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Is It Love, Is It Love Addiction? When You Can't Live Without Love

by Joanne Tangedahl, LMSW-ACP, LPC, LMFT

You meet someone and Cupid shoots the arrow. Wow! This is special. It feels dreamy, wonderful and so exciting. It is a truly mind-altering experience. Your brain has released chemicals, such as, dopamine, norepinephrine, endorphins, enkephalin, phenethylamine and serotonin, nature's natural narcotics - chemicals that encourage a sense of comfort and security and create a mystical experience of oneness. In my book, A New Blueprint for Marriage, I referred to this stage of a relationship as the "Happiness Bubble."

Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want and Keeping the Love You Find, calls it "Romantic Love," and in this stage we experience several things:

1. The Phenomenon of Recognition - "I feel as if I already know you."
2. The Phenomenon of Timelessness - "It seems as if we've been together always."
3. The Phenomenon of Reunification - "Now, I feel while and complete since I met you."
4. The Phenomenon of Necessity - "I need you and I feel like I can't live without you."

This is a process that happens in healthy non-addictive relationships. It is a phase a relationship goes through as it develops and evolves. But the question for me is: "How do you tell this from addiction?" This applies whether the addiction is Co-dependency, Love Addiction, Romance Addiction, Sex Addiction, or Relationship Addiction. These have a lot in common with other addictions, such as, Eating Addiction or Spending Addition. You can't just completely avoid food or money like you can with drugs or alcohol. You still have to be involved with food and money, and in relationships you still have the rush of "Romantic Love." So what is the difference between love and addiction?

The distinction is that romantic love is a just a passing phase much like eating a meal. You stop. If not, you stay stuck in this process. Just like what happens when compulsive overeating captures you with that sense of powerlessness and you keep eating and keep eating and keep eating. You can't stop. This is addiction. It is obsessive and it is compulsive.

Romantic Love lasts a few hours, a few days, a few weeks or sometimes, especially if couples are apart, a few months, but it does pass on to the other natural stages of a relationship. It is normal, natural and healthy. It is designed to end.

Addiction doesn't pass. It gets progressively worse and with a co-addicted couple the dance of addiction can become very destructive. You stop having a sense of well being and that wonderful feeling of oneness. You begin to feel desperate, with a need to be with, to see, to possess the other person. This need is so powerful, strong and compelling and people often call this "Love." It is not love; it is addiction. Love cares about the welfare of the other. There is a quality of being free and expansive, connected to the Oneness in the universe. With addiction, there is the desperation of needing to have the other person so you'll be okay (classic co-dependency). The thoughts are obsessive and the actions are compulsive. "I have to have you. I can't live without you. I must control you and make you mine." There is no freedom here.

This other person has become a god and you have forgotten your Higher Power. I understand that true recovery is what is referred to as a "Spiritual Recovery," and no longer is your partner your god. With the addiction, the connection to your Higher Power has been broken and replaced with this person / relationship.

I truly appreciate my extensive addiction training with Pia Mellody, and Patrick Carnes. It has given me a clear understanding of addictions and how to deal with them. This is coupled with all the theory, techniques and tools I learned from Harville Hendrix and Pat Love about Imago Therapy. Together they have provided me with a toolbox that is filled with techniques and skills, and a blended understanding of both addictions and relationships. It is so helpful to know the distinction between a relationship problem and an addiction and this is such a fine line at times. This has been invaluable to me when working with couples, guiding them toward "getting the love they want!"

By Joanne Tangedahl, LMSW-ACP, LPC, LMFT

Read more about love addiction at: Dream Chasers: The CP Addiction (Falling in Love and Dealing with a Commitmentphobic Person). You can be reading this insightful information, written especially for those who are in love with a commitmentphobic person, in less than two minutes!

Article published by Tigress Luv & Glass Slipper publishing, the Breakup Gurus. For more breakup advice and forums please join us at the Lifted Hearts Breakup Support Forums & Community at

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