McKinney Counseling & Recovery

Love Addiction and Love Avoidance

Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
T.S. Eliot

Love Addiction
Love Avoidance

What is Love Addiction?

Love addicts have unmet emotional needs that they seek to fulfill with either romance or relationships. Love addicts tend to form relationships with individuals who are love avoidant. Love avoidants gain a sense of relationship control by avoiding intimacy and withholding love. Together, love avoidants and love addicts engage in a dysfunctional relationship pattern that is often called the 'distancer-pursuer' relationship. Because the love addict's primary emotional fear is of abandonment, she or he is typically the pursuer in an established relationship. The love avoidant, whose primary fear is of intimacy, responds by distancing.

Both love addicts and love avoidants also have secondary fears (the love addict's secondary fear is of intimacy; the love avoidant's secondary fear is of abandonment), which fuel temporary periods of role reversal in the distancer-pursuer pattern when those secondary fears are triggered. However, regardless of who is the distancer and who is the pursuer at any given time, the pattern in the relationship remains the same.

Am I a Love Addict?

This questionnaire is based on the work of Pia Mellody. If you can answer yes to more than a few of the following questions, love addiction may be a problem for you.

  • Your partner seemed too good or perfect to be true when you first met.
  • He or she seemed like the person you had always dreamed of.
  • Your partner seemed unusually charming and thoughtful when you first met, almost as if he or she could read your mind.
  • Within days of meeting your partner you felt like the two of you had been spiritually connected for years.
  • You were convinced you and your new partner were 'soul mates.'?
  • Your partner's interests and hobbies seem more important to him or her than you are.
  • You've started cutting activities and people out of your life because you don't want to make your partner jealous.
  • You have been so obsessed with another person before that you gave up everything (e.g., job, friends, family, etc.) to be with that person.
  • You have put your partner on a pedestal before.
  • Your partner went from being romantic to cold and distant.
  • You have said to friends before, 'He/She was so charming and thoughtful in the beginning; I don't understand why he/she changed'?
  • You have tried unsuccessfully to be romantic and make things like they were in the beginning.
  • Your partner seems to spend less and less time with you.
  • You have been with a partner who was verbally or physically abusive.
  • You have blamed yourself or made excuses for your partner's abuse.
  • After long periods of unhappiness and progressively worse abuse, you still hang onto the belief that one day things will change.
  • You believe if you just hang in there long enough, you can love your partner into being who he or she really is.
  • You have been asked by a family member or close friend why you stay.
  • You feel abandoned when a relationship breaks up, even if you were the one who ended the relationship.
  • You have been in so much pain after an unhappy, troubled relationship has ended that you go back when your partner promises to change.
  • After a relationship has ended, your feelings of abandonment, pain, and fear seem so severe that you think you might die.
  • When you were a child, you often felt as though you were invisible.
  • A parent or major caregiver died, moved away or got divorced when you were a child.
  • As a child, you thought your parents or major caregivers didn't really know what was happening to you or what was going on inside of you.
  • You feel like your father neglected and/or abandoned you during your childhood.
  • You feel like your mother neglected and/or abandoned you during your childhood.

You can learn more about different types of love addiction from Love Addicts Anonymous.

What Does the Love Addiction Relational Cycle Look Like?

The love addict:

  1. Is attracted to a person who is walled in and appears powerful.
  2. Creates a fantasy about the other person as the relationship begins. The fantasy leads to feelings of euphoria for the love addict, who then becomes obsessed with the partner.
  3. Uses denial to protect the fantasy. This allows the love addict to ignore the avoidant's walls and the distance in the relationship.
  4. Some event occurs that bursts the denial and results in the love addict going into emotional withdrawal from the fantasy.
  5. Uses strategies to either return to the fantasy, medicates the emotional distress and/or becomes obsessed with revenge.
  6. Returns to the fantasy or finds a replacement partner and creates a new fantasy.
The Relational Recovery: Healing from Sex, Love and Relationship Trauma Group offers a healing community for women hurt by love addiction.

What is Love Avoidance?

