IS IT REALLY LOVE?

By Maggie Barton

Hi folks! In this month’s article I would like to talk about love and addiction. These days addiction in many forms seems to be running rampant. It may seem strange to some of you but yes love can be an addiction. Love and addiction shouldn’t have anything to do with one another. However, often you may be saying that you are in love but really you are just acting out an addiction to a needy ingrown dependency with another person. In other words the addictive experience provides you with a sense of security, reassurance and some special meaning that you do not feel that you can live without.

Unfortunately, people’s widespread use of objectifying a person in a search for a superficial, external resolution for their lives reflects this society’s persuasion towards promoting superficial, external relationships that have been built into our present-day structure. For instance, you probably have been trained from an early age to look for one special person to share your life with. As a teenager, you probably directed the greatest part of your emotional energy towards finding this partner. Your high school and college experience probably reinforced the same. At that time it was standard and acceptable behavior to cancel plans with a friend of the same sex, which had been made in advance, in order to have a last minute date with someone of the opposite sex. Consequently, your friends, after a boyfriend is found, become increasingly superficial and limited. Personally, I feel that love addiction is the most common, yet least recognized, form of addiction today.

The environment that is the most important to us is the human one. It is logical to conclude that when you get addicted you tend to get addicted to people. If you want to break out of addiction then you need to learn better ways of dealing with people - not only in a romantic sense but also with family and friends. Your family had a tremendous impact on your addictive or non-addictive potential. They either fostered self-sufficiency or dependency, self-confidence or helplessness. As a youngster your world became bigger than your family when it took on the form of school. This became your next forum to either foster confidence or self-doubt. Unfortunately, this forum may not have been able to offer you the opportunity to explore your personal creativity. It is at this time that the urge to escape arises.

I feel that one of the best ways you can safeguard yourself from addiction is to understand how society affects you and then learn to build internal mechanisms so that you will be more than a mere object in society. I say this because the addictive experience grows out of your routinized subjective response to something that has special meaning to you. In other words, the addictive experience provides you with a sense of security, reassurance, special meaning and something that you do not feel that you can live without. As a person addicted to love you never learn to come to grips with your world. You therefore seek stability and reassurance through some repeated, ritualized activity. This activity is reinforced in two ways. First, by a comforting sensation of well-being, which is induced by something external. Second, by the atrophy of your other interests and abilities and the overall deterioration of your life situation while preoccupied with your love object. As a relationship addict, you probably have never had the opportunity to create any internal direction or purpose for yourself. So the need for escaping into a relationship becomes overpowering for your.

Excessive parental supervision and artificial criteria for learning and a reverent attitude toward established institutions combine to leave you without moorings for your direct daily experience. My observations, both in my personal and professional life, lead me to question people’s definition of love. When I start to analyze situations in more depth, I realize that many people’s definition of love is based on security, power struggles, dependence and control, with the idea that the other person is there to meet their needs. In fact, it appears that loving someone entails contracting your own life. What I took note of was that such relationships were addictive by nature. The individuals were hooked on someone who they regarded as an object. What was considered love was really dependency.

Love is an ideal vehicle for addiction as it can exclusively claim a person’s consciousness. An addiction is something that is both reassuring and consuming. Sexual or love relationships can perfectly fit this task. If you are dissatisfied with yourself and your situation, you can discover that a relationship is the most encompassing substitute for self-sufficiency. If you go to a person with the aim of filling a void in yourself your relationship quickly becomes the center of your life. It offers you a solace that contrasts sharply with what you find elsewhere until, eventually, you need it to get through each day. Otherwise your day is stressful or unpleasant.

When a constant exposure to something is necessary in order to make life bearable, then it becomes addictive behavior and the ever-present danger of withdrawal creates an ever-present craving. You probably have known or personally experienced someone who could not sleep or has lost their appetite and escaped into drugs or alcohol with the breakup of a relationship. Indeed, the most intensely felt symptom of withdrawal is an agonizing sense of the absence of well-being, a sense of some terrible deficiency inside of yourself.

Sometimes an addictive relationship can be deceiving. It may not initially appear to be addictive. However, based on your personality makeup, you may be a prime target for an addictive relationship. Take, for example, Mary and David. Mary and David met in high school. From the initial meeting they struggled to overcome their separateness from each other. David, upon graduation from high school, declined a scholarship to a prestigious university, which he had always dreamed of attending, in order to stay close to Mary. When Mary graduated she went to a local university because she did not feel secure enough to be far from her parents. Both traveled to school together, staying close and comfortable to each other and their old surroundings.

Beginning to spend so much of their time together, they both felt that the relationship owed them a great deal. To justify this, they inflated each other’s worth so that nothing else seemed of any consequence to them. Eventually they gave up whatever independent interests that they had. Mary and David got married upon his graduation. Both had graduate plans, and both sought further education close to each other and close to their families. Married life for them was centered around their academics and dividing their time between each other’s parents. They developed few friends and the ones that they did have were limited and superficial. And so you have two people who became socially and interpersonally underdeveloped.

Although David and Mary appear to be successful, respectable people they did not complete the last phase of their development - their independence. They did not achieve a healthy separation from their homes and a true psychological independence. They did not obtain the kind of self completion which instills integrity that every real coming together of two individuals presupposes.

I will be starting a relationship group for people who are interested and feel the need to learn how to have healthier relationships. The meeting location of the group will be announced later, depending upon those who wish to attend. Call me at 828-452-4029 for further information.

Copyright 1999 All rights reserved.

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