Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Addicted to Love

I wanted to return to the topic of emotional affairs since there were over 100 messages on my posts on that subject: “Ten Red Flags,” “Breaking Up and Moving On,” “The Emotional Affair,” and “The Dangers of Head Sex.” For readers involved in an emotional affair, you might want to read through the responses, as there were some heart-wrenching stories and very good advice in there.
An excellent resource on emotional affairs and addictive relationships is Howard M. Halpern’s book, “How to Break Your Addiction to a Person.” I’ll be drawing on its wisdom in the next few posts.
First I wanted to excerpt passages from his book that explain how emotional affairs and other dysfunctional relationships are, in fact, addictions, because several readers touched on just that. He writes:


I am not using the term “addiction” symbolically or metaphorically. Not only is it possible but it is extremely common for one person in a love relationship to become addicted to the other. Stanton Peele, in his book “Love and Addiction,” recognized the addictive nature of some love relationships. Reviewing many studies of drug addiction he notes a frequent conclusion–that the addicting element is not so much in the substance (such as alcohol or tobacco or a narcotic) but in the person who is addicted.
In love relationships, this addictive element takes the form of a compelling need to connect with and to remain connected with a particular person. But is this need always an addiction? Why call it an addiction at all? Why not simply call it love or preference or a sense of commitment?


Often there is a lot of love and commitment in an addictive relationship, but to be genuinely loving and committed one must freely choose another person, and one of the hallmarks of an addiction is that it is a compulsive drive which, by definition, means that it limits this freedom. The alcoholic or drug addict feels driven toward the addictive substance even when he knows it is bad for him. And when there is a strong addictive element in a relationship, the feeling is “I must have this person, and I must remain attached to this person, even if this relationship is bad for me.”
So the first indication that we are dealing with an addiction is its compulsive quality. The second is the panic one feels at the possible absence of the substance. Alcoholics often feel panic when they are not sure where the next drink is coming from. Drug addicts experience this fear when their supply of drugs is running out. Nicotine addicts may become very uneasy about being in a place where smoking is not permitted. And people in an addictive relationship may experience overwhelming panic at the thought of breaking the relationship. I have often heard of people sitting at the telephone and beginning to dial the number of their party in an unhappy love affair, determined to tell him or her that it is all over, but their anxiety becomes so great they have to hang up.
The third hallmark of an addiction is the withdrawal symptoms. As bad as the panic is in contemplating or moving toward a possible breakup, it cannot compare to the devastation when the breakup actually happens. A person who has just ended an addictive relationship may suffer greater agony than drug addicts, smokers, and alcoholics endure when they go cold turkey, and in many ways the reaction is similar. Often, for example, there is physical pain (the chest, stomach, and abdomen are particularly reactive), weeping, sleep disturbances (some people can’t sleep, others may sleep too much), irritability, depression, and the feeling that there is no place to go and no way to end the discomfort except to go back to the old substance (person). The craving can become so intense it often defeats the sufferer’s best intentions and drives him right back to the source of his addiction.
The fourth hallmark of an addiction is that after the mourning period, there is often a sense of liberation, triumph, and accomplishment. This differs from the slow, sad acceptance and healing that follows a non-addictive loss.
Underlying all these reactions, the essential similarity between addicts, whether their addiction is to a substance or a person, is a sense of incompleteness, emptiness, despair, sadness, and being lost that he believes he can remedy only through his connection to something or someone outside himself. This something or someone becomes the center of his existence, and he is willing to do himself a great deal of damage to keep his connection with it intact.

Phew! That’s good stuff.

