I don’t talk about this much but I used to think I was a love addict. Not only did I think I was a love addict but I co-facilitated a group for women who considered themselves love addicts. It was my very first group for women.
I’ve always been good at figuring out “what’s wrong with me” and then labeling myself. When I entered into a relationship after my marriage, I felt attached to this person in a way I had never felt attached before.
I felt fused to this person.
He was a my first love from 20 years prior, who came looking for me at a perfect time in my life, right when I was ending a 13 year marriage to a man I knew I needed to leave for a very long time. It was the push I needed to leave my husband. Within a week of my ex re-entering my life, I told my husband I was leaving. I had been in therapy that whole year preparing but this was the push I needed.
I had a huge history with the ex who came looking for me; one in which I left him 20 years before and broke his heart after he asked me to marry him and always remembering him as my safest and most passionate love. This ended up being the perfect fusion for a relationship in which I felt very attached and wanting to recreate history and make up for the pain I caused and recapture the safe passionate feelings I felt in the past.
What ended up happening was a dynamic in which I was attached to him and he kept pushing me away but would not let me go. This hooked in majorly to my wounded inner child, who felt abandoned and neglected growing up. It pushed every button in me. It made me want to curl up in a ball and sob, then get up and try and be whatever he wanted me to be so he would stay.
It was horrible and ever so painful. It was my relationship with my mother and father all over again. I felt gut wrenching pain (that’s when you know its “old”).
But when things were good, they were really good..we were like two peas in a pod, kids really; racing each other, jumping on the bed, screaming in the closet, silly things and the chemistry was off the charts.
But his way of pulling away from the relationship was to engage in a relationship with the woman he had a child with and later with someone else.
I wanted so desperately to make it work that I kept giving him another chance, rationalizing why he was doing what he was doing and believing in the potential of him, not what was staring me in the face. The truth was he had serious issues with telling the truth, he was emotionally unavailable, depressed, deeply wounded himself and dissatisfied with his life. The only thing he was really good at, was women. And there was no way anyone was going to “take that away from him”.
I despised the woman I was when I was with him and I loved her too. I was pathetic in my eyes. I felt so needy, and out of control. I had not felt like this since I was a child.
But, I also felt younger, sexier and more vibrant than I had in a long time. I was thoroughly confused about the highs and lows of this relationship.
My marriage had always been even keel, the same all the time.
We stayed together for a year and half full of turmoil and then it took about another 6 months to let go completely. During that time I tried to let go and he wrote to me via email every day for a month until I broke and talked to him. This was the chase, this was one of the only times, I was turned away and he was facing me. The dynamic of a relationship in which you are with an avoidant, (explained below) is usually you facing them and he/she is turned away from you..you are never facing each other at the same time, never fully available to each other.
One evening, as part of the chase, he came to visit me and asked if we could go to therapy (something my ex husband never agreed to). It was the one thing I longed for, someone who was willing to work things out with me, someone who valued me enough to stick it out, to get in the ring with me and not leave and he knew it, he knew it was the only way to get me back and he knew I would say yes.
We sat in front of each other for weeks, within a few weeks he didn’t want to go anymore but still went. He resented the homework. He began pulling away again.
True to form, one week before our final session, while I was away doing my Shalom Process training, he cheated.
I came back to him sitting me down to tell me the truth.
It was done.
My heart was broken for the last time. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had given it all I could and I didn’t want to be a martyr and the important work I had done in my 6 months at Shalom had changed me enough to know I could not fully do the work I was meant to do and be in a relationship with someone like him. It just was not possible.
After that, it took me a very long time to move through the grief..a long time. My pain body, my wounded self was right at the surface, raw and wracked with pain. Old pain from childhood mixed in with a present rejection and betrayal.
I would say it took a good year and a half to two years before I didn’t cry anymore about it. During that time I tried to make sense of what was happening to me. I hadn’t felt like this about my marriage or any other relationship and so when I researched love addiction, I found this:
“Love addicts commonly and repeatedly form an addictive relationship with emotionally unavailable Avoidant partners. The Avoidant partner is compulsively counter-dependent – they fear being engulfed/drowned/smothered by their love addict partner. Love addicts enter relationships with emotionally closed-off individuals who will let nothing and no one in, which makes intimate relationships impossible. Behind their emotional walls, hides low self-esteem and feel if they become truly known (display emotional intimacy) – no one would ever love, accept, and value who they are. Avoidants are attracted to people who have difficulty thinking for themselves, having healthy emotional boundaries, or taking care of themselves in healthy manners- the love addict.”
I thought that’s me!
And so the research began and the healing and even though I now know I am not a love addict and this is not a label I personally identify with, I still learned a lot during my time believing I was.
I read amazing books about love and learned so much about myself and the hole I was trying to fill. Books like Getting the Love You Want (Harville Hendrix), Journey of the Heart (Welwood), Facing Codependence (Pia Melody) just to name a few. I ran the love addiction group and trusted myself enough to lead and learned so much from the women that graced our group during that year. During the letting go phase of this relationship I finished my coaching certification and poured myself into the beginnings of this deep and wonderful work I am doing now.
It was perfect you see.
It was what I needed to come back to me.
I had to go so far away from myself to get really clear about what I needed and want in my life and to get ME back.
Although I know I said I am on lockdown (and to a certain extent I know I am), I think I am also on the other hand also filling myself up right now, learning how to be with myself. I never want to go back to that place of wanting someone who doesn’t want you back and feeling so loved and unloved all at the same time.
I want mutual love, mutual respect and trust and I deserve it.
I know I’m not the only one who has felt like this in a relationship and I’d like to share something, someone shared with me when I was in the thick of it:
“Trust me to truth, to beauty, to love ~ and let me go. In that freedom I bind my heart to yours.
I relax my hold on you. I want to be who I am and I want you to be who you are. I will let you make your affirmations without my censorship and carry them through as best you can. I do not know what is best for you. I can only sense what is best for me ~ and even that, not always clearly. And even when clearly, I am often unable to do the best. I want you to be your best, not my best. I want to stand beside you, both of us in freedom. I will share who I am and who I am becoming with you, as deeply and truly as possible. I hope you will share yourself with me.
The shape of trust is full of beginnings. It is the beginning of difference at the surface and unity at the depths. The beginning of freedom for the slave and for the master, the beginning of joy, the beginning of hope, the beginning of peace.”
Yes, World by Mary Jean Irion