Updated: Oct 2
Please, Please, Please, begs James Brown in his 1958 release with the Flames. Little did some of us know that we would be crying the sentiments if not the actual lyrics of this song sixty-two years later. He goes on to reclaim a lost love by crying out,
“Baby please, baby please don't go (You don't have to go), Don't go, I said baby, don't baby
I love you so (You don't have to go) Baby, you know you broke my heart when you went away…
(You don't have to go) …Don't go, no baby, no baby, I love you so (You don't have to go)
Take this pain from my heart…
There maybe a few of us thinking about how we wouldn’t mind seeing one of our past lover’s in this position. But, if you’re the one on the opposite end and you find yourself singing or even humming this tune you maybe on the verge of a real live addiction, Love Addiction that is.
Love Addiction is real and as an Addiction Specialist, I’m telling you it’s as real as an addiction to Drugs and Alcohol. Addiction is a term that applies to more than chemical substances alone. What researchers formerly considered as impulse control problems, have been re-categorized as addictive behaviors.
What makes these sneaky addictions difficult to overcome is unlike drugs and alcohol, we cannot do without many of them. They are some of the everyday necessities of life. Take for instance food, exercise, religion, or work. Many times, we are celebrated for these addictions which solidifies them and keeps us trapped in the cycle longer. Who doesn’t admire that woman that makes time to go to the gym daily, or that guy with less than 5% body fat? How about the person that can quote scripture verbatim, the professor with multiple degrees, or the successful businessperson that has it all? Love and Relationship Addictions are real and it’s the reason why many of us have suffered through multiple relationships with each of them ending in disaster or drama.
Hulu has a reality series called “Are You the One” that illustrates some of the dynamics of a person suffering from Love and/or Relationship addiction. Ten couples are placed at this beautiful resort with their perfect match, but no one knows who that is. What I believe the writers are counting on is the inability of someone in the bonds of love addiction to find their ideal lover. Several participants have stated that they aren’t finding their match because they are choosing partners with qualities that past dysfunctional lovers had. Maybe it’s time to try something different. However, they are finding that to be more difficult than they thought. Just like any addiction, we are drawn to the things, or person in this case, that’s unhealthy for them.
Love Addiction is an obsessive desire to be with someone, even if that someone doesn’t want to be with us or isn’t the healthiest choice. Pia Mellody, in “Facing Love Addiction,” suggests these three characteristics of a Love Addict:
1) They assign an unbalanced amount of time, attention, and value above themselves towards the object of their addiction.
2) They exhibit unrealistic expectations for unconditional positive regard when in a relationship with others and
3) They neglect to care for or value themselves while in a relationship.
In other words, you put their needs above your own and sometimes your children and family while expecting them to do the same. Hey! Don’t be too quick to eliminate yourself from this discussion just yet.
Love and Relationship Addictions can be tricky as they involve unconscious and conscious fears like the fear of abandonment and fear intimacy. It may sound ironic and somewhat contradictory but the fear of being left alone can and will drive a fear of intimacy.
Revisit the lyrics to James Brown’s hit and imagine the cycle of staying in an unfulfilling, drama filled, or disastrous relationship due to a fear of abandonment. Your partner or lover leaves and now one of your greatest fears is realized. Panic sets in because they left and now, you’re alone. You’ll do anything to change this, so you beg, manipulate, make excuses to show up in places you know they will be, text or call with no real reason, all until you finally give up and scramble towards another relationship. You jump over the much-needed process of grieving and now you’re in a full blown “rebound relationship.” You tell yourself, “this time it will be different,” as you create layers around your heart to numb emotions because of a fear of intimacy. You say, “if I don’t allow myself to be vulnerable or get too close it won’t hurt if they leave.” It maybe unintentional, but you start to produce self-defeating, self-destructive plots with each new relationship.
Confusing? It doesn’t have to be. If this sounds like a cycle that you’ve been in, know that this condition is real and treatable. Don’t allow shame to hold you back from seeking therapy and a life that’s free to love. Moving forward, let James Brown’s song and its sentiment remain in the past. Art doesn’t have to imitate life. Contact me or another specialist in your area and begin the journey towards healthy relationships as you approach the new year.