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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:39 pm 
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Hey all,

I just wanted to repost a couple posts I'd made on the partners side regarding love addiction. This is a topic that is not as commonly discussed on RN as sex and porn addiction, even though it can be just as devastating to a person's life, so I wanted to repost what I had said for the benefit of those on the recovery side for those of you who don't read the partner's side (which I'm guessing is most of you). I dealt with both porn and love addiction myself, and I found my love addict patterns to be much more insidious and difficult to deal with personally, so I'm just typing up a post now also on how I found recovery from love addiction different. I'd also like to thank CoachJon for his initial work on love addiction on this site, as without reading that and seeing the patterns in myself, I never would have had any of the insights I did. Anyways, hope this helps some:

While Jon didn't work love addiction into the workshop as much as he wanted to, compared to sex addiction, he did write this supplemental lesson about the topic. As the lesson begins, the mechanics of love addiction (and recovery from love addiction) are much the same. The main differences is in how the patterns manifest, and how the people who are the victims of the addiction are used in the roles of the rituals.

While Jon noted that love addiction tends to involve a series of romantic relationships, he never gave a specific definition in this lesson, probably because it is one of the more difficult addictions to clearly define. But I'll try my best. I think a general definition of love addiction could be (to transform Jon's definition of sex addiction) a continuing pattern of unwanted compulsive romantic behavior, thoughts, or delusions that has had a negative impact on an individual's personal, social and/or economic standing or wellbeing, or the wellbeing of people in their lives. I added "thoughts or delusions" as this represents one of the key differences with love addiction, which can make it exponentially harder to recover from....and as well, I wouldn't limit the definition to only engaging in relationships, as there can be far more subtle love addict thoughts. Also, I should note that most of what's described below is based on personal experiences, and that there's other ways love addict behaviour could show up...but a lot of what I describe is seconded by CoachJon in that lesson.

Unlike in sex addiction, which typically manifests itself as either overt behaviour or relatively easy-to-identify objectified sexual fantasy (once the person in recovery actually starts paying attention), love addiction lies completely within the thoughts and perceptions of the addict. It can evolve into more overt behaviour like repeated, short-term relationships, emotional affairs (that can turn physical), or online dating, but it can also occur in simple scanning behaviour...but unlike sex addiction, this would not result in sexualized fantasies but romanticized ones (though the addiction can cross over, if someone is dealing with both a sex and love addiction). Anyways, while it can be very easy to catch a person looking at pornography, because love addiction has developed only within the addict's thoughts--and can occasionally have NO obvious overt behaviours, since they get exceptionally good at making any overt rituals appear to be like typical, non-ritualized romantic behaviour--it becomes very difficult for anybody else to even know that they're engaging in these behaviours.

Trust me, had I not wanted to recover for myself, NO ONE ever would have known about my love addict thoughts. I probably wouldn't have even become aware that everybody didn't perceive relationships in this way. Add to this a society that makes love addiction behaviours as something that appears to be normal and desirable (through romantic comedies, magazines, the media, etc.) and you get an addiction that can be very difficult to even identify as unhealthy, much less recover from, if the person with it is not willing to engage in a lot of self-honesty and awareness. As the unhealthy behaviours lie only in their own perceptions...and they've never had any other way of knowing if their romantic thoughts were normal...they assume that they ARE normal and continue to progress. I think this can best be illustrated by the fact that, other than a brief relapse last year that ended early this year, I made the major ending (ie. detached from) my pornography addiction 2.5 years ago...but it was not until this summer that I began to identify and eliminate my love addiction patterns. Why? Because they still felt like a completely normal part of me. Ever since I was young, all I knew was that if I was attracted to someone, it meant I loved them. And if I loved them, it must mean that they were perfect for me and that we should get married. And this was all from seeing a woman in the mall, at the bus station, or just walking on the street. Again, it sounds ridiculous now, even to me...but this level of grade-school romantic maturity was honestly what I believed only a couple months ago. And if you can't get any type of objective feedback on your own thoughts, recovery can really only begin once you've clued in that something is actually wrong.

Much like in sex/porn addiction, the common question comes up, "Don't a lot of people engage in romantic fantasy? They aren't all love addicts, right?" Of course not. How does anyone think Danielle Steel pays the bills? :s: Many healthy people occasionally engage in romantic fantasy. The difference, as with sex addiction, is when they is done for unhealthy reasons or begins to overtake other values in a person's life. For example, a healthy person could have a brief fantasy about a celebrity or someone they know...but since they have a life vision and values of their own, they're obviously stable enough to take it as just a simple fantasy. For someone with love addiction...this romantic fantasy becomes reality to them in their heads, and subverts all other values in their life. The person's life becomes completely focused on the romantic fantasy and their desire to do whatever necessary to make it reality, forgetting the rest of their life or potential consequences (as with sex addiction, immediate gratification and all-or-nothing thinking like "I must get this person to love me...otherwise no one will love me" are big factors). This can result in hours of romantic delusions, obsessiveness, writing love letters or other romantic gestures, or as Jon mentions in its most serious cases, this can result in the romantic stalkings and other horrific cases you see in the news.

For most love addicts, the core of the addiction comes from loneliness, cripplingly low self esteem, feeling unloved or uncared about, and feelings of abandonment or worthlessness. Unlike sexual addiction, which can result from childhood sexual abuse, love addiction tends to be the result of emotional abuse, emotional neglect, abandonment, or things like a perfectionistic family where nothing seems good enough. Many of the thought patterns that dominate the thoughts of the person with the love addiction tend to focus around being loved, feeling wanted, desired and "special", or finding the "perfect partner", "the one," or their "soulmate". Therefore, much like sex addiction, love addiction is just another way for the addict to manage their emotional state...but the emotional effects come from romantic thoughts or rituals, rather than compulsive sexual behaviors. It is a true belief that when they start up a relationship with whoever their "target" is at that moment (and yes, that is an honest description of how the thinking can go), their life will instantly be made perfect and they will make their target's life perfect; if only they had the opportunity to love that person, they would be rewarded with eternal love back.

If they actually do get into a relationship with the person in question, the relationship tends to involve instant intimacy and a desire to "live for one another" (all based off personal experience) The partner can be overwhelmed by the instant level of commitment, seemingly heroic and constant romantic gestures, and the general level of passion being thrown at them...but it is all being done with the unhealthy purpose of basically "capturing" that person's love or getting that person to confirm their love. It is all based on standard romantic scripts that the addict is running through, not their true intentions. They are "in love" with an idealized version of that person in their head, not with that person in reality, a human who has flaws. The insecurities in the relationship begin to show, and the love addict realizes that the person has flaws (as anyone does) and isn't perfect...but attempts to keep the relationship's (and fantasy's) intensity going, thus requiring constant reassurances of the partner's love and commitment. Or, once that confirmation of love occurs...so too goes the suspense that maintained the addict's emotional intensity, so they get bored. The relationship quickly becomes exhausting and emotionally draining for the partner.

Eventually, the love addict rationalizes that because the person has flaws and isn't perfect, "they must not have been 'the one'" and breaks it off with the stunned partner. This pattern then re-occurs with the next "the one" that the love addict latches onto, thus leading to a series of short, 1-3 month relationships that start and end quickly. Love addicts are typically clueless about what love or a real relationship actually is. They mix up infatuation with love...thus trying to maintain their "high" as a way to manipulate their emotional state. I would guess that this pattern can also occur in other ways...like in people who are "serial monogamists" and are never single, who have a repeated string of long-term relationships where they quickly jump from one to another if one happens to end (typically from the other person finally ending it with them). The person attempts to stay in the relationship and "make it work" despite having long-lost interest in the person they're with or other untold effects on their personal life, but by "being in a relationship," they avoid feelings of loneliness and uncertainty or the feeling that "there's no one else out there who will love me". Or, as I remember CoachJon posting about one time, the world of online dating has opened up an entirely new world that allows love addicts to much more easily run their romantic scripts without taking some of the risks they'd usually take to engage in their behaviour.

While sex addict rituals tend to be relatively short, spanning hours to days, love addict rituals can last weeks, months, or even years. Another key difference is here: unlike in sex addiction, where the people tend to be objectified (either in compulsive affairs, prostitutes, etc.), love addicts can end up blindsiding healthy people who get emotionally involved in a relationship with someone who seems far more romantic and passionate than they've ever experienced before....and who ends the relationship and loses interest nearly as soon as it got started. As well, this can also create additional problems in recovery since there is another non-objectified, "real" person involved in the rituals, who can try to sabotage the person's recovery by convincing them to stay in the relationship (also, of course I'm not saying that people who are objectified in sexual rituals aren't real people...just that as Jon said, the dynamic in the relationships that love addicts tend to make part of their addiction adds a level of complexity that doesn't usually exist with objectified sexual relationships.)

