Codependency and Love Addiction: Searching for Ourselves in Others

Intense romantic love can make us feel swept off our feet, lost in its rapture and constantly preoccupied with thoughts of our lover. But sometimes, this kind of obsession can present as an unhealthy compulsion that leads us into damaging relationships. Love addiction – like most addictions – is rooted in codependency.

What is Love Addiction?

“We often say ‘love’ when we really mean, and are acting out, an addiction – a sterile, ingrown dependency relationship, with another person serving as the object of our need for security,” says psychologist Stanton Peele in his book, Love and Addiction. Love addicts are lured by the idea of being in love, addicted to the initial rush of passionate emotion at the beginning of a tryst. For this reason, they tend to have any intense but short-lived relationships.      

But underneath, love addicts are ambivalent about love. They deeply want love, but can never find what they truly seek. Love addicts today face the additional challenge of internet dating, which provides the perfect forum for their highly charged cycles of fiery passion followed by panicked feelings of being smothered and subsequent detachment.

How Codependency Fans the Flames of Love Addiction

These two phenomena are so closely related, some argue that codependency and love addiction are one and the same. And they do bear many similar qualities. Codependent and love-addicted relationships are unhealthy attachments in which partners depend on each other for their self-worth. In both cases, it’s likely that one or both partners grew up with a narcissistic parent or other situation in which they weren’t loved and cared for enough as a child.

In turn, love addicts develop fantasies about finding the one: someone who will love them unconditionally. But instead, they often settle for whomever they find, attracting unhealthy relationships that mirror their deepest beliefs about themselves. Codependency is often inherited from behavior modeled by our parents. Because it’s so normalized, love addicts can stay in emotionally abusive relationships for a long time without realizing how toxic they actually are.

Are You in a Relationship, or Addicted to the Idea of One?

Love has many similar qualities to addiction, and a similar effect on our brain. So how can we tell if we’re in a healthy relationship, or just addicted to our partner? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a firm belief in your own value?
  • Does the relationship add to your life, rather than take away from it?
  • Do you have your own life (friends, interests and self-growth) outside the relationship?
  • Is the relationship a healthy part of your overall life?
  • Are you supportive of your partner’s other relations and interests?
  • Is your partner also your friend?

While most relationships don’t exhibit all of these qualities, these are signs of a healthy relationship.

Finding Self-Wholeness and Healthy Relationships

In order to move past codependency and love addiction, we must learn how to love ourselves and meet our own needs. When you believe you’re enough, you can go through your life feeling whole, and select appropriate, mutually supportive relationships as a result.

Learn more about codependency in our article, Cultivate Self Love to Combat Codependency.

The Sanctuary at Sedona offers a holistic codependency treatment program designed to help you reconnect with yourself and start feeling whole again. Call us at (877) 710-3385 or email us at info@sanctuary.net to learn more.