In my experience, forms of codependence, love addiction/love avoidance are present in every relationship, even amongst coworkers and friends. I state that because our culture has sold us a picture of love being this intense emotional reaction. Every movie, TV show, song, poem…. has taught us that If we aren’t “feeling it” or if they don’t always support me, than there must be something wrong. Those intense reactions and beliefs should be viewed as warning signs of codependency and addiction, not love. It has been shown that the feeling we call “love” has the exact same reaction in our brain as someone who is addicted to cocaine. While an emotional reaction is fine, true love, mature love is quiet, and most of all, true love is usually told “No” as many times or more than it is told, “Yes!”
I first learned about love addiction and love avoidance when after 9 years of marriage and only 12 “instances” of intimacy (the last of which had been more then 2 years prior) I found myself doing a 3 day intensive for sex addiction. Oh, and “instance” does not mean intercourse. More on that in my next entry!
During this process my counselor pointed me in the direction of Pia Melody’s “Facing Love Addiction” and “Facing Codependence.” I believe these two books should be mandatory reading for all high schoolers. It would fundamentally heal our culture.
She points out that at the core of a codependent love addict is a deep fear of being abandoned (which happened to them as a child) with a secondary less conscious fear of being emotionally intimate, of truly being known. A few of the characteristics addicts possess is the inability to care for themselves which makes them search for someone who seems to have it all together. This abusive “neediness” makes them view an avoidant unrealistically. They do this by overlooking and making excuses for the avoidant’s own abusive behavior and instead project magical qualities onto them. The addict also wants to know what you are thinking and doing be near their newly created fantasy super person who “get’s me” and “has it together” at all times. They literally can’t get enough! The addict is also a master manipulator. Saying things like, “I’ll do anything to save this marriage” is a manipulation and not love.
On the flip side the avoidant initially likes having all of the adoration from being needed. Eventually, because one or both of the avoidant’s parents was an addict or in some way used them quite literally as an emotional tampon, they repel from the love addicts attention. The parent who gushes on social media “My kids are my world” is a good example of a parent who is siphoning their emotional existence out of the child and creating a future avoidant. The crazy thing is, this siphoning was only done when the adult needed it so the avoidant also feels abandoned. To avoid experiencing the abandoned feeling, if they notice the addict starting to leave they will seduce, manipulate and control by meeting some demands of the addict. The addict calms down and is overjoyed that they “really do love me.” The avoidant seduced the addict in by portraying an image of being super accomplished, “together” because they are so “busy” and “involved.” In fact, these outside interests serve as a buffer to avoid closeness.
Men primarily use work, hobbies, affairs and addictions while women primarily use the kids, illness, addictions and work as outside interests. These outside interests do two things. They give the avoidant a safe way to feel alive but primarily it is all about control. The avoidant constantly seeks power at all times, they mistakenly believe it keeps them safe.
This codependent addictive…”dance” with both taking turns turning their backs and manipulating each other is crazy making for each person but less so for the avoidant because with their outside interests, they aren’t really “in” the relationship.
You can also find relationships where both are addicts, both are avoidant’s or someone can be an addict with their spouse but an avoidant with their child or coworker. The underlying unaddressed pain and trauma that both sides are experiencing as they dance is eternally sad!
This codependent and toxic dynamic filled with denial on both sides is at play in every personal and professional relationship. Since none of us were taught how to have a healthy relationship, it could be no other way.
In my next installment, see how I lived out these dynamics in my own life and the damage it caused!