Getting tired...so I'll end with my own personal experience with love addiction. From what I can remember, I'm sure the roots of my love addict thoughts began around the age of 5. I've always felt like my sexuality and understanding of romantic relationships (or most relationships) was stunted at the level of about a 10-12 year old, which I'm just correcting now. My love addiction rituals were far more deeply ingrained than my porn addiction rituals, and have been much more difficult to isolate and eliminate, because of the reasons mentioned above. This is definitely the case with romantic delusions. Unlike compulsive sexual rituals or even compulsive romantic rituals, romantic delusions (ie. "If I can just find the perfect girl, everything in my life will be fixed) are not so easily dealt with, as they can't be circumvented by the same urge control skills taught at RN...as romantic delusions seem to just "begin" as a series of thoughts you have, that then influence your emotions, and the same delusion can seem to start in many different instances....and I think it may be more due to emotional triggers, rather than sensory triggers.

I know Jon had promised to write more about this, since he noted that the urge control methods weren't useful for romantic delusions. From my own experience...what I think is that most romantic delusions are created by some underlying, usually subconscious unhealthy belief that was ingrained years earlier, which then manifests itself as a number of varying, different unhealthy thoughts that all serve to influence the person's emotions (and can radically warp perceptions over time)...which can seem confusing to the person--as there can seem to be no clear pattern to these like with compulsive chains or rituals, and the underlying belief can be very different than what the person would assume the belief would be, based on the thoughts. But, if the underlying belief can be isolated and corrected, the delusion will resolve itself (this has been what has worked for me). For example, one of my underlying unhealthy beliefs was an almost desperate dependence on other people to constantly be around me, to reassure me and tell me what to do. Once I recognize this, a certain number of my romantic delusions seemed to simply disappear.

Anyways....as you can see from my mini-essay here :s:, while love addiction typically can be made to sound sweet and innocent in society, the degree to which the person's reality can become distorted is actually pretty sad and disturbing. Most love addicts feel painfully lonely, empty, and unloved. But does this excuse their relationship behaviours and the effects on others? No.

FT

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"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell." - Buddha


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:49 pm 
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I'll also post a couple excerpts from follow-up posts that I answered from partners with bits that I think may be relevant to those in recovery.

Quote:
My SA partner primarliy has a love addiction, and like the reading said- he felt 'in love' and 'could not get through the day' without that persons love. It was as if he had to have them telling him and him telling them how important and deeply loved they were in his life constantly.


Yes, this all sounds pretty characteristic of love addiction patterns.

Quote:
Even offering to them a few times that he would take his life to end THEIR suffering.


Yes, I never got to this point, but this can also be common. Note how this sounds much like some kind of romantic fable, like a Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde-like tragic romance. Looking back on my own experiences, it was almost like I was trying to play out a romantic movie, or working off a romantic script. The person is no longer processing the relationship in reality, but actually sees this to be true -- that by taking their life, it would be the ultimate sacrifice for love. This does show how deep the sickness can get, and in extreme cases, this could lead to actual suicide attempts. You should definitely be aware of this if he doesn't seek treatment...as all it could take to get to this stage would be another progression of the addiction (as such self-harming behaviour would become part of the high they get from the ritual). Again, the person completely loses focus of anything else in their life.

Quote:
The thing is: is he addicted to me?


This is honestly very tough to say, but based on what you said he's told you: yes, you have been part of the addiction at some level. The fact that he was telling you that you are the perfect partner and "the one"...while still engaging in repeated online relationships... and that you can't believe how in love you are after so many years, indicates to me that you did play an active role in the addiction. He is most likely completely clueless when it comes to real relationships. You are likely not seen as the unique person that you are, but for the role you play in his life...which is most likely, a source of stability for the "normal" part of his identity, the part that he showcases the world (other than the romantic aspects of his addiction that leak over into the normal part). However, while he may have tried to maintain the intensity of such feelings over the years with his overly romantic gestures, at his core, they were no longer able to provide him with the intensity that he needed to manage his emotional state. Enter the recurring online relationships, as the novelty would have provided that intensity, at least for a brief time.

Now, does this mean that there are no true feelings of attraction or love between you? Not necessarily....very tough to tell. At the point where he is now (which I'm guessing is still active addiction or very early recovery), he would have no way of objectively telling them apart.

Quote:
a)he says it was 'real' with us, could it have been real?


Honestly, this is baloney. At his stage, he would have no idea about the difference between true feelings of romantic love, and what was part of the addiction, since the addiction has become so central and ingrained in their identity that it feels like a normal part of him. Therefore, you should be very suspect of any professions of love and "barings of the soul" at this point, until he gets into recovery and begins to take apart on the underlying issues of the addiction. Again, it could have been real...but right now, he would have no clue and can therefore only go by his "best guess."

Quote:
He is incredibly loving (as am I)


At this point, he probably only wishes he could be such a loving person. This is probably the person he desperately wants to be (and completely could be, if he works on his issues)...but right now, it's an illusion. At his core, he is likely a very sad, lonely, isolated person and the majority of his professions of love are probably part of the addiction.

Quote:
But then I found it began to become smothering. If I didn't respond to his emails within a certain time frame, (like over an hour) he would become upset, saying that it was because he was worried something had happened to me. And that if I really loved him like I said I did, I would understand this and not allow him to sit out there somewhere worrying about me. I tried to explain to him that just because I didn't respond quickly, it wasn't that I wasn't thinking about him, I was just busy. He would then accuse me of putting everything else in my life before him. That I was allowing my children to rule my life and that they needed to just understand that I had to make time for him. It was reestablishing my value of commitment to my children that really helped me to be able to say, “no, my kids do come before you.”


While their behaviour may be intoxicating and seem like the stuff of fairy tales, that's really all it is -- fantasy. Over time, experiences like the above are bound to happen, because at their core, a person suffering with love addiction truly has no idea how to maintain a relationship....thus they fall back on romantic scripts (and I really do mean scripts; they use the exact same behaviours and phrases in multiple occasions, as it is all planned out in advance in their heads and engineered to maximize the other person's response and predict how they will react so they can control the situation.) Therefore, if things start not "going to plan"...they begin to get frustrated, because they honestly don't know what to do if their planned scripts aren't working. And then the selfishness of their actions really comes to a head, as you noted. There's no concept of boundaries, communication, fairness, etc...and it's also important to note that for some with love addiction, this manufactured drama can also be part of the ritual, as it makes them feel important or more like a romantic tale to them.

On that note...a lot of the behaviour that has been noted about love addicts in this thread may sound like it's from a romantic movie or story....because that's honestly probably where they learned such behaviour. Most people suffering from this had negligible experience in childhood relationships in grade school and high school usually due to low self esteem, fear of rejection, social awkwardness, etc. and therefore had no way in their formative adolescent years of learning about relationships in a healthy way, yet still longed for such romantic attention. So over the years, they've gleaned what they know about relationships from the only places they could -- books, movies, media, the internet, relationship advice sites, what they could pick up from friends, etc. But at their core, they don't know how to start and maintain a healthy relationship with someone in any truly meaningful way, and these skills must be relearned as part of recovery.

Another common love addict behaviour I forgot above....while people with love addiction will get into relationships with healthy people, they will also commonly target others with low self esteem much like them...both because they relate with the person, and they have the underlying intention of "fixing" that person and helping them feel better about themselves...who they expect will then provide them with endless love and attention for their help. Again, while it may sound noble, there are always selfish intentions with this illness. Of course, if they are unable to fix them...or if the person's self-esteem does actually start to improve...they start to lose the emotional stimulation from their role as "fixer" and get bored with the relationship. Or, strangely enough, if the partner in question actually admits to having self-esteem issues...the person with the love addiction may lose interest, with the underlying knowledge they've gained from reading relationship advice that they "need a person with high self-esteem" in order to make a long-term relationship work (and yes, that example was based on personal experience). All based on superficial knowledge that the person has no meaningful understanding of, and immaturity.

Quote:
His main vision, or at least high on the priority list, for what he wanted from his sessions, was to become a good husband. Ding ding ding...the bells went off...at the time I was still early in recovery but I thought, "shouldn't he be choosing recovery for himself, not for a better relationship?" Now, I suspect what he was unintentionally doing was giving up his more overt manifestations of his addiction but still unknowingly holding on to the love addiction, which, though sounds loving and sweet, to put our relationship in high priority,was actually an attempt to keep the emotional stimulation he received from being married to me.