Love avoidance is the systematic putting up of walls in a relationship to prevent feeling emotionally overwhelmed by another person. Consequently, it prevents true intimacy. It can be described as a form of emotional anorexia. The love avoidant perceives love as being an obligation or duty, so relationships are experienced as an emotional drain. The love avoidant tends to become involved with love addicts, and puts up walls to decrease the intensity within the relationship. However, the more the avoidant distances, the more the love addict pursues. The avoidant often responds by a pattern of deprivation within the primary relationship, while acting in ways that create intensity outside of that relationship (e.g., work, pursuing other relationships or sexual encounters, addictions, etc.). At the more extreme range of love avoidance, the love avoidant may also be intimacy anorexic.

Am I a Love Avoidant?

This questionnaire is based on the work of Pia Mellody. If you can answer yes to more than a few of the following questions, love avoidance may be a problem for you.

  • You think taking care of your partner is sufficient proof that you love him or her.
  • You find yourself often critical of your partner.
  • You believe it is your duty to take care of your partner.
  • You have a secret life away from your partner.
  • You keep important information about your thoughts or feelings from your partner.
  • You withhold information about yourself (at work or play) so that your partner will not get upset.
  • You find yourself needing to manage and be in control of the relationship.
  • You have frequently done things for your partner and then later had the sense that no matter what you did it was never enough for your partner.
  • You feel frustrated because your partner doesn't understand that you've spent time with him or her and now you need time for yourself.
  • You feel smothered by your partner when he or she wants to have you around so much.
  • Your partner complains that he or she doesn't really know you.
  • You find yourself overly critical of your partner.
  • You withhold praise or appreciation from your partner.
  • You feel resentful of your partner's neediness.
  • You have had one or more relationships in which you felt smothered and needed to escape.
  • You find yourself needing to control your partner because you know better what should and shouldn't be done.
  • You control your primary relationship by silence and anger.
  • When you're with your partner you feel like you're not getting your needs met.
  • You feel your partner doesn't appreciate all that you do for him or her.
  • You frequently feel the need to escape the relationship.
  • You often feel the need to go some place where you can get attention without always having to assure the other person that you love them.
  • You are spending more time at work in order to be away from you partner.
  • You stay so busy that you have little to no relational time for your partner.
  • You feel a sense of relief when you leave the house.
  • Your drinking, drug use, or other addictive behaviors increase while you are in a primary relationship.
  • You've had an affair or one-night-stand in order to get away from your relationship, have some fun, and get some attention.
  • You use porn to escape from the pressure in your relationship.
  • You withhold sex from your partner.
  • You have become involved in relationships because you couldn't say "no" or you didn't want to hurt the other person's feelings.
  • You have stayed in relationships longer than you wanted because you would have felt guilty if you ended it.
  • Your relationships have often begun with you rescuing your partner from another bad relationship, poor health, financial difficulties, emotional distress, legal problems or some other difficulty.
  • It is important to you that your partner thinks of you as her 'Knight in Shining Armor' or his 'Wonder Woman.'
  • As a child, you sometimes thought you were taking care of mom or dad more than they were parenting you.
  • As a child, you felt like mom or dad was smothering.

What Does the Love Avoidance Relational Cycle Look Like?

The love avoidant:

  1. Feels compelled to take care of needy people.
  2. Hides behind a wall of seduction or romance to satisfy the needs of relationship partner while avoiding being vulnerable or feeling controlled.
  3. Begins to resent the other person he or she feels duty bound to take care of and moves behind a wall of anger.
  4. Communicates anger in either a passive-aggressive or overtly aggressive way. Uses anger to justify a break from relationship duties.
  5. Sees self as a victim of relationship partner and rationalizes seeking intensity outside of primary relationship (e.g., overworking, drugs or alcohol, compulsive eating, sexually acting out, financial risk taking, thrill seeking, etc.).
  6. Either returns to relationship out of guilt or fear of abandonment, or finds a replacement relationship.

The Married & Alone group offers a healing community for women living with a spouse's love avoidance.

Contact me for more information on love addiction or love avoidance or check out the Love Avoidance and Intimacy Anorexia categories on the blog page.

McKinney, TX Licensed Psychologist and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist
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Dr. Janice Caudill
Certified Clinical Partner Specialist
Licensed Psychologist
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist & Supervisor
Partner Recovery Therapist
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Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (& Supervisor)
Certified Multiple Addictions Therapist

250 Adriatic Parkway, Suite 105
McKinney, Texas 75070