Love Addiction

Are you Caught in the Trap of an Addictive Relationship?

By Steve Reed, L.P.C., L.M.F.T.


Cycle of an addictive relationship

Love addiction effects more people than you might think.  Terri has been in and out of a relationship with Jack for 15 years.  However, Jack always has other women.  Sometimes he has several sexual relationships going at once.  Jack is a sex addict.  Terri, a love addict, is addicted to Jack.

Beth is a rageaholic.  For the last 18 months, she and Tim have been breaking up for a week or two but then getting back together until the next blow-up.  Tim's friends cannot understand why he keeps going back for more.  What they don't understand is that Tim is addicted to Beth.

Most people do not understand love addiction or know how to identify it, but there are recognizable roles, underlying emotions and a common cycle of behavior that you can learn to spot.  Here is what to look for.

The Roles in Addictive Relationships
There are two roles.  The first role is the Love Addict who has an addiction to someone who has another primary addiction.  The second role is the Addict.  Like Jack or Beth in our examples, the Addict has an addiction to something such as alcohol, drugs, sex, work, raging, etc.

The Underlying Emotions in Addictive Relationships
The Love Addict has an overwhelming fear of abandonment but underneath there is also a fear of intimacy.
The Addict is terrified of being controlled, smothered or engulfed but has an underlying fear of abandonment.

A Common Cycle of Behavior in Addictive Relationships
Pia Mellody, in her books and tapes on love addiction, identifies the following pattern in the cycle of addictive relationships.  There are several steps in the pattern.  Like a dance, this pattern begins, progresses and ends but then begins again.  This cycle can last for years if not interrupted by treatment.


The Love Addict:

The Addict:

Step 1

Is attracted to the adulation and power of the AddictIs attracted to the neediness and vulnerability of the Love Addict and begins to feel safe and wanted

Step 2  

Gets high from their fantasy about the Addict Experiences relief from their sense of being alone, incomplete and not mattering Creates more fantasy and begins to feel safe, complete and valuedSeduces the Love Addict
Gets high from hooking the Love Addict into the relationship
Gets highfrom the adulation of the Love Addict

Step 3

Becomes more needy and worries about the Addicts preoccupation with their addiction Denies their early feelings of abandonment Sees increasing evidence of abandonment which causes their denial to crumbleBegins to be overwhelmed by the neediness of the Love Addict
Begins to engage more in their addiction Feels more controlled by the Love Addict and needs to get away

Step 4

Feels hurt, fear, jealousy, anger and/or shame as the Addict withdrawsAbandons the Love Addict by engaging in their own addiction in order to lessen their fear of control and engulfment

Step 5

Begins to obsess about the Addict and plans to get relief from their withdrawal symptoms by
1) engaging in some other addiction
2) planning how to get the Addict back, or
3) planning to get even
then acts their plan out compulsively
Feels guilt and/or fear about abandoning the Love Addict

Step 6

Gets to start the cycle over if the Addict notices and returns to the relationship with another seduction or waits for a new Addict in order to start a new Step 1Returns to seduce the Love Addict out of fear of their own abandonment or guilt about addiction or moves on to seduce another Love Addict.  Returns to Step 1


Hope for Change in Addictive Relationships
Whether someone has an addiction to a substance, an activity or another person, they are attempting to medicate or distract themselves from the emotional pain of their life.  It is through courageously facing and ultimately resolving their underlying pain that people can finally free themselves from an addictive relationship cycle.

Often the underlying pain that people seek to avoid or find distraction from is so painful and overwhelming that traditional talk therapy is not helpful.  In such cases, what can help are specific treatments designed to relieve emotional trauma.

Since 1992, emerging and evolving treatments are making the job of easing intense emotional pain possible.  Treatments that research and clinical experience prove powerful enough to eliminate the pain of traumatic events include Quick REMAP, the REMAP process, CBT and EMDR.  Easing this type of pain allows us to change an underlying and driving dynamic in love addiction.

Although it will require professional help, love addicts can change and they can replace their addictive patterns with a healthier version of love.  They can learn to say good-by to love addiction.

Steve B. Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist that helps people overcome the cycle of love addiction.  His practice is in the Dallas area but he provides phone counseling worldwide.  You can reach Steve at 972-997-9955 or through his website at

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