Hmm...tough to tell. As I said in another post on another topic, a common theme with addicts who are in early recovery is feeling lost. They have essentially been cast adrift on a rowboat and have no bearings as to what direction to paddle. But for those addicts in a partnership? Well, they have their partner, who is typically seen as a rock of stability in their life (or as a passing motorboat, to keep with the metaphor). Grabbing onto the motorboat and being pulled along (by assuming some of the partners' values) is much easier for the addict than developing their own values and vision. Do they know where they're going? No...but they figure they're better off being pulled in any direction rather than just floating adrift or choosing their own direction. "Fixing the relationship" gives them an immediate goal to focus on, rather than the long, uncertain process of developing their own values. And, to be honest, not necessarily a bad thing. Are they healthier by taking on some of the partner's values (say, gardening...even when they truly have no interest in gardening) than continuing on with addiction? Certainly. Are they doing it for the wrong reasons? Underneath, yes...but taking on the partner's values gives them a direction when they're all but clueless about what to do in their own life, and allows them cover to "work on the relationship".

Now, I'm not saying that showing interest in a partner's values is bad...it's good...just that what I described is probably a common mindset in early recovery (even for those who are sincere in their desire to change). But, unless the person in recovery moves past this, and either truly emotionally connects with that value or moves on to emotionally connect with their own values, that person would always be vulnerable to relapse, particularly if anything happened to the relationship (since so much of what they're building is staked in the relationship).

Or, as you say...it could be that he was unknowingly continuing to feed his love addiction. A big danger, particularly in those with multiple addictions, is transferring the emotional stimulation from one addiction to another, without actually dealing with the underlying issues surrounding the addiction. So when he decided to start working on his sex addiction...he could have transferred those emotions to his love addiction without even recognizing it.

Quote:
One more thing: it was mentioned how love addicts often lose interest in their partner if she/he shows signs of low self esteem. Years ago, the relationship was effecting my self esteem and I shared this with him, how I was struggling with this. His response? "When you have low self esteem you are less attractive to me", and he walked out of the room.


Yup...suddenly, gone are all the feelings of "love." Instead, it becomes all about him and what he feels like. The true intentions come out. I never overtly said this when it happened in my case...but deep down, I definitely felt disappointed. "I need someone with high self esteem to sustain a relationship...at least that's what I've read." Seriously, essentially my exact thoughts. Completely oblivious to how low my own self esteem was. If this was true love...he would have been supportive of you and asked what he could do to improve your self-esteem or support you in ways to do that yourself.

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"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell." - Buddha


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 12:26 am 
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hey FT,

good thoughts on love addiction. i know this is something that i should probably research myself, but i definitely fit the prototype of a love addict. i wouldn't be surprised if they are both connected in a way, love&sex addict, where one can lead to the other...and someone can manage their lives with both. that's definitely me!

and yeah. even though i feel like i've been able to move away from my sex urges for over the past...3-4 months...i have been really aware about these love delusions that i still have...which fits in perfectly about the idea of idealizing others.

i don't know if this is a solution, to my problem or to yours, or to everyone...


but for me...reaching out to the core issues of what created the love addiction is the most important step one can take. not idealizing someone else. no infatuations to help escape the loneliness and neglect that you you could live with. but to get in touch with those who you felt hurt the most. and for me...it's my parents, which i'm sure is the case for most.

i've been doing therapy over the past few months, which helps a great deal. it really helped when i did group therapy with my parents too. it's still a challenge since my parents aren't near me, but i've finally found myself starting to talk to them without rage or bitter anger filling my voice. i'm starting able to see that they actually love me instead of criticizing me like i always felt before.

it's weird. i think i honestly started to begin a slow process of allowing someone to love me. my parents. not running away from them and having an online or infatuated relationship. not yelling at them. but talking to them. sharing my feelings. deep and vulnerable feelings.

this. takes. time. and i'm not glowing with love. not even close. but so much stronger...i think i can actually have that in my life. something i always dreamed of.

so yes.

exercises are great. mind practices to avoid certain thoughts help. but, like everything else, challenging the core of what created your problems, is the most important step. and i can try to build a relationship with my therapist. to receive emotional support. but it will NEVER be as powerful as something i can share with my parents.

of course i don't know anything about love addiction since i haven't researched it but these are my personal thoughts as i move into health.

ps. FT...those thoughts that you had a relapse sounds pretty damn scary. ah!

lostkid


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:08 am 
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ps ps....

i don't want to say that lessons and tactics are meaningless because every step is important. however, to just gain permanent change, i feel that attacking the core issues is essential. that's all. i think?

lk


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:08 am 
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I think this is very important to discuss. Often times, as a young teenager I found myself infatuated with a girl at my school, and while infatuation is pretty normal for teens, I think it played a role in developing my sexual addictions. I am not talking in terms of specific fetishes or behaviors, but in terms of rationalization.

Early fantasy fueled by excessive/obsessive thinking helped to normalize my behavior, leading me to believe (while I knew what I was doing was not healthy) there was no alternative. I could not see the healthy side of occasional fantasy and how it related to the natural development of the adult mind. As my sex addictions grew, I of course recognized that my infatuations were just that, fleeting transitory experiences, but those infatuations helped pacify what should have been alarm bells.

With each passage into deeper addictive behavior my natural ability to separate infatuation and fantasy from true love emotions became better, but instead of dealing with the addictions, I merely compartmentalized everything to the point where I was emotionally unavailable. Dealing with these things was all the more complicated because of my self-loathing.

One reason my addictions helped to mollify my angst was their comfort and easing of stress was in part, a function of nostalgia for simpler times in my life, and I think love addiction keys into that process as well. The idyllic, the memories of a simpler time, the desire to have no conflicting realities, all push the love addict to want simplicity---and the single focus of a love relationship is simple in their eyes. "Life would be so easy if . . .."


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 12:33 pm 
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Great posts FT, an excellent reference for anyone who wants to understand more about the subject. I've had more than my fair share of love addict rituals throughout my life and the similarities in experience clearly illustrate how real and consuming it can be.

Not much I can add but perhaps one area worth mentioning that hindered my own recovery is that of online dating. For a shy person with low self esteem online dating was a dream playground for my love addiction to flourish. It not only allowed me to project perfection onto whoever I found attractive but also allowed me to create a chameleon like ideal version of myself that was both interested and interesting to women (or what I thought was - no doubt based on romantic movies, books etc). At the time I thought I was just expressing my romantic, thoughtful, creative side – my extra special and sincere self. The reality was that it took a crazy amount of time and effort to be so wonderful - while my real motivation was all about me anyway - I was desperately chasing acceptance from the attractive women I was too scared to talk to in real life and I’d do whatever it took to get it.

Whenever a real relationship ensued and reality inevitably caught up with the fantasy it wouldn’t be long before I was overwhelmed with the stress of struggling to keep up my own perfect persona while being confronted with the inevitable flaws in my ‘ideal woman’ who I now felt trapped in a relationship with. For a love addict it’s all about the chase. If they make the catch it won’t be long before it’s all about the escape. So they can start another chase… because they're chasing a love they can only get from within but are convinced lies elsewhere.

Even after leaving dating sites behind I still found new and novel ways to impress and obsess about women that fuelled my love addiction. Online dating isn’t the enemy – it’s what goes on in our heads that defines what’s healthy and what’s not appropriate.

So much of this journey is about awareness and action - the more I’m aware of my love addiction behaviours the more I can consciously replace those behaviours with healthy ones. The more I grow in self acceptance the less need I’ll feel to obsessively seek it elsewhere. Love addiction’s a very real thing and I’m thankful that RN’s demystifying it for all of us.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 8:12 pm 
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Great points everyone. lostkid, you're absolutely right about working on the core issues - I'm currently putting a post together for this thread and the one on the partners side about how I've found love addiction recovery to be different than porn addiction recovery. And I will definitely highlight the need to deal with the core issues in order to put a permanent end to the romantic thoughts and delusions.

newme -- great post, you have a lot more insights into this than you give yourself credit for. Would you mind if I posted your response on the partners' side? I think the particular points about online dating and the stress of maintaining the "persona" are great and ones that I had forgot to mention.

FT

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2011 12:59 pm 
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Hey everyone,

Another post I made on the partner's side. I'm also hoping newme will repost here the post he made on the partner's side, as it was great and touched on a couple things I missed.

