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Lessons for Life

Do you love being in love?

How to recognize the signs of love addiction

Jen Weigel

October 16, 2012

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Are you in love with being in love? When that infatuation fades are you the type of person who moves on to someone else? According to experts, you could be addicted to love — and we're not talking about a song by Robert Palmer, but a real problem that can cause brain reactions similar to drug addiction.

"When you first meet somebody and you feel that connection and all the buttons are going off, that causes changes in the brain similar to ... taking cocaine," said Dr. Judith Orloff, author of the book "Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life." "It's the brain on drugs, basically, when you fall in love."

Orloff said our desire to want to feel in love is hard-wired in our biology for species survival, but we can get addicted to the rush. Once the fascination wears off (in about a year) the chemicals stabilize, "and then the hard work comes in because you have to start relating to them just like any other person," she said, adding that this is when most love addicts jump ship.

"A chemical connection has a lot of razzle dazzle but it's limited," Orloff said. "It's the deep, intimate connection that comes later that I encourage people to find because they're so satisfying and they can last a long time."

Stephen Arterburn, author of "Addicted to Love: Recovering from Unhealthy Dependencies in Love, Romance, Relationships and Sex," said parental neglect is often the trigger for love addiction.

"When they find someone who has that interest in them, there's a sense of fulfillment and completion," Arterburn said. "It feels like it makes up for all they didn't have when they were younger."

But when there's conflict, the love addicts often think this means the relationship is doomed — which may not be true, Orloff said.

"There are the positive traits of someone and the negative traits," she said. "There's no way you're going to like everything about somebody. But when you choose to take the relationship to a deeper level, it's is such a great teacher because it allows you to learn tolerance and to teach you deep companionship ... through all of life's trials and tribulations."

Here are some characteristics of a person who is in love with being in love:

You wait for lightning to strike.

"I recommend if you have lightning strike, to run in the other direction because that's a sign of neuroses and a sign of destructive patterns that don't serve you," Orloff said. "On the other hand, if you meet someone and you feel a little glimmer of something, you want to stoke it like a fire and see if there's something there."

It's not you, it's them.

"One of the reasons people do this for so long is they don't think this is unhealthy behavior, but that they have high standards," Arterburn said. "If the relationship doesn't fulfill them they feel the other person is falling short — but what's really happening is they are trying to fill a need and they feel incomplete if they're not involved in a romance. They feel like something is missing."

For women: You have few female friends.

"Most often a female romance addict will have a few or no same-sex friendships," Arterburn said. "They jump from male relationship to male relationship. Maybe they were rejected by dad so this is a way to fill that need."

Your friends have dropped hints that you don't want to hear.

"Really take a look at what people have said to you — people who care about you or maybe even people you've broken up with. What messages have people tried to communicate to you that you have resisted?" Arterburn said.

You need a relationship to be happy.

"If you're going to a gas station to be filled up by somebody else, that's not going to make you happy because that tank will keep running out," Orloff said. "... One thing I stress is that nothing on the outside can make you happy unless you have happiness inside yourself. I mean money, success, fame, fortune, love — none of that can make you happy. It can add to your happiness, but you have to have some kind of inner peace and something that you can bring to somebody else first."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel