psychologist, Robert Firestone, Ph.D discusses the negative responses we may all feel as a reaction to feeling and being loved. He mentions that there can be a paradoxical reaction of which being or feeling loved can make us exhibit negative feelings as such Robert Firestone, Ph.D says, “Although the experience of being chosen and especially valued is exciting and can bring happiness and fulfilment, at the same time it can be frightening and the fear often translates into anger and hostility.”

Of course, we all know the feeling of falling in love and opening up our hearts to let someone in can make us feel uncomfortable due to our vulnerabilities,expectations and to some extent, anxiety, in some circumstances. We must remember that we do not wish for this to ruin the magical and personalised experience of finding, being in and the feeling reciprocated love brings to us. Relationships have to follow a natural progression, which means we must pass through stages to become more comfortable in each other’s presence and understand one another more, throughout our time spent together.

The ‘I’ you once spoke of will become ‘we’ as you soon enter into the next step in your ever-flourishing romance. The mile stone will be to collate your lives — sharing friends, family and of course eventually a property, or a few. Now, before we rush ahead and think too far into the future, we all feel we must present new and exciting things (such as our beloved) to our family and our dearest of friends. Being introduced may seem, again like another anticipatory anxiety inducing stage in the relationship, but we must look at this in a different light such as, “my beloved is introducing me to their family”, “my beloved is showing me off to their family”, and reframing to focus on the positives and why your partner is doing this. They are doing this as they are proud to say, “I am happy with this person and I want you to meet them, so you can see why I feel the way I feel about this person.” We feel like we must present our new partners to our closes friends and families as they pose the most influence over us throughout our lifetime and across the phases in our life. In addition to this, Theresa E DiDonato Ph.D. says “Both men and women introduce their dating partners to parents when they are ready to gain their parent’s approval and want to signal to their partner that they are serious about the relationship (Fisher & Salmon, 2013)”. Thus, rest assured it is a positive sign if you are asked to meet the family. 

However then comes the question, when the right time is to introduce your partner to the family? Rachel Shatto for Elite Dailyevaluates all aspects and has created the perfect guide to meeting the parents. Rachel explains picking the right time is essential, wanting to make sure your relationship is new as not to let anyone think that you don’t want anyone to meet your partner, but yet not too fresh for anyone to think your relationship has just been fueled by lust. Furthermore, Rachel also mentions that to relieve the anxiety, or awkward situations it is better to stay by your partners side in the first instance or first few questions, to get a feel for their family, but not to let them answer all questions for you, as after all, you are your own distinctperson.

When it comes to meeting our partners’ loved ones, many things can happen. In the best instance, your family love your partner and agree the two of you make the perfect match, but what if first impressions fall short and you find yourself in the scenario where your loved ones do not see the amazing person you see. Are you blinded by your loves or blinded by your love?

Your family and friends will always be your biggest critics and yet they only want what is best for you. They are there in your times of greatness, and your times of need. Although their judgement can have a powerful influence on you, they have always supported you down every avenue you have ventured. Bearing this in mind, the initial thing to do is to ask your loved ones to explain their reasons as to why they think your partner is not a good fit for you. Perhaps you are seeing your partner through ‘rose-tinted spectacles’, or it is a little aspect they noticed which may grind your gears later down the line. Nevertheless, whilst you might feel hurt your loved ones have questioned your judgement, try not disregard their views as this can be detrimental to your relationship with them.  As Mieke Rivka Sidorsky, LCSW-C explains for Good Therapy“we can choose our partner, we cannot choose family”, thus with this in mind it can be difficult for a partner to build a rapport or any form of relationship with family and friends due to them being aware of your past and not wanting you to get hurt in any way. 

The next best thing to do is to communicate with your partner, asking them how they think it went, as it is important to hear your partner’s perspective. You may find your love was acting out of sorts to try and present a better version of themselves and if this is the case, then your solution is simple - just set another date to meet the family and be reassured they are still the person you fell in love with. Communication in any relationship is necessary, as it allows for the exploration of thoughts and feeling to be expressed and acknowledged. Communicating also allows for you both to connect on an emotional level as opposed to just a physical connection. Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC discusses “Why Communication Is Crucial in a Relationship”, mentioning there are two ways to communicate between you and a partner, verbal and non-verbal, she mentions how these will explain in one way or another how one is really feeling. Marcelina also mentions communication allows for growth in a relationship.

Failing that, there is always compromise. It is all very cliché, but every relationship has its ebbs and flows and of course ups and downs. There will be times in which compromises are needed on both sides. Just being open and honest will mean it will be reciprocated, and what is more, respected in every instance. Whilst it may feel discouraging and difficult to approach a fault in someone, especially someone you’re connected to emotionally and physically, do not feel too disheartened, as together there will be many opportunities to discuss problems and set other dates to be with family and friends in the future. 

At the end of the day, there is always more than one perspective to every situation, so being openminded to others’ views will allow you to not be blindsided, and yet shows you respect your partner’s and your loved one’s opinions. After all, everyone may not see what you see, as they are not the one who is falling in love with them, you are. The important thing to remember is there is a reason you chose your partner to be “your person”. They are the one who can console your mind, your body and your soul

13 QUESTIONS WITH… PSYCHOLOGIST DR GEORGINA BARNETT

Dr Georgina Barnett has a doctorate in Counselling Psychology and has worked for fifteen years in the fields of therapy, coaching and group facilitation. She is passionate about helping people fulfil their potential and achieve their goals. Over the past five years she has dedicated herself to the area of relationships and matchmaking at Seventy Thirty, and continues to coach and write on these subjects. Her latest book The Mottos, aims to help people build and maintain a wonderful relationship and is packed with advice on how to deal with everyday relationship hurdles. 

Read more https://www.soulventure.com/psychologist-georgina-waters/