Quote:
Does love addiction almost always result in what was referred to as "short term" relationships?


Definitely not. There are likely many ways that love addiction patterns could arise, which makes it a difficult addiction to define, specifically from the outside. To bring you back to the definition I had earlier, love addiction is a a continuing pattern of unwanted compulsive romantic behavior, thoughts, or delusions that has had a negative impact on an individual's personal, social and/or economic standing or wellbeing, or on the wellbeing of those around them.

Thus, many different patterns could exist; I mentioned the one about short-term relationships only because it is one of the more common. But another one could be my example of a "serial monogamist" who gets into a recurring pattern of long-term relationships where the actual feelings fizzle out quickly, but that the person holds onto, since they feel they "may never find anyone else." Another common one (which I think was mentioned on this thread somewhere, and that Jon also mentioned in the lesson) was the rich, successful professional who tended to get into recurring relationships with people of a lower socioeconomic standing under the guise of "saving them" from their current existence, where they would then be rewarded with endless love and affection.

Even that is not exhaustive. As Jon mentioned in the lesson, there are many other potential patterns that could exist. What you are looking for though is a general pattern in the person's behaviour over time, not just individual occurrences.

An important thing to remember here is that not everyone that gets into unhealthy relationships or tries to use love as an unhealthy emotional coping mechanism is a love addict. The two characteristics I would use to define when someone is using it in a compulsive or addictive way are:

a) the person uses it as their primary emotional management strategy (or at least, is a significant part of the person's life management pattern that could co-exist with other compulsive patterns ie. sex, food, alcohol and drugs, etc.). For love addiction, very difficult to determine from the outside...as you can really only judge by continuing to notice behavioural patterns, which the addict tends to become very good at covering up and play off as normal behaviour. I would imagine that it could take months or years for someone who is close to the addict to begin to see love addiction patterns in their life...though newme provided an excellent list.

b) The behaviour is typically ritualized, in the sense that the steps are typically much the same for the individual (with different people as the object of their affection), the addict feels the need to continue the ritual...and if the addict doesn't continue the behaviours, something just "doesn't feel right." And, the ritual tends to repeat itself over time. They feel a NEED to engage in the behaviour. They feel like they cannot stop the thoughts, no matter how much they may want to.

I would guess that these two factors are the most likely ways to separate behaviour that is part of a love addiction, and relationship behaviour that is just plain unhealthy. But, even though the patterns may vary a lot, there would likely be many similarities which could also be tipoffs (and I take a couple of these from Jon's lesson):

[*]the relationships involve instant intimacy
[*]the other person in the relationship is objectified. Yes, objectification still exists in love addiction, but unlike sexual objectification, in this case, the other person is objectified in a sense that ridiculously high standards are imposed upon them. They're "perfect," "the one," "my soulmate." They are not seen as a unique person with flaws, but as a completely idealized person that can bring comfort to the addict's life. Then, as they realize that the person isn't perfect...they try to get them to live up to the standards in their head. Now, nothing is good enough. As Jon said in the lesson, completely unrealistic standards at the beginning of the relationship, and completely unrealistic expectations as the relationship nears its end.
[*]Because of this objectification, there is a tendency to "live for one another" and be "each other's everything." Since there is no understanding that the other person has their own life, there is no understanding of relationship boundaries.
[*]Along with this, there would usually be some kind of obsessive quality to the relationships, either in terms of always being in touch, checking up on the person, obsessively planning romantic gestures
[*]Relationships tend to begin and end quickly. By this, I don't mean how long the relationship necessarily lasts; I mean how quickly the person jumps relationships. Even in people who might have recurring patterns of long-term relationships...if one relationship ends, they jump to another. There is only a superficial connection with the person they're with.
[*]as Jon put it, there is probably a deep-rooted need to get the partner to like the addict, "confirm" their love, and reassure them of that love
[*]there is a desperate sense to maintain the relationship or at least, the feelings that the relationship provides to the addict. As those feelings decline, so too does their interest in the relationship. Again, this could affect both long and short-term relationships
[*]As their emotional interest in one relationship wanes, there is probably a desperate attempt to try and find another person that fits their pattern, so that if the one relationship ends, they can quickly begin again

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I noticed my partner seemed disappointed, felt trapped, lost interest within the first month of marriage.


My take on this (for what it's worth): another love addict fantasy which seems common is a belief that by getting married and getting into a permanent relationship, their life will forever be fixed and all their problems will be solved. They will have gotten the permanent, endless love, attention, and affection they've wanted throughout their life. As you said, you got married quickly. Some love addicts can profess their love and want to get married very quickly. Of course, this is something they are only considering in the immediate short-term; they are not considering the actual permanency that the marriage would have in their life.

When they get into the marriage, of course, they find out that all of their problems remain and that getting married didn't fix anything. This would be a crushing disappointment....and now, in their minds, it's actually created a new problem. They now feel trapped by their idea of being the "perfect husband" and giving their partner the endless love they feel they could...since they now know that it's impossible to live up to this image and there's no way it can provide them with the emotional intensity they expected. So, they feel confused, trapped, bewildered about what to do. Married life seems bland compared to the fantasy that they'd imagined...yet, as you said, they still try to maintain the illusion with professions of being soulmates or perfect for each other, even when they feel disappointed and likely scared inside. Enter online chatting. Or online dating. Or emotional affairs (if they weren't already engaged in this behaviour previously) But likely, at least for a bit, the emotional stimulation they'd get from the idea of finally getting married may have been significant to them...but it couldn't last. Not compared to the fantasy they had for it. Anyways, that's my take.

Quote:
I guess considering that he "stuck it out" even though he was unhappy I'm not seeing the classic short term aspect of the addiction per say.


Actually, the fact that he stuck it out probably was part of the addiction. Even though the relationship may have lost its emotional intensity to him (try as he might to have continued the feelings), the marriage likely gave his life a feeling of normalcy and stability, which fit perfectly into the image of the "social self" that he was trying to maintain. I can't remember what behaviours your partner displayed, but eventually, he would have sought emotional intensity from somewhere else with his "secret self" (ie. online dating).

Quote:
I'm wondering too if love addiction extends beyond just the "romantic" relationship.


This is very tough to say...and probably goes past RN's scope in dealing with love addiction, at least in terms of romantic rituals. Typically, someone who has developed a love addiction is attempting to create feelings of love and attention that they've always felt has been missing from their life from family, caregivers, or friends. They try to create these feelings through ritualized patterns of romantic behaviour that they feel compelled to engage in (and usually, at some level, want to stop), that have a overall detrimental impact on their lives or the lives of others.

There isn't anything wrong with wanting to surround yourself with people that love you. To do so is actually a basic human need. Conversely, there are probably many people with various issues (ie. self-esteem) that try to surround themselves with people they love. They may lie, be a fake, etc. But just doing those things doesn't constitute an addiction.

Could there be such people as "emotional addicts"? Maybe, but I question if this perhaps dilutes the definition of addiction....and I think this really gets into the debate of what actually constitutes an addiction. It's not just a pattern of behaviour that's detrimental to the person...many people, even those who are generally healthy, engage in patterns and habits that are detrimental to their lives. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are constantly creating drama in the lives of themselves and others for the kick they get out of it. But, they may not feel like they NEED to do this. They may be able to stop, but don't want to (and, this is different than addiction because, the behaviour is engaged in not as an ingrained compulsion that they feel they need to engage in to manage their emotional state, but is rather completely a choice).

Basically, all I am trying to say is, it can be alluring to start assigning terms like "love addiction" to many different types of unhealthy behaviours that have to do with love. But, despite being hard to define, you are looking for particular patterns that have developed in the person's life as their main way they manage their emotions, that they feel compelled to do, that they may want to stop but don't believe that's possible.

FT

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 12:55 am 
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All right….finally, my (apparently) long awaited post on how love addiction recovery differs from sex/porn addiction recovery (at least in my humble view). It’s a long one. Make popcorn. :s:

One thing to note briefly here is: I have been thanked for being transparent in this thread, and I’m grateful for the thanks…but that transparency comes as a consequence of engaging in real recovery. It is indicative of your mindset once you separate from the addiction. I’m no longer ashamed or embarrassed to talk about these things, as I no longer connect meaningfully with that addiction (even though I still am dealing with occasional romantic delusions and rebuilding my relationship boundaries). This also indicates why, if your partner is still hiding anything about their past…it will come out relatively soon after they have separated from the addiction and started to truly connect with their new identity, as they will no longer feel an emotional connection to the person they were when they engaged in those acts, it will no longer seem like a normal part of who they are, and will feel more open to talk about it.

