What is a Love Addiction?

looking at the roots of our shame enables us to find healing-survivors Blog-Elizabeth-Do-I-Have-a-Love-Addiction

Early on in recovery, I was so angry at my husband for suggesting I have a love addiction. I am so ashamed to think of how prideful I can be. In my mind, a woman with a so-called love addiction had serious issues. I had a stereotype in my head that this would be a woman constantly on dating sites, wearing clothing from Victoria's Secret, or someone completely out of control. This was not me.

I was a mom for crying out loud. I drive a minivan. I carpool. I go to church. I was married. I dress conservatively and I have never once been on an internet site that had anything to do with dating or sex. I insistently denied any possibility that this could be me.

Insert God, growth, time, and humility into the picture.

I think this is me.

I have found something in common between me and the other women I have walked with who have had more than one affair; we have a pretty low self-esteem underneath our façade. We can be very warm, energetic even, but also very impulsive. We easily confused care and concern for genuine love or intimacy. The saying "boys use love to get sex and girls use sex to get love" has a grain of truth for us. Stereotypical and generalizing for sure, but let me explain.

I know for me, since I was very young, boys offered me something I never learned how to give myself. Attention, approval, and acceptance. If a boy liked me, it must have meant I mattered and I was beautiful. It was exciting to discover this power that seemed to erase my doubt and insecurity. So began the craving. . .

And what to do when a boy stopped liking me or I them? Move onto the next one. Keep the excitement going. I lived with a distracted heart that was always searching for the next thing to fill it.

If you think you may have a love addiction, don't despair. After all, it is only a term. It is not who God created us to be. Now that you're starting to identify it, be curious and start to look at what it means. I can no longer afford to be disillusioned by my own depravity and choices I've made in the past.

I think I have a love addiction. I have a very compulsive and addictive personality. Thank goodness no one ever offered me cocaine. But food? Yep. I battled anorexia and then bulimia for years. Alcohol? Another yes. I was always too prideful to ever consider myself an alcoholic but it definitely was a substance I used in both of my affairs to escape pain and justify my behavior. (The two nights I was physical with my AP's were nights I drank heavily).

Rick Reynold's has written several articles if you want to read more about love addiction:
www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/affair-why-did-they-cheat-part-three-do-they-have-an-addiction?

Could this be you? If so, I encourage you not to shy away from the diagnosis like I did. (My repulsion to the idea should have been a warning sign to me that it had everything to do with me).

I have found individual counseling to be immensely helpful. Seeing the lack of proper attachment growing up in my family has shown me why I have always been on a search for intimacy in all of the wrong places. I know I have a very addictive personality. Instead of denying that part of me, I am coming to terms with it. I once read that an addict needs shame like a thirsty man needs salt water. Looking at the roots of my shame allows me to focus more on the why's behind my tendencies and behaviors.

Group work has also been beyond helpful. Hope for Healing women's groups are full of some pretty broken yet amazing women trying to figure this out. When you get to meet other folks who struggle in the same ways, quite a bit of healing can happen through comradery and compassion.

If you are the betrayed and you don't even know who your spouse has become, first off, I'm really sorry. This may be their issue.

In the scope of God's big story, I see how broken I have been by misusing my sexuality. I have used the divine beauty God gave me as a woman and used that for attention to fill a void by men that only God could fill. It breaks my heart to think of me giving my sexuality away so early in my life. Part of it may have been taken from you too soon as well, and I hope you find the courage to talk about that in a safe place. I didn't, for years. In my silence, shame told me that I was nothing more than damaged goods, so I might as well offer those broken leftovers to whoever wants it. That deeply grieves and saddens me to not see, live or love from a place of being worth so much more.I know this is a confusing topic. I realize everyone's story is unique and it gets messy any time we throw around labels or diagnosis. There are varying degrees within any category. For me it just means I have to sort out the patterns and tendencies in my life so that I never go down those same paths again.

I wish you the best in your journey,
Elizabeth

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Comments

Wow!

Thank you for being here and helping everyone with your honesty and experience. - hopeful

Thank you for your comment.

Thank you for your comment. I am happy to see that you have some hope. Savor that and hang onto it!

WOW

Yes, WOW... thank you so much for sharing such vulnerable and honest discoveries with us. I'm an UW, 4 months since the first D-Day and can definitely relate to every single word you are saying. It's been only a few weeks since I have been really thinking of my behaviors as an addiction. It's sad, it's hard to admit it... but it's true. I'm starting individual therapy this week and praying that God will continue to open my eyes and help me throughout this journey.

Thank you again. Your articles are so profound and very important for all women out there.

Response to Elizaveth

Thank you Elizabeth! My wife and I are 11 months into dealing with the revelation of infidelity. Her story could be your story, with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder on top. She has been in counseling for over a year and is making progress with herself but still is having problems with the effect of infidelity on our 19 year relationship. "It was just sex. Get over it. I'm a different person now." We were in counseling but she felt the counselor was against her so she stopped going. The affair recovery website has been a great help to me. I have first learned to look at myself and realize many things that i had done or not done that resulted in harm to our relationship. I have also learned about why she is hesitant to talk, "drip feeding ", rewriting relationship history, and many other things to help me understand the journey we have before us.
Thank you for sharing your story and message of help.

