Love Addicts: CLAs are the most widely recognized. They
fit a pretty standard profile. Most of them suffer from low self-esteem
and have a certain predictable way of thinking, feeling and behaving.
This means that from a place of insecurity and low self-esteem,
they try desperately to hold on to the people they are addicted
to using codependent behavior. This includes enabling, rescuing,
caretaking, passive-aggressive controlling, and accepting neglect
or abuse. In general, CLAs will do anything to “take care”
of their partners in the hope that they will not leave—or
that someday they will reciprocate.
Addicts: RAs, unlike other love addicts, are no longer
in love with their partners but still cannot let go. Usually,
they are so unhappy that the relationship affects their health,
spirit and emotional well being. Even if their partner batters
them, and they are in danger, they cannot let go. They are afraid
of being alone. They are afraid of change. They do not want to
hurt or abandon their partners. This can be summed up as “I
hate you don’t leave me.”
Love Addicts: NLAs use dominance, seduction and withholding
to control their partners. Unlike codependents, who accept a lot
of discomfort, narcissists won’t put up with anything that
interferes with their happiness. They are self-absorbed and their
low self-esteem is masked by their grandiosity. Furthermore, rather
than seeming to obsess about the relationship, NLAs appear aloof
and unconcerned. They do not appear to be addicted at all. Rarely
do you even know that NLAs are hooked until you try to leave them.
Then they will no longer be aloof and uncaring. They will panic
and use anything at their disposal to hold on to the relationship—including
violence. Many professionals have rejected the idea that narcissists
can be love addicts. This may be because they rarely come in for
treatment. However, if you have ever seen how some narcissists
react to perceived or real abandonment, you will see that they
are indeed “hooked.”
Love Addicts: ALAs suffer from avoidant personality disorder.
They don’t have a hard time letting go, they have a hard
time moving forward. They desperately crave love, but at the same
time they are terrified of intimacy. This combination is agonizing.
ALAs also come in different forms, listed below.
Bearers are ALAs who obsess about someone who is unavailable.
This can be done without acting out (suffering in silence) or
by pursuing the person they are in love with. Some Torch Bearers
are more addicted than others. This kind of addiction feeds on
fantasies and illusions. It is also known as unrequited love.
are ALAs who destroy relationships when they start to
get serious or at whatever point their fear of intimacy comes
up. This can be anytime—before the first date, after the
first date, after sex, after the subject of commitment comes up—whenever.
Withholders are ALAs who always come on to you when they
want sex or companionship. When they become frightened, or feel
unsafe, they begin withholding companionship, sex, affection—anything
that makes them feel anxious. If they leave the relationship when
they become frightened, they are just Saboteurs. If they keep
repeating the pattern of being available/unavailable, they are
Romance Addicts are ALAs who are addicted to
multiple partners. Romance addicts are often confused with sex
addicts. However, unlike sex addicts, who are trying to avoid
bonding altogether, romance addicts bond with each of their partners—to
one degree or another— even if the romantic liaisons are
short-lived or happening simultaneously. By “romance”
I mean sexual passion and pseudo-emotional intimacy. Please note
that while romance addicts bond with each of their partners to
a degree, their goal (besides getting high off of romance and
drama) is to avoid commitment or bonding on a deeper level with
Note about ALAs: Not all avoidants are love addicts.
If you accept your fear of intimacy and social situations, and
do not get hooked on unavailable people, or just keep your social
circle small and unthreatening you are not necessarily an ALA.
But if you eat your heart out over some unavailable person year
after year, or sabotage one relationship after another, or have
serial romantic affairs, or only feel close when you are with
another avoidant, you may be an Ambivalent Love Addict.
You may find that you have more than one type of love addiction.
Many of these types overlap and combine with other behavioral
problems. For instance, you may be a codependent, alcoholic love
addict. Or a love/relationship addict. The important thing is
to identify your own personal profile so you know what you are
For instance, Robert was a love addict, relationship addict, romance
addict and sex addict. He was married but did not want to divorce
his wife of twenty years even though he was not in love with her
(relationship addiction) His hobby was masturbating to pornography
when his wife was not home (sex addiction). He had affairs with
several other women simultaneously without his wife finding out.