The first thing that I would say is that at least for me, love addiction recovery focused much more on changing thoughts rather than changing behaviours. At least, when my recovery started becoming a success, it did. Now, ultimately, all behaviours originate in thought. But the reason I find this particularly important for love addiction is that typically all you can recognize are the thoughts. You’re usually oblivious that these thoughts are even changing your behaviour. It seems much like itching...you don't think about doing it, you just scratch. That is, until you recognize the rituals you continue to engage in. And even after you make that recognition…you still feel like you can’t stop. Like you are in this situations and go on autopilot.

Compared to sex/porn addiction where the behaviours are fairly easy to recognize when they're being engaged in, the unhealthy behaviours of love addiction are far more subtle and the addict is far more ignorant of them. These behaviours and thoughts have been mixed up with normal feelings of love and romance for a person, and have fused to their identity at an early age, so these behaviours feel absolutely normal to them and have felt normal to them for as long as they remember, even if they recognize at some level that they’re unhealthy. And, the cycles of behaviour (like romantic delusion or fantasy), unlike sex addiction, are stretched over such a long period of time (weeks, months, years) that the person does not see the pattern and cycle. But in any circumstances, they are initially unaware that the behaviours are anything abnormal at all. At least, abnormal for them.

For example, it is fairly easy for a person with a porn addiction to identify when they're using pornography. It is easy for a person with a sex addiction to know when they're engaging in a compulsive affair (even if they don’t realize it’s compulsive). And even if they've ingrained that behaviour as part of their life, because it is overt, it can be easily identified and isolated once in recovery, even if it takes them a while to understand the "why" of their addiction. Boundaries around sexuality have been destroyed, but those can be rebuilt. The subtle behaviours like objectification and scanning take a while to go...but in general, the overt behaviours can be dealt with fairly quickly by someone with the right motivation.

This is not usually the case with love addiction, as the subtle patterns are usually what lead to any overt behaviours. Rather than overt behaviours, the love addiction manifests as a number of different thoughts that have all become ingrained as part of the same core addiction. These thoughts (ie. she's perfect for me, I could just love her forever, etc.) lead to their behaviours (such as running their romantic scripts, engaging in online dating, getting into relationships). And, for as long as the addict can remember, it is such thoughts and behaviours that keep them feeling loved and cared for. It is these thoughts that give them the feelings of love.

Compounding this is the fact that the need to feel loved is a FAR more central human need than the need for sex. To give up such thoughts is basically like losing the love of a parent or long-time caregiver, as that truly is the kind of connection developed over time to the addiction to replace the love they felt missing from their life. So, hopefully you can see why so many would cling tightly to these thoughts (again, much like clinging to the love of a parent), even if it's objectively ruining their life and the lives of those around them.

The other issue that I’ve found can make love addiction recovery more difficult is that, while many sex addicts have several opportunities to engage in the urge control methods presented at RN—as there are overt behaviours or prolonged fantasies before the emotions begin to seriously influence their decision making process—in love addiction, emotions that can compromise decision-making can result from a single thought or delusion...which as has been mentioned, may not even be recognized as delusional.

Therefore, the first difference I’ve found with my love addiction patterns was the need for instant honesty with yourself. While this is important for sex addiction too, it's even more important here. There is no time for games or sit there pondering whether you want to engage in the delusion. People with love addiction must develop a highly refined BS meter, so that they instantly recognize an unhealthy thought or delusion as it appears and immediately take action. Waiting for someone else to tell you that something is wrong is impossible, as no one else can know what you’re thinking. Thus, to an even higher degree than sex addiction, you are responsible for recognizing your unhealthy thoughts/behaviour and altering them. I found that I started making a lot of progress with this after I had recognized the addiction for what it was…an emotional core that my identity was attached to that manifested itself as a series of thoughts which reinforced the emotions…and that really all I needed to do to continue to make progress was continuously monitor my thoughts. Once I got into the right mindset, this wasn’t like an obsessive focus on all parts of my life as part of recovery (as many experience in early recovery, myself included) but almost became like kind of a fun game on the way to health. :s: Unhealthy thought pops up….I immediately think “Okay, I just had this thought…why am I having it, and what is the healthy way to think/respond in this situation?”

Such a proactive method is particularly necessary for love addiction, as you cannot wait for the thoughts to influence your emotions before you act…by then, you’re already deluding yourself. This proactive method really propelled me forward, as I was constantly assessing my thoughts in various situations…”Why am I thinking this way here? Have I experienced a situation like this in the past? If so, why did this thought/belief potentially ingrain? What unhealthy values is it based on? And what is the healthy way I want to approach such a situation in the future?” Eventually, doing this…I could notice a change. The thoughts would resolve themselves, and next time a similar situation would arise...my healthy response felt more natural.

A problem many may face early on that I’d imagine is quite prevalent with those who are sincere in their desire to stop (and probably occurs in a lot of sex/porn addiction recovery too): a period where they try to stop the thoughts through sheer willpower and mental force. This is emotionally exhausting, but it’s what I experienced and I’m sure others who sincerely want to stop go through a period of the same, only to find that this reinforces their hopelessness, as any time their guard goes down and they start thinking about something else, the thoughts return.

At this point in recovery, the addict has made the perceptual shift from seeing the thoughts as an positive opportunity to act out, to seeing the thoughts as a threat to their ongoing health/safety. BUT, because they have not yet separated the addiction from their identity…the thoughts are still perceived as part of their identity. This creates significant conflict within them, as they now recognize the destructive nature of the thoughts…but those thoughts still feel like a part of who they are and a normal part of their thinking, rather than a threat to who they are. Therefore, these thoughts are experienced with fear and anxiety, as something they’re constantly running away from…and this is at least part of where the feelings of powerlessness in early recovery come from, as well as the “identity crisis” that you may have read about that occurs at the beginning of recovery. Because the thoughts create fear and they think that those thoughts will cause them to act out…they literally try to force away the thoughts through willpower. Again, this is exactly how I experienced it.

Eventually, for those on the healthy path of love addiction recovery...once they accept that they no longer want anything to do with the love addiction and those thoughts, and want to get rid of it (and will do anything necessary to get rid of it), they will go through a period where they separate from the addiction…and go through that void mentioned. This wasn’t as significant for me as the first void I went through with porn…but it still feels like a kind of strange “emotional black hole” in the middle of your head where you feel oddly empty and strange. That may have also been because since it had happened to me before, I knew what to expect. For me, this also came with an admittance to oneself that I would never get the love and fulfillment I wanted from the addiction. I could see clearly for myself the emotions were all short-term, fleeting, and unfulfilling.

After which…these romantic thoughts will be perceived as something external to their identity rather than as a part of it, which makes these thoughts much easier to recognize as unhealthy, and recognizing that they have no control over you, much easier to eliminate. Yes, strange to read about…but this is again how it is experienced.

Potentially one of the most important parts of love addiction recovery is dealing with the core issues behind the addiction (thanks to lostkid for noting this point). This is particularly true because romantic thoughts and delusions center around unhealthy beliefs about yourself (in my opinion), these core issues need to be identified and changed for true healing to occur. And while this is necessary for long-term sex/porn addiction recovery as well, it is particularly necessary for love addiction, as typically, even after they recognize the love addict thoughts, they’ll still have a hard time determining why they do it, or even how those thoughts relate to their behaviours…even though once you get an insight linking thoughts/beliefs to behaviours, it usually becomes forehead-smackingly obvious and you wonder why you didn’t see it before.

A specific point here about romantic delusions: CoachJon always taught that with typical compulsive rituals, you work on changing the behaviour first, then change the perception, which leads to lasting change. In my opinion, this is not possible with romantic delusions…as the perceptual delusions are themselves what drive the behaviour…and even if you mechanically force yourself to stop these thoughts, they will inevitably return. Therefore, the perceptions and the underlying beliefs that fuel them must be attacked from every angle possible. And, this must be done proactively…even though you may have to wait for the delusion to appear before you even can recognize it.

This requires a lot of awareness and a bit of lateral thinking. For example, many of my romantic thoughts continued to come up even after I recognized them as unhealthy. This became very frustrated…and that feeling of powerlessness seeps back in. Like you’ll always be this way and those thoughts are a part of you. However, I then began to greet the thoughts and really consider them. Why was I having that thought? What other thoughts are related? What possible underlying beliefs could they be related to?

