I’ve recently had a revelation. I am a love addict.
I came upon this revelation when I was feeling lonely and pondering how my loneliness has gotten me into trouble before. I’ve been avoiding intimacy, particularly with men. Not only because I’m still going through a difficult divorce, but also because jumping into relationships just for the sake of not being lonely has never done any good. In fact, it’s only led to very bad consequences.
In the past, I’ve gotten involved with the first attractive man who has shown me attention. First, it was my high school boyfriend who sought me out because I was on his girlfriend’s softball team. He showed me attention, told me what I wanted to hear, told me he was breaking up with his girlfriend. I was 16, I liked the attention, I liked feeling wanted. So, I allowed myself to be the “other woman”. He said he broke up with her, but he cheated on me numerous times throughout our two-year on-again-off-again relationship, so who knows whether that was true or not.
Second was a three-year relationship with a man 9-years my senior. He was one of my coworkers at the first full-time job I had after graduating from high school. He also showed me attention. He quit smoking cigarettes because I told him I wouldn’t date someone who smoked. I was just finally ending my relationship with my cheating high school boyfriend and wanted to feel that high again. So I jumped right into another relationship. I moved in with him after about a week. He turned out to be a drug-addict and alcoholic, but I stuck around because I thought I could fix him.
After the relationship with my addict boyfriend ended, I stayed single for about a month before I met my husband. I had been attending counseling because I knew by then that there was something wrong with the way I was selecting my partners. I knew something had to change but I didn’t know what it was yet. I met my husband in March, dated him for a couple weeks and moved in with him in April. He was still married but in the process of getting divorced.
He seemed different to me. He had a steady job, was a good father, had a house of his own, friends, no addictions, he was funny and seemed to be faithful and honest. I thought I had finally found it. I thought all the years of counseling and self-searching had finally worked and I had found someone healthy enough to spend the rest of my life with.
I made him wait about a month before having sex with him because I thought that was the real problem with my past relationships. That maybe if I made this one wait, that it would mean more. As I now know, that didn’t really matter. Sex was inevitable, all he needed to have was patience. Alas, that relationship didn’t work out either.
While reading about love addicts, I came across this idea that love addicts typically don’t stay in long-term relationships because they need the adrenaline rush of a new relationship. But I’ve decided that serial monogamy with emotionally unavailable men provides enough of a rush to feed my addiction. Especially with as unstable my relationships have been, there was always the hoovering part of the cycle that kept me hooked. So, I didn’t need to get into a new relationship to feel that adrenaline. Each renewed cycle provided enough of a rush that it always felt new for enough time to keep me going. That and the fear of not being able to find anything else made me stay put.
So, here I am now. I’ve joined a dating website and I’m talking to men, though I equate it as a kind of exposure therapy. I’m testing the waters and learning how to set boundaries. I’m deciding what I want out of a potential date and seeking out the red flags. I’ve set a timeline for myself for when I’ll consider getting into an exclusive relationship. Until then, it’s all about dating and figuring out what I want and what I don’t want.
So far it’s going well. I have enough insight into my own issues to know not to act on impulse and to think things through. Chatting late at night typically leads to me oversharing because I get more lonely at night, so if I do chat at night, I’ve learned to keep it light. I refrain from the urge to check my messages all the time and I challenge myself when my mind automatically jumps to not being wanted just because I’m not messaged back immediately. I’m sitting with it and I’m learning.
I know that I need to discover who I am, but I think that this is part of who I am. How can I face the addiction without feeling tempted and still resisting? This recovery is much like a recovery for someone with a binge eating disorder. It’s not as easy as removing the focus of the addiction. Someone with an eating disorder still has to eat even though that is the focus of the addiction. As a human being, I still need to have intimacy in order to survive. But finding who I am despite the intimacy is what I’ve always struggled with. This is what I’m working to uncover right now and it’s scary but also exhilarating.
I’ll let you know how it goes.