Love addiction, or codependency, is a silent killer of relationships and causes an enormous amount of pain. Codependent people characteristically look for love from another person in order to feel good about themselves. A codependent truly believes that their partner loves them and will do whatever it takes to keep that person’s attention. They usually suffer from low self-worth, prioritize others before themselves, frequently bounce from relationship to relationship, and are emotionally unstable.
As with any addiction, there are different stages a person goes through as the disease progresses. Below are the 5 typical stages of love addiction.
Stage 1: Attraction
As with any romantic relationship, the beginning stage is attraction between two individuals. For the love addict, he or she tends to be attracted to someone who has an avoidant or narcissistic personality. At first, the person may come across as completely present and romantic. The love addict will be attracted to how confident and strong the love avoidant person is. Meanwhile, the love avoidant person will be attracted to the neediness of the love addict.
Stage 2: Courtship, “Oh the Bliss!”
The courtship stage is a time when the love avoidant person will romance the love addict. He or she will seem like the perfect partner who lavishes love and affection. There may even be seduction involved. The love addict will eat up all the attention and believe the love avoidant is sincere, yet it’s only temporary.
Stage 3: The Relationship
At this point the relationship will ensue with a sort of pursue-and-retreat model. While the love addict feverishly pursues the love avoidant, the love avoidant will start to retreat emotionally and/or physically. One is craving for attention whereas the other wants to shut down. As the relationship starts to crumble, the love addict cannot bear the thought of breaking up and being alone because of his or her fear of abandonment. To prevent that from happening, the love addict will do whatever it takes to try to keep the love avoidant attached: control, manipulate, cry, etc.
The love avoidant, who fears deep intimacy, will begin feeling smothered, drained and tired of the relationship. Avoidants won’t feel able to reciprocate and may become resentful or angry. Yet, they won’t leave the relationship for the same reason as the love addict—they struggle with the fear of abandonment. This codependency dance usually continues for a long while, sometimes even lasting for years.
Stage 4: Damage Control
In this stage, the love addict does whatever he or she can do to keep the love avoidant happy, even if that means living in denial. Sometimes this can go so far as to putting up with emotional or verbal abuse. The love addict may want to leave, but simply isn’t strong enough. The love avoidant is tired of the neediness and pressure and eventually detaches emotionally. He or she may get involved with something else, work long hours or just find things to do in order to be gone as much as possible. The relationship is certainly not a happy one and both are struggling with a lot of pain deep inside.
Stage 5: Breaking Up
Finally, in this last stage, the two break up. The love addict will experience immense pain and withdrawal as the love avoidant experiences pain and confusion as well. The two may end up getting back together, in which the cycle will begin all over again, or they may part ways and latch onto someone else who fits the same criteria for a love-addicted relationship.
Love addiction is simply another addictive disease that covers up one’s internal pain and wounds. In the love addict's case, the drug of choice just happens to be another person. Fortunately, there are many resources for help available. Codependents Anonymous is a 12 Step group that helps love addicts work through internal issues that keep them caught in the cycle of codependency. Additionally, there are counseling services that can help get to the root of love addiction issues.