The reason that this open-ended inquiry is necessary is that the underlying beliefs that drive the thoughts and romantic delusions tend to have little to do with the content of those thoughts and romantic delusions. This can be very confusing. For example, once I had made some strides in recovery, I KNEW that no one is perfect (in a real, not-only-intellectual way)…yet I was still having delusions about meeting the perfect woman and finding a wife. Eventually, I pinned it down: a significant part of my love addiction was based on a dependence on other people for security, stability, telling me what to do, giving me a direction, etc. I had an almost desperate dependence to be around others at all times, as I was completely insecure about who I was. Therefore…the idea of finding the permanent relationship gave me significant fulfillment regarding that insecurity. VERY, VERY different from the thoughts themselves…but once I recognized this, the thoughts were gone. Disappeared. And they honestly haven’t returned, and seem absurd to me now (just to give you an idea of what is possible in recovery…I actually need to look back in my recovery thread to see some of my love addict thought patterns now, as I can no longer consciously recall some of the ones I dealt with.)

Another example (which I have actually used to help others here who’ve suffered the same thoughts): a major fear/delusion I had was that I was actually homosexual. I had multitude of various thoughts that had ingrained over the years regarding this, leaving me exceedingly confused about my actual sexuality….and this fed my love addict patterns. As part of recovery, I started to take a look at this and weed out the thoughts…but there were times where it felt like my REAL voice would say “I am gay.” So, I started to think laterally…and ask myself questions which would necessarily need to be true for such a situation to occur. “Was I attracted to men?” Of course not, my mind responded. “Would I ever like to be in a relationship with a man?” No, my mind responded again. Yet the idea that I could be gay still filled me with fear (also, just to note: I have never been homophobic whatsoever. These feelings are caused due to OCD-like thoughts and a misunderstanding about my own identity, not a belief that there’s anything wrong with homosexuality). Therefore, I knew the problem lay elsewhere. What I eventually figured it out as was that it was really a fear of not being approved of by my family…as you can see, VERY different and not immediately obvious (though obvious once you figure it out). But hopefully this gives some insight into the type of lateral thinking and contemplation (not to mention the ability to face yourself) that is required in order to get to the root of some of these problems.

Anyways…bit of a digression there, but I think an important one in regards to the kind of open, counterintuitive thinking needed here. Moving on…I’d say even more so than in sex addiction, a person with love addiction thought patterns must keep their feet firmly planted in their life vision. They must continually re-align themselves with that vision and develop an understanding of who they are and who they want to be. Thus, when romantic delusions pop up…they must run such delusions past the vision they see for themselves in order to be able to objectively see what acting out such a delusion would do to that life.

Along with this comes a strict understanding of their personal boundaries…because of the subtlety of the behaviours and the grey areas that can exist in love addiction. As I’ve said before…it’s usually relatively easy for a person who has dealt with pornography and sex addiction to recognize when they’re close to crossing a boundary (say, they come across racy images on Google). But what about a situation where, say, you see an Facebook event you want to go to…specifically because a girl that you know and attracted to is going (and yes, this is a problem I had and still occasionally deal with)? Far more of a grey area…and the emotions created by love addict thoughts can easily manipulate decisions rather quickly, if one doesn’t have boundaries in place for such activity.

Is going to such an event—even if you’re going solely because there’s a person you’re attracted to—wrong? Not necessarily….depends on a number of things…values, intentions, honesty (with yourself and your partner, if you have a partner), your own boundaries, your partner’s feelings and boundaries being among them. But the grey area here makes it easy to justify, if you don’t have boundaries you’re using to help with decisions and the self-awareness to know when you’re breaking them. Thus, thinking about these situations beforehand and healthy ways to respond before you become emotionally compromised becomes paramount.

Redefining how the person loves and communicates with themselves. This is important to do as the love addiction rituals and romantic delusions start to be resolved. As we all know, as you rid yourself of thoughts and behaviours that give you emotional stimulation…but don’t replace them with any healthy beliefs or behaviours…the clock starts ticking until the point you slip, relapse, or otherwise return to those behaviours. I have actually found that with romantic delusions, this can actually be easier to do than with compulsive rituals…as once you have dealt with the delusion that has been working against the values that you have been trying to ingrain (for lack of a better way to describe it), it has seemed like for me it is much easier for the value you want to replace it with to take hold. Not that it still doesn't need development, but I have found with the delusions, after I've fixed the underlying belief, I feel much more confident naturally in how I want to be.

Most people who deal with love addiction have chronically low self-esteem, feel worthless and/or abandoned. Regardless of why they feel this way, all people with love addiction do not love themselves or see themselves as fundamentally a worthwhile person (thus the constant need to external attention, to be loved, liked, and validated by others). Therefore, as part of the personal healing necessary in this journey, one must develop a love for themselves and see their worth as a person. They must rebuild how they communicate with themselves. This comes from self-honesty, but this self-love also develops naturally as they root out their unhealthy beliefs and gain confidence in building their values.

Along with developing a love for yourself comes a re-evaluation of ALL the relationships in your life. Almost certainly, the love addiction has affected not only the way they view romantic relationships but familial and friendly relationships too. In my own recovery, I recognized for myself how cut-off I had become from the rest of my family. I no longer truly cared about any of them…since as the addiction progressed, I looked to find that love more and more from other compulsive sources. That’s emotional for me to type, yet true nonetheless.

Conversely, I loved my friends…to the point where I would drop everything and do anything in order to get people to be with me. Selfish love. Regardless of anything else going on in my life, if friends were going out or hanging out, that was immediately prioritized above all else. I never understood why people would want to “go home early” from the pub or a party, or not come out because they had “other things to do.” Why would anyone choose loneliness, over being surrounded by people (at least, that was my perception). That never made sense to me…until I recovered.

The point is…even moreso than sex addiction (since love is a basic human need that is in familial and friendly relationships too), this addiction affects all the primary relationships in one’s life and likely many secondary relationships as well. Part of their recovery then needs to examine these relationships and put them in the context of their healthy life.

In the tune of re-developing healthy romantic relationships (the area where they are at their weakest)...one of the most difficult things that a love addict must admit at the beginning of recovery is the need to segregate themselves from ALL romantic relationships aside from those that they are trying to develop as a part of their healthy life vision (ie. spouse or long-term boyfriend/girlfriend), until the point where they root out the source of their love addiction and rebuild their healthy identity. This can honestly be very hard for love addicts to accept…much harder than for sex addicts in some cases, since in those addictions, the people tend to be objectified and in many cases don’t play a significant role in that person’s life (the exception here being compulsive affairs). In love addiction, people who have been targets of that addiction might be best friends, close confidantes, or people who play an active, everyday role in that person’s life.

This is what Jon meant when he was saying why the complexity of recovery from love addiction can be amplified several times. It is not so easy to disconnect from internal love addiction patterns that have comforted you your entire life AND separate yourself both emotionally (and potentially physically) from people who were close to you in your life yet were the unwitting target of that addiction. It’s almost like a double blow…and the majority of love addicts will hold onto some piece in an unhealthy way, at least for a time. Because of the reality of the situation, it is even harder to let go of than sexual rituals. The person feels like there is nothing in the world that will love or care for them.

For the people struggling with love addiction who I have mentored, I have usually recommended that they avoid entering into any new romantic relationships (dating or “committed” relationships) for at least 3-4 months while they work on the workshop and start rebuilding their identity. The near-unanimous response I’ve gotten to that: “I’m not sure if I can do that…3 months seems like a long time. I’ll try…but what if I meet the right person?” Again, it’s easy to see the emotional immaturity from the outside…but remembering when I was on that side, the thought of not attempting to get into a relationship (even avoiding just the “thought” of trying to get into a relationship) felt harrowing and scary. It’s by no means easy to look at the future staring at you—alone. Usually, my response to this is that love addictions are built on “What ifs.” “What if…the perfect person is just around the corner?” “What if…I’m in a committed relationship, but I meet the love of my life?” “What if…I meet that special person, but have committed to staying out of romantic relationships so I can rebuild my life?” As you can see, if that is the way you’re still thinking about relationships… any future relationships you have will be compromised.

There is no possible way someone can recover from this (in my opinion) while still actively pursuing romantic relationships. What is real and what is compulsive is far too confusing and crosses over too much for someone to be able to tell what is healthy and what isn’t. The person must rebuild their life and their identity to the point where they’re stable and without the need for someone else to “fill them up” inside. Personally, the way I view getting into relationships now completely differently. I no longer “need” to do so (and whenever I start thinking I do, I know that something is wrong). Rather, I’ll wait until I’m stable enough with myself before attempting to meet someone.