  • bc

    I had an experience like this couple of months ago! my exboyfriend and i broke up four months ago!! but while in the relationship we had our ups and downs just like any other couple!! but he got to a point where he didnt have a job, he wasn’t going to college, he was doing drugs, and i just didn’t feel happy. i felt like i didn’t deserve that, and i was right; i didn’t. he would always tell me he was going to change and that he was going to quit drugs, and start college soon. He kept getting tickets, and going to court, but i loved him, and he didn’t want to let go. i could’t take it, he decided to help his ex-girlfriend, and you know how it ended. so that was my chance to ended. so i did, he just didn’t want to. inside i knew he wasn’t for me i just want so much more of my life, and i guess as much as i loved him we weren’t on the same page. so we ended our relationship, but he kept coming back, and i gave him a second chance i felt bad, and i thought to myself “well you still love him” but i had not realized i was going back to where i didn’t wanted to be! he said i was the one for him that he wanted to spent the rest of his life with me; i just couldn’t see myself with kids and having to go with my housband to court or always dealing with things i don’t deserve. so, after two weeks we ended and it was for good. i felt free! and thank God i met this person and we have been dating for a month or so; i just hadn’t realized he waS always around me FOR TWO YEARS, and he just never told me he loved me. and now we are very happy together and i really look forward for the future! hopfully God wants him in my life as much i want him in it. because i am sure of one thing God always has trials for us, but he always knows whos’s ment for us! God thank you for being my fahter and savior! i love you and my heart belongs to you!

  • BG

    I am actually going through this same scenario right now! I’ve been in a relationship with this guy for almost 3 yrs now. He was the sweetest thing when I first met him. He wanted to spend all his time with me. We went places and did things, but as time passed, he too had so much baggage. He continued to loose cars to the impound, he couldn’t hold a job because of his record, and he was always angry at life. Because this man lost his mom really young and never knew his dad, I made so many excuses for his behavior. We broke up constantly when things in his life weren’t going right and I wasn’t able to fix them. He became verbally abusive telling me things I knew weren’t true about myself, but had to second guess it since it was coming from the eyes, mouth of someone so close to me. I allowed him to move in with me. Found him two jobs in the timeframe we were together and he couldn’t hold either. He’s so selfish, but I knew he’s only had himself, so how could he be any other way.
    I think what really hurts is I have tried everything to make this relationship work, and him happy, and he hasn’t. More recent he acts like he can’t stand to be around me long, we don’t talk at all. He says he needs his space and I can suffocate him at times. Me being a Leo, I’m a very loving, generous person that loves to be around or with my mate when the time allows. He’s Cancer and I’ve never really dealt with any Cancer men, so I was hanging in there to see if things will get better. Well now I know they won’t. I do Love this man, but he despises me and makes me feel inadequate when I was well established and stable before he came along.
    I know he’s not the one for me, however, I do feel addicted to him, and even family member say I don’t give anyone else a chance. I wish things could be different, but I don’t think God wants his evil spirits in or around my life. Now I have to understand and honor God’s wishes and want the same.
    Funny thing is when I attempt to let go! Not calling or etc… He shows up at my door, telling me he loves me and he thinks were a good team. He knows sexually I am only with him and he uses that to his advantage. Making false promises when he wants to get back in only to turn right back into the selfish man he has always been.
    I have finally decided NO MORE. I do Love myself and all my faults and I deserve better no matter what I look like, how much money I make, or the baggage I carrier. Being with him makes me feel less than a woman and it hurts so badly, but it also hurts to be without him….
    How long will this mental, spiritual battle last. I have other friends and have been trying to get back into the social scene, but it’s not working all I do on my days off of work is lie around in my house, watch TV. Think about him and wonder why these things happen to me.
    It’s a blessing to see that I’m not alone and that everyone at some point goes through something or another with a man, or vise versa and we just have to allow God to pave the way to righteousness and happiness within ourselves to move on. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it. God’s working on it for me.
    Thank You,

  • rosemene

    BG, seems like our men are from the same sign of the zodiac and are very similar.My ex was also a cancer and very selfish, manipulative, physically and mentally abusive.I left him for a lot of reasons(it would take me days to go through details) but just like you I miss him a lot but when I am with him I feel less than a person.Especially when he would hit me and tell me that he loves me the next day.I’ve been away from him for almost 3 months and he is constantly on my mind.To make it worst I am not working yet and I don’t have any friends so all I do all day is watch tv.But deep inside I know that he’s the wrong man for me.I don’t talk to him and I don’t reply to his e-mails.He’s been writing me saying that he would do anything to get me back and that he rather die than to be without me.He said that he rather destroy me than to lose me.Why men don’t see how important women are before the break-up?.But regardless of my feelings for him I am going to get an injunction of protection against him because his e-mails are very scary and I am not taking any chances.

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