This is me!

I call mine "Acceptance Addiction" but i think it's the same. Looking back on my youth and struggling with relationships with friends and boys especially. Always validating myself based upon what boy was giving me attention. I lost my virginity at a very young age to an older boy because he said he loved me. I also believed that jealousy was a form of love and acceptance and craved the drama that came with a boyfriend being "jealous" or not wanting me to hang out with my friends, etc. I would run, hide and lie when i didn't feel acceptance. Instead of changing my behavior, i would justify it. I fell in love with my husband at an early age and he was passionate and jealous and came from a broken home. He was the one i could take care of and he always made me feel "accepted"....until he cheated on me...a few times. I forgave him and he loved me more, until the next time. But once we got married and had kids, he changed and committed to me and our family and wanted to make sure his sons didn't come from a broken home. I thought it was all i ever wanted. But i had never taken care of me. I didn't even really know who i was. After our second son came i was at an all time low and had built up so much resentment towards him that i lost my ability to communicate on almost everything. our meals and homelife started to fall apart, i didn't talk about bills and spent money we didn't had and hid it from him because i was always scared of his reaction. He wasn't violent or anything - so why would i be scared. Cause i never wanted or could handle ANY conflict of ANY type. Even as a child i would lie if i thought i did something that someone wouldn't like or would be upset by. I would lie if i had shame or anticipated pain in any way. I carried this into my marriage and it got worse and worse. I started talking negatively about my husband to anyone who would listen -family, friends, co-workers, etc. I created a fantasy life at work and started to think - i'm a better person at work and with the people at work - they "really" know me and i'm so much happier here. Life at home sucks cause my husband just doesn't know me (of course this is cause i didn't share anything or talk to him about anything). So it was easy when my boss became my "friend"....my confidant and shoulder to cry on. He would flirt with me and make me feel pretty and smart and the best thing ever. He didn't judge me or get upset with me, ever. After 15 years of faithful devotion to my husband i started my affair....he knew somehting was going on but i denied it over and over and over again. There would be times i would feel bad or my AP didn't want to "wait anymore" for me to get a divorce and we would break up for a bit and i would try again at my marriage....but i would always go back. This was over the course of 4 years. There were so many moments that God tried to help me out of the darkness and i refused to take his hand. Finally last year the story finally broke and i moved out and tried to "calmly" seperate my family (2 kids) and ask my husband to just accept my truth and move on. Ha! He wasn't having any of it. he fought for me harder than anything....it took me 4 months of pushing back at him as hard as i could before i finally broke and moved back home - "for the kids and the finances". Once i was home my husband continued to pursue me and i finally agreed to a "date". I'm so thankful to him for not giving up on my or giving in to my horrible demands. There is of course much more damage that was caused to him and my kids during the 4 months where i wasn't living at home. more than i can share here. I didn't have the strength to cut it off with my AP as quickly as I should causing more pain once i was home. The elation my husband felt after our initial date and promises of renewed commitment quickly turned into despair and doubt and delayed PTSD. And it wasn't helped by the trickle of truths that came out about the past 4 years as well as the 4 months and short time i had returned home. I "knew" i was home for good and i only wanted to make my marriage work, but my actions still weren't consistent with that 100%, 100% of the time. i wasn't really prepared for the recovery process and what that looked like. It's been a year now since the affair came to light and every day is a blessing. All of the stories on this page are so helpful cause my husband and i go through so many of the same issues every day: triggers are everywhere (why is the new movie/tv show trend focused around unfaithful females? or cheating/affairs in general???), repeating questions over and over about the affair, etc.

I have a few questions - #1: my husband is very fearful and will not let his guard down with me. he often says things like, i love you but i don't know if that's enough, or i don't respect you and i don't know who you are so why will our marriage work/or why is it a good idea other than for the kids? - his concern is that...if i was so "gung ho" about leaving him and told him i didn't love him etc and had another "love" then how could i be so "night and day" now and want him and this so bad? How is is that i could just change my mind so quickly? because of my lies, he doesn't really believe anything i say, but he does see that i'm committed and have ensured there is complete transparency in everything i do now. just curious if there is a video or something that can help him understand that i never really wanted to leave him i just was lacking and as soon as i reached out to God, He showed me the path back to my husband. I still struggle with honesty/conflict issues over life stuff, but infidelity is not an issue/concern.

#2 - my husbands relationship with my family has been damaged beyond repair (according to him) and it is killing me inside. They picked me while we were fighting and he tried to reach out to them for help and my dad helped for a while but the drama was too much and he ended up blocking my husbands phone for a bit. My mother and my husband have always had a bit of a tumultuous relationship, but this pushed it over the edge. I tried to explain that they wanted to support me, even though i was full of crap, and once they realized what i'd done and what was going on they backed off. But he says they abandoned him when he needed them the most and now he doesn't want anything to do with them. it's causing some tension in our recovery process and i don't know how to handle it.

Thank you so much for this amazing website and space to share!

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