On that note, much like in lesson 39 of the recovery workshop that deals with redefining sexual boundaries…the person recovering from love addiction needs to spend time working on redefining romantic and relationship boundaries for themselves in terms of what they believe to be healthy. Lesson 39 can very easily be adapted for this purpose, and when I did it, I included both relationship and sexual boundaries to encompass all my beliefs about sexuality and romance.

Lastly (hopefully you’re not asleep yet :w: ), I have personally found some kind of daily introspection particularly important for me in dealing with this. For me, it was really when I started valuing Zen meditation, and using it to pull apart and analyze my thoughts and beliefs (or rather, allowing those thoughts and beliefs to unravel naturally) when I started making real progress at this and realizing that while it may be hard to recover from, it isn’t impossible. I wasn’t born with this, and I sure as heck will do whatever I can so that I can have real, healthy relationships again.

It doesn't matter what it is. Meditation. Journaling. Prayer. A long walk by yourself in the forest. Whatever. All that matters is that it allows the person to go deep into their thoughts fearlessly, face these beliefs and patterns head on, and determine what changes need to be made.

I hope this long rambling is useful for people and has explored some of the challenges faced with recovering from love addiction, and some methods that are helpful. And, if I happen to think of anything else (or if people have any other questions about this for me), I’d open to questions. Because this is so long, I might go through this and make a bulleted list so it’s easier for people to take away the key points.

:g:

FT

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 2:48 am 
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Hats off to you FT, had to take a couple of days off work to read it all but was worth it :s:

Seriously though, really useful and insightful post.

Quote:
I recognized the addiction for what it was…an emotional core that my identity was attached to that manifested itself as a series of thoughts which reinforced the emotions

Can see that challenging these thoughts and getting to their source will be key - and how our vision and boundaries are an essential part of navigating our way towards healthy relationships and protecting us from bad decisions.

This was obviously swimming around my head last night as I dreamt that I met an attractive girl who liked me and I thought might be 'the one'. I was in the middle of trying to impress her when I became aware of what I was thinking and doing and that deep down I was wanting her to fill a gap that she never could. Ruined the whole thing!


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 3:38 pm 
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Thanks newme. :g:

Quote:
This was obviously swimming around my head last night as I dreamt that I met an attractive girl who liked me and I thought might be 'the one'. I was in the middle of trying to impress her when I became aware of what I was thinking and doing and that deep down I was wanting her to fill a gap that she never could.


I'm no master of interpreting dreams...but I'd definitely say this is your mind telling you something. Maybe that you are "in between." That you have built awareness and have an understanding of your problem, but haven't resolved the core issue yet? That's how I experienced it. I'd say it's probably been a couple months now where I've actually thought of someone as "the one." While I've still been dealing with some of the more subtle thoughts, that's one that I waved goodbye to a while back. Anyways, just something to think about.

FT

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 2:57 am 
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Quote:
That you have built awareness and have an understanding of your problem, but haven't resolved the core issue yet?

Yes, I've gained a much better understanding and awareness of my love addiction rituals over the last few months but I think there is something still unresolved at the core. I'm going to reflect on this some more and post any thoughts in my recovery thread. Thanks.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:00 am 
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Hi FT

A helpful and thought-provoking thread. I do have some questions and confusions. The central one is this: where exactly does sex addiction end and love addiction begin? I am thinking especially of the line you draw between internal and external behaviours. I am not a love addict, at least I dont think so, but I am not entirely sure that, scratch the surface, and my sex addiction is very different from the descriptions you offer here.

Nor am I convinced that the response is mainly concerned with changing behaviours. That is certainly the first stage - stopping using porn, sex, masturbation etc. But - and I have learned this to my cost - that is when the real work begins, to wit, facing and altering the emotional and intellectual root causes of that behaviour.

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For example, it is fairly easy for a person with a porn addiction to identify when they're using pornography. It is easy for a person with a sex addiction to know when they're engaging in a compulsive affair (even if they don’t realize it’s compulsive). And even if they've ingrained that behaviour as part of their life, because it is overt, it can be easily identified and isolated once in recovery, even if it takes them a while to understand the "why" of their addiction. Boundaries around sexuality have been destroyed, but those can be rebuilt. The subtle behaviours like objectification and scanning take a while to go...but in general, the overt behaviours can be dealt with fairly quickly by someone with the right motivation.


I know what you are saying, but I think you need to tread carefully here – especially for newly arrived sex addicts reading the post. I am not sure it is always easy for a porn addict to identify when they are using pornography - because of the self-delusionary thoughts you describe so clearly. More to the point, I am not sure that this entirely covers porn addiction.

I relapsed earlier this year - I used pornography, I masturbated in a compulsive fashion. But the roots of that relapse happened weeks before in the unhealthy, obsessive thought processes, the unstable emotions, and compulsive fixations you describe. Or perhaps every sex addict who stops acting out becomes a love addict? Caught in their compulsive thoughts?

My own acting out certainly has its physical and overt rituals, but it was also deeply emotional and - I slightly hesitate to use this word – romantic. I suspect, to misquote Dorothy Parker, that the romantic attachment was mainly with myself - there were images of women ,but I filled them with my own fantasies. It didnt only manifest itself sexually, but informed all areas of my life. Because the root cause was at the root of my emotional life. My rituals soothed because I used pleasure to conteract negativity. But it wasnt just pleasure, I think. My fantasies were illusions of real engagement, of feeling attractive, of being adventurous - whatever. All addressed my own core insecurities.

It was about objectification but also idealisation of women - something I could control in fantasy because I had not learned to control it in life. My sexual addiction and rituals came to address many issues - in negative fashion - but they began from a fundamental insecurity around love, romance and women. This seems to be something that love and sexual addiction often share - a mixture of control, objectification and idealisation. We transpose our self and emotions onto the object of the desire in ritualised form rather than engage with them.

For me, the external sex/porn behaviours are only the tip of an iceberg. As the lessons concerning sexual rituals covered, the ritual begins a long time before the external behaviours. This sounds very like the throught processes you describe - at least in my case. I am not sure that these are necessarily less subtle - it is why self-delusion is such an easy trap.

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Therefore, the first difference I’ve found with my love addiction patterns was the need for instant honesty with yourself. While this is important for sex addiction too, it's even more important here.


Isnt instant honesty equally important for both conditions? Both are driven by subtle, seductive and compulsive thought processes? Again, imagine an addict a few weeks into recovery who has abstained from external sexual behaviours, if only temporarily. Arent they just as prone to the thought processes you describe? Nor am I entirely sure that the lengthy love addiction cycles you describe dont also apply to sexual addiction. My own rituals were decades in the construction. What I have described elsewhere as the emotional pendulum - of despair, delusion, attachment and back to despair. The feelings and thought processes that drive the external behaviour.

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Compounding this is the fact that the need to feel loved is a FAR more central human need than the need for sex. To give up such thoughts is basically like losing the love of a parent or long-time caregiver, as that truly is the kind of connection developed over time to the addiction to replace the love they felt missing from their life. So, hopefully you can see why so many would cling tightly to these thoughts (again, much like clinging to the love of a parent), even if it's objectively ruining their life and the lives of those around them.


I am not sure that this is the place to get into a philosophical argument about the opening sentence. But again, I am not sure that this separates love and sex addiction. Many of us here with sexual rituals speak about low self-esteem, abandonment issues. The mindset of need - a desperate need for understanding that becomes compulsive and affects almost every relationship in our lives. Including sexual ones. Sex does not exclude love - however much us recoverers might seem to think this. I think we might generally confuse it. But again I dont see this as an either or propostion.

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Potentially one of the most important parts of love addiction recovery is dealing with the core issues behind the addiction (thanks to lostkid for noting this point). This is particularly true because romantic thoughts and delusions center around unhealthy beliefs about yourself (in my opinion), these core issues need to be identified and changed for true healing to occur. And while this is necessary for long-term sex/porn addiction recovery as well, it is particularly necessary for love addiction, as typically, even after they recognize the love addict thoughts, they’ll still have a hard time determining why they do it,

Again, I am not sure how this really differs from sexual addiction. My own relapse earlier this year was a direct result of not confronting the core issues behind my addiction. I had learned to abstain from the external behaviours, but this fooled me into thinking I had learned how to balance my emotional life. Gradually the pressure built up and the cracks began to show. I had confronted the behaviours, albeit superficially, but I was still vulnerable to the thought processes.

I understand the point you make that love addiction is not only driven by these thought processes, but contained within them. But this is also a realisaton the sex addict will have make eventually - once they have got past their external behaviours and are left only with themselves, their feelings, thoughts and their own past.

