I don’t really think I have or had what Jon Marsh calls love addiction. But, I read the relevant supplemental lesson in Recovery Nation to be sure. Marsh listed his own symptoms. Here they are, with my thoughts on whether I experienced them.
• “The relationships all involved instant intimacy.” In my marriage and in other relationships did I proceed to intimacy instantly? If that means physical intimacy, then no, I did not. If it means emotional intimacy, maybe. Maybe it is my habit to either awkwardly avoid women or, alternately, to approach them with slightly more emotional intimacy than would be considered normal. I’m not sure. In any case, I now make a conscious effort to avoid emotional intimacy with any woman except TL.
• “Most required an intense, deeply-rooted need to have them like me. To tell me they love me. Until that happened, most actions within the relationship were geared towards achieving that goal.” This does seem familiar.
• “There was a sense of desperation involved with establishing/maintaining the relationship.” Maybe.
• “As the relationships began to lose their intensity…so too went the feelings of ‘love’.” Maybe.
• “There was a willingness to sacrifice any and everything for the relationship to succeed.” Though I didn’t recognize it at the time, in retrospect, my approach to some relationships did seem that way.
• “When the relationship would end while that intensity was still intact, I would experience a completely inappropriate sense of rejection, failure and desperation.” I don’t believe this ever happened to me.
• “There was a completely unrealistic perception of the person’s qualities at the beginning of the relationship; completely unrealistic expectations of their abilities towards the end.” This does seem familiar.
• “There was an intense, constant hypersensitivity/pressure within the relationship; and a constant need for reassurance.” Maybe. Perhaps that fits with some examples of me being overly or awkwardly jealous or possessive.
• “Many relationships were brief, intensely emotional sexual relationships, to experience the aura of that initial love and awe.” No, that doesn’t seem to fit.
• “In many relationships, there was an obsessive nature behind my acts – constantly checking up on my partners to assure that they weren’t cheating on me.” This may fit with my awkward, outsized jealousy, including retroactive jealousy.
• “In many relationships, there was a considerable, hair-triggered sense of jealousy – which was triggered from the fear of them meeting someone ‘better’ than me and/or leaving me.” Yes, I guess that’s true.
• “In many relationships, there was the need to be the end-all to their existence. Healthy boundaries…mutual growth…partnership? No idea what you are talking about.” Yes, I think I did this.
• “In several relationships, experiencing incredibly intense, emotional devastation that lasted for years after the relationship ended. The inability to let go. That I couldn’t live my life without that person.” No, this never happened.
Marsh says: “ . . .[B]ecause the root of most love addiction can be found in early relationships (childhood trauma involving . . .parental . . . domination/extreme performance pressure), the foundation of the healthy transition must involve a commitment to relearn/rebuild healthy relationships – which may or may not include the need to rebuild sexual values/boundaries. In sexual addiction, the foundation is to relearn/rebuild healthy sexual values/boundaries – and then to integrate those skills into healthy relationships.”
Marsh then lists his standard recommended steps for addressing sex addiction, which I’ve done, and says, “For love addiction, the path would be similar, but the following areas would need to be added:”
• “The need to initially isolate yourself from all obsessive relationships (in which the target is an active participant in the relationship).” I’ve done this, unless it’s possible to say that I behaved obsessively in my relationship with TL, my wife, too. In fact, I think that I was obsessive toward TL, and that overcoming that view of her has been an important part of improving myself as a person and improving our relationship since D-day. I used to treat her as a possession, putting unrealistic expectations on her. Now, I’m learning to treat her as a true friend and individual, something I never really understood nor valued in my earlier years.
• “The ability to redefine yourself as an individual.” Yes, this is a challenging, ongoing, and crucial task for me. It’s something I should have done as a child or adolescent, but perhaps didn’t do fully or properly.
• “The need to redefine the health/boundaries of all existing relationships early on in the recovery process.” Yes, this is done.
• “Learning the role that others play (both consciously and subconsciously) in actively prolonging your unhealthy behavioral patterns/addiction.” I think this is done.
• “Learning the role that society plays in encouraging/promoting love addiction (society actively recruits sexual addicts for profit; it promotes love addiction as an actual value to be admired/emulated – this is an important distinction).” Yes, this is done, and it us a helpful reminder.
• “Learning the process of redeveloping healthy relationships from ones that were once obsessive.” Right, I think that is what I am doing regarding my relationship with TL.
• “Dealing with loss as a choice, versus a consequence.” I don’t think this particular line item is relevant for me.
Marsh says, “Love is a universal need/experience in all healthy individuals. It is not like alcohol or porn – where the behaviors can be seen in terms of absolute abstinence. So, while past factors that led to the development of a love addiction cannot be permanently removed, the ability to develop permanently mature, healthy life management skills – and thus eliminate the need for that addiction – is most certainly attainable.” This suggests to me that “love addiction” might not even be the right term. Maybe a more accurate term would be “relationship addiction.”