He really cared about each of these women (romance addict). One
day he met Jennifer and fell in love with her. It did not take
long before he was obsessed with her. She did not want to be with
him because he was married, so he began stalking and harassing
her (love addict). Robert finally got into recovery, divorced
his wife, gave up the pornography and affairs and married the
woman he was obsessed with. At first his jealousy was out of control,
but after a few years of therapy and 12-Step meetings he began
to trust his new wife. Because she was mature, well-grounded and
had high self esteem, the relationship began to normalize. Today,
all of Robert’s addictions are in remission.
and Codependents: It is very common for love addicts
to end up in relationships with other love addicts. The most common
kind of love-addicted couple is, as you might have guessed, the
codependent and the narcissist. In the beginning, narcissists
are often seductive. After they have hooked their codependent
partners, however, they change. Here is an example of a narcissist-codependent
Nancy and James met at a bar and were instantly attracted to one
another. Within days, Nancy (the codependent) had fallen madly
in love with James (the narcissist). From the beginning, she was
helpful, nurturing, attentive and went out of her way to make
him happy. James, on the other hand, appeared to be able to take
or leave the relationship after they made love. He canceled dates,
neglected to return phone calls, saw other women, became very
domineering and for the most part seemed aloof and detached. Still,
six months later, Nancy married James because she was in love
with him and secretly hoped that he would change.
After Nancy and James were married, the pattern of neglect continued—especially
his affairs with other women. When Nancy objected, James bullied
her until she stopped nagging him about it. This went on for years.
Nancy tried to save her marriage by placating James in every way
she could think of, but he continued to do what he wanted. Eventually,
Nancy stopped loving James and thought about leaving him, but
she just couldn't bring herself to face the loneliness of being
single again. This was better than nothing she thought. So she
continued her codependent behavior, always trying to keep James
happy and comfortable even if it meant sacrificing her own happiness
in the process.
Eventually, Nancy sought counseling and within a year she felt
strong enough to leave James. He had other ideas. The first time
Nancy brought up the subject of divorce he laughed at her. Then
he threatened her verbally. The day she presented him with divorce
papers, he beat her so badly she had to go to the hospital. It
seems that despite his lack of love and respect for Nancy, James
was addicted to her and the relationship they shared. He also
felt that if he couldn't have her, nobody else could.
Eventually, Nancy got away from James even though he stalked her
for months—threatening to kill her if she didn't come back.
Thankfully, he eventually let go. However, you have only to read
the newspapers to realize that such a volatile combination of
codependency and narcissism can lead to homicide.
Many love addicts switch-hit because they have more than one underlying
personality disorder. For instance, a relationship addict may
play the role of a codependent for years, then finally get out
of the relationship and fall in love with someone who is unavailable.
Suddenly, our relationship addict is an obsessed love addict or
a torchbearer. Even narcissists switch-hit, believe it or not.
For years they can be in one relationship after another, playing
the role of the dominant, uncaring partner. However, if they ever
fall hard, they can easily turn into a torchbearer or obsessed
love addict. If they fall in love with another narcissist then
they have no choice but to become the codependent love addict
in the relationship because the narcissist will not stand for
anything else. Even ambivalent love addicts will start obsessing
instead of running away when they are addicted.
Love addicts switch-hit because of separation anxiety. If another
form of behavior is necessary to placate a partner and to hold
on the him or her, the love addict will adopt that behavior. Is
it an act? Sometimes . . . but if the love addict has weak personality
boundaries, they may actually become the other person while under
the spell of the addiction. The point here is not to identify
all the kinds of switch-hitting going on, or even to explain it,
but to point it out and learn from it.
Importance of All This: If all this seems complicated,
it is. And, to be honest, the only reason it is important is because
it makes a difference when it comes to treatment. Codependent
love addicts, for instance, need a boost in self-esteem and self-acceptance.
They must learn to think better of themselves. Narcissistic love
addicts, on the other hand, use grandiosity to bolster their low
self-esteem and need to come down to earth. They need to learn
some humility and how to become unselfish. Ambivalent Love Addicts
need to find a healthy relationship and stay engaged in it even
when their fear threatens to overwhelm them. Most of all, understanding
as much as you can about love addiction will form the basis of
your Fourth Step Inventory in a 12-Step Program or give you a
head start if you opt for psychotherapy.
Peabody donated this article to LAA in 2004. Many people have
adopted the descriptions, but not all of them have cited. Susan
is an educator, counselor and author. For more more of Susan's
writings and counseling services, see her website Brighter
River Source's residential
treatment center in arizona uses an integrative approach and
tailored treatments, which have resulted in the continued success
of patients maintaining their lives in recovery long after they
leave our alcohol and drug rehab center. Our
primary purpose is to recover from love addiction and offer hope
to those who still suffer.