Week 13: ARP (Trait #2 Love Addiction)

Hello Fellow Recovery Ninjas —

I’ve been a bit out of the loop as I flew off to work in Syrian refugee camps in Greece for the last two weeks.

It was an incredible experience and reminded me of how fortunate we are to actually have the time to work on ourselves and our addictions, rather than just figuring out how to survive from one day to the next.

So let’s go for it.

Let’s dig deep and figure out what self-destructive patterns we have that keep us from living a purpose-driven life.

Because what I’ve realized since returning stateside is that true satisfaction and happiness come from feeling useful, purposeful and contributing something meaningful to our human community.

Today is Week 13 in my Asshat Recovery Program, so if you’re just arriving for the first time you’ll want to start your journey HERE .

This week we’re looking at Character Trait #2 found in partners of Asshats aka Toxic People:

#2 You have an intense need for love and affection aka love addiction.

Are you a person who has a difficult time not being in a romantic relationship?

From the moment I was of dating age until the day I married I was always in some kind of romantic relationship.

My brief moments of singledom left me feeling restless and bored. I didn’t feel truly alive unless I was pursuing or being pursued by a man.

My favorite state of being was the “falling in love” stage of a relationship where the sex was most incendiary, huge butterflies flapped around in my stomach and I yearned to be with my man every second we were apart as though we were tragically doomed lovers separated by war or Zeus.

To me that was the very definition of Love.

People who’ve been emotionally used and/or neglected as children are the ones most at risk for love addiction.

In my case, despite my mother’s deep love for me, she used me emotionally to provide advice and support as she navigated her damaging second marriage.

I became used to living in a volatile situation I tried to control by managing my mom’s emotions.

This set me up for over a decade of pursuing unpredictable, emotionally unavailable men who I tried to manipulate and control through sex and care-taking.

Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S of The Centers for Relationship and Sexual Recovery at The Ranch offers these typical signs of love addiction.

Ask yourself if any of these apply to you:

  1. Endlessly searching for “The One”
  2. Attracting troubled, addicted, abusive or otherwise emotionally unavailable partners
  3. Mistaking sex and romance for intimate love
  4. Using sex and/or love to mask loneliness or unhappiness
  5. Changing one’s appearance through excessive dieting/exercise or surgery
  6. Using seduction, sex or other schemes to attract or hold onto a partner
  7. Multiple extramarital affairs
  8. Making sexual advances toward individuals in subordinate power positions
  9. Dressing seductively to attract attention, take risks or feel empowered
  10. Having sex in high-risk locations or situations
  11. Inappropriate sexual and relationship boundaries (e.g., engaging in a relationship with a married man or boss)
  12. Trading sex for drugs, help, affection, money, status or power
  13. Having anonymous sex or repeatedly “falling in love” with strangers

At the height of my dysfunction I qualified for eight of these thirteen signs of love addiction.

The sneaky one for me was the repeatedly “falling in love” with strangers.

I often thought I was “in love” with a man if we had an intense sexual attraction.

I believed in that toxic-chestnut-one-shouldn’t-eat-because-it’s-poison, “Love at First Sight.”

While I only had four serious relationships prior to my marriage at 102-years-old (okay, I was 36, but I felt 102 given my exhausting toxic relationship history) each began with the feeling I’d fallen into “Love at First Sight.”

“Love at First Sight” has nothing to do with compatibility, true intimacy, committed love or even your eyes!

“Love at First Sight” is simply our genitals talking and our damaged inner child being attracted over and over again to the same chaos, abandonment, neglect and emotional abuse experienced in our childhoods so we can futilely attempt to heal it in adulthood.

So, if you answered yes to half of the questions above, chances are you have this character trait found in partners of Asshats. We’ll get to the solution soon!

In the meantime, I want to give you this actionable task:

1. Pull out your Asshat Recovery Program Notebook and write down which of the 13 signs of Love Addiction above that apply to you.

2. Write down the details of how each one shows up in your life and how each one has wreaked havoc in your life.

For instance, #4. I often tried to use sex to hold onto a partner.

In my last emotionally abusive relationship I was certain my man was, at the very least, thinking about straying with other women. I tried to stop this from happening, by being a 24-hour convenience store for sex.

I didn’t realize that each time I used sex to try to keep him faithful and make him commit to me in the desperate way I desired that I was abandoning and neglecting myself, the way I’d been abandoned and neglected in my early childhood.

This took my self-esteem down a notch each time I did it, further enmeshing me in the relationship because I didn’t have the strength to walk away.

3. Once you’ve written everything down you can share it with a safe person, because we’re only as sick as our secrets.

This means someone who has no agenda for you. Someone who is supportive, loving, kind and most important, non-judgmental.

It can be a sponsor in a 12-step program, a therapist, someone in your religious community. 

If you haven’t opted in to Shannon’s weekly newsletter you can do so HERE. Onward to Week 14 next week! xo S

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