Dear New Shrink,
My friends have been ribbing me a lot lately, saying that I am a “Love Addict!” I think they might be joking but then I also think that a part of them is serious. I do know that I have some relationship issues but I really thought this was the sort of thing that only females experienced.
I am not sure why but I love new relationships and that feeling of being in love. I love the sparks that fly, the intimacy that is so powerful, the chemistry, but once that begins to settle down or fade, usually around three to four months, I begin to get bored.
Usually, I lose interest, find fault with the woman and kind of just drift away looking for the next partner who will also be thrilling, but I am also always hoping that it will last longer. So far, it never has.
I really do not want to spend my life alone so help!
Maybe a love addict
First off, this addiction as you call it, is not just for females. Many men like to think that they are stronger than women and don’t have these kinds of issues but you do. Physically different (or stronger) does not make you completely different emotionally nor does it render your brain activity different in response to this sort of stimuli.
Anyone can be a love addict. Popular culture encourages it and our quick paced lives, always wanting answers and solutions immediately as if people were made up of the same components as a Google search, definitely has contributed to relationship problems. For all the good of the Internet, its down side is that many folks expect immediate results and if and when they do not get them, they move on quickly.
This is simply not how real relationships work. Each one is different and there is no blue print sent from the heavens to tell us exactly how one should go.
Movies, and music perpetuate the notion of perfect love, love at first sight and some of the things that we might all want to believe in but to stay close to your question, all of this can feed into love addiction.
Most of us love that wonderful feeling that comes with falling in love. Early on it is intoxicating. Preliminary research following reactions in the brain has shown that the early stages of love intoxication light up the same neurobiological pathways as cocaine or similar drugs that get us high.
So clearly the dopamine (pleasure) center is involved when we first fall in love. And it is intoxicating and people do feel high but that phase in a relationship never lasts more than a few months. It begins to diminish once we are drawn closer to each other and then comes the next phase where we take the blinders off and we find out if the one we are with is the one we are meant to be with.
In this phase we deal with how we are at settling our differences? Can we resolve problems? Or are our differences or conflicts too great to make us truly compatible?
It is here that some folks bail before ever having given it a chance. They want no part of it, and they are out to find the next love as quickly as possible, never looking back, much as you describe about yourself.
For it to really be called an addiction, there must be consequences that one ignores and yet, keeps up the behavior anyway. In your case, perhaps it is the loneliness that you ignore?
There is another aspect to this behavior that may or may not be related to love addiction. Fears of attachment can derail budding relationships because attachment can lead to loss, which is the real fear involved here, and of course loss is painful to all of us.
A good number of people have difficulty with attachment and once they start to feel attached, they run away out of fear. It is often like a knee jerk reaction, they don’t even realize what they are doing. Spoiling the relationship before it gets dangerously close or finding fault with a potential partner so that there is good reason to get away are common defenses against the feared attachment.
Attachment and abandonment issues can lead to love addiction but they are not necessarily one in the same. Some people avoid relationships all together.
Other folks have these issues but are also totally taken by the intoxicating effects of first being in love or some consider sexual connection, with the same high, to be a real relationship, until they realize that it just isn’t.
Either way, you end up with a problem and probably alone. Love addiction can have much more serious consequences.
If you would like, e-mail me and I can give you a couple of good books that might help.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and marriage & family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or e-mail your anonymous questions and replies to firstname.lastname@example.org
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