Like you, I have realised I have a dependence on what other people think of me - that external validation has filled a void in myself - because of low self-esteem, issues from childhood etc etc. RN teaches autonomy and healthy self-confidence. Like you, this could lead me into seeking explanations for my feeling of otherness when the world disappointed me, or others unnervedf me - to do with sexuality, to do with where I was heading in my life, my place in my family. RN is helping me deal with these peer-related issues - that for me were at the core of my sex addiction.

This post is starting to rival your own, and my hands are tiring. The bottom line is I found the post as helpful for understanding my own situation as a sex addict as the love addicts on the site - the compulsive, often illusionary thought processes that remain now that I am not acting out, once and for all (I hope). Possibly I am a love addict. But I wonder if there isnt a love addict inside most sex addicts?

Shaw


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:22 pm 
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Hi Shaw,

Thanks for bringing up some of this points. Allows me to further challenge my own understanding, so I appreciate it.

Quote:
The central one is this: where exactly does sex addiction end and love addiction begin?


Really, either of these terms only describe general patterns of behaviour. Is it likely that many sex addicts also display patterns more commonly associated with love addiction? Probably. And vice versa. I think terms like "sex addiction" and "love addiction" are more useful for education as to general themes and patterns associated with these types of behaviour...for example, sex addiction tends to focus more on objectified sexual rituals, while love addiction focuses more on romantic and love-based rituals. For your own practical use, I don't think you need to separate them....all you need to do is recognize what is healthy or unhealthy for you. For example, for me, I dealt with both porn addiction and love addiction patterns...but they all made up the same addiction that functioned as my life management strategy. They definitely crossed over. And while the way I dealt with them was slightly differently, in the end, it really comes down to healthy vs. unhealthy, based on your vision and values. And that's what you should focus on. Not trying to categorize these things by concepts (ie. "Am I a sex addict, a love addict, or both?") In terms of recovery, that matters very little.

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Nor am I convinced that the response is mainly concerned with changing behaviours. That is certainly the first stage - stopping using porn, sex, masturbation etc. But - and I have learned this to my cost - that is when the real work begins, to wit, facing and altering the emotional and intellectual root causes of that behaviour.


True, but I might just not be articulating myself clearly enough here. I didn't mean that ending porn addiction stopped at changing the behaviours -- not at all. What I meant is that, at least in my experience, ending porn addiction started with the behaviours, then progressed onto understanding my thoughts regarding this and changing them. Ending my love addiction patterns began with changing my thoughts....and some of the behaviours were ONLY in my thoughts (ie. romantic fantasy) and unhealthy beliefs. However, any overt behaviours, I was completely unaware of.

Solely looking at my own behaviour, looking at porn was obvious. That was unhealthy, and it was blatantly obvious to me when I was engaged in an unhealthy ritual. But for me, my love addict patterns were so subtle and ingrained that they were not obviously unhealthy at all. And, I had no idea that they actually WERE changing how I acted towards people.

I guess the distinction I would make (maybe didn't make it clearly enough) is that I think the core of love addiction patterns are much more like the subtle sexual behaviours left over after you have taken care of your overt rituals....in the sense that they have become so naturalized for you in your consciousness that you can be completely unaware that they're even unhealthy. That's the distinction I wanted to make. With the exception of sexual fantasy and scanning behaviours, sexually compulsive behaviours (masturbation, pornography, etc.) tend to be overt. Even if you're delusional, you know pretty clearly when you're engaging in them. I'm talking about awareness of the behaviour, even if you're not aware that it's ritualized. Not always the case for love addiction.

Quote:
I am not sure it is always easy for a porn addict to identify when they are using pornography - because of the self-delusionary thoughts you describe so clearly. More to the point, I am not sure that this entirely covers porn addiction.


True, and there are self-delusions in porn addiction as well. All right, I guess I will clarify and say that almost always people with porn addiction know when they're using outright pornography, even if they may be unaware when they're using other pictures in a pornographic fashion...hence the secrecy and lying. I guess what I am trying to articulate is: since love addiction patterns can occur solely in the mind and FEEL like normal feelings of love and passion, the overt rituals can themselves be much more subtle...and the person is usually completely unaware that they are doing anything abnormal. For example, while I think I always knew that when I was engaged in pornography, what I was doing was wrong, I truly thought that everyone saw relationships and romance the same way as me. I think this is also affected by the time scale of the behaviours. A sexual ritual usually takes place over the course of minutes, hours, or days. Love addict rituals can go for weeks, months, or years, so it's harder to see the thoughts occurring in a cyclical fashion. Hmm...not sure if I'm articulating it better, but I'm trying. I guess the point is, having recovered from both, I do see distinctions in how the rituals present...and for me, identifying the unhealthy love addiction patterns were much harder. For others, the opposite might be true. But I think that'd be rare, due to the nature of the behaviour.

Also, everyone is ultimately responsible for their own behaviour. If any newly arrived addicts seeking recovery use a post like this to justify acting out under the guise of "it's harder to recognize pornographic images that he thinks!" or "Maybe I don't know when I'm looking at pornography...better get on Google Image search", they're both deluding themselves and responsible for what they're doing. In any case, it will be their fault.

Again, I'm not minimizing sexual addiction recovery here. Clearly, it is very difficult. All I'm saying is that in my experience, the overt rituals for pornography addiction were far easier to recognize than the overt rituals for my love addiction patterns.

Quote:
I relapsed earlier this year - I used pornography, I masturbated in a compulsive fashion. But the roots of that relapse happened weeks before in the unhealthy, obsessive thought processes, the unstable emotions, and compulsive fixations you describe. Or perhaps every sex addict who stops acting out becomes a love addict? Caught in their compulsive thoughts?


Again, I hope I didn't convey that sex addict behaviours weren't in your thoughts as well, or that there weren't also delusions that occur in the mind of the sex addict. Of course there are. Basically, all I'm trying to convey is that, at least from my own experiences, such behaviours were easier to recognize when I was engaging in them. For love addiction, the entire emotional ritual can play itself out completely in your mind (like imagining an entire relationship with someone). In comparison, recognizing when I felt a compulsion to masturbate was fairly straightforward.

Quote:
My sexual addiction and rituals came to address many issues - in negative fashion - but they began from a fundamental insecurity around love, romance and women. This seems to be something that love and sexual addiction often share - a mixture of control, objectification and idealisation.


Completely agree. It's really how the patterns progress for that individual that determine how their rituals develop.

Quote:
Isnt instant honesty equally important for both conditions? Both are driven by subtle, seductive and compulsive thought processes?


Absolutely. And, I think in order to completely beat sexual addiction, an equal instant honesty is needed with the subtle thought processes of the sexual rituals. I guess a better way to describe it might be "the need to be instantly objective with oneself, and recognize immediately when you're slipping into a delusion." I think objectivity and honesty are related though slightly different.

The only difference is that romantic delusions cannot be dealt with via the same urge control processes used here, because of the delusional aspect. To take a page from Jon's writing on this, with delusions, you don't have the ability to be objective. It is tougher to separate yourself objectively from the delusion.

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Nor am I entirely sure that the lengthy love addiction cycles you describe dont also apply to sexual addiction. My own rituals were decades in the construction.


Here, I don't mean the process of the ritual progressing and adding elements and new behaviours. I mean the actual time that an individual ritual takes to play itself out. I doubt your porn rituals each took months or years each. :w: Most porn rituals are at the most hours long. For love addiction, the actual ritual, with all the various steps, can be engaged in for months or even years in some cases.

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I am not sure that this is the place to get into a philosophical argument about the opening sentence.


That's cool :w: but I still stand by that statement. While sex is a fundamental human drive, you ultimately don't need it to survive. Many people have lived a content life being completely sexually celibate (though debates could also be gotten into over whether that is healthy either). In comparison, I think everyone needs the experience the feeling of love from somewhere (even from the feeling of a higher power, if they don't feel that love from any family or friends in their life)...or they will develop ways to artificially feel that. I am sure that many sexual addicts do try to experience love from their sexual rituals.

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Many of us here with sexual rituals speak about low self-esteem, abandonment issues.


For sure...it's not an either-or situation. I'm sure almost ALL people here recovering have issues with self-esteem, neglect, abandonment, etc. Whether they developed sex or love addiction-type patterns really only depends on the individual. I just know from Jon's lesson on this that abandonment and emotional neglect seem to be more common for love addicts. But of course, these are complex issues, without a "one size fits all" answer for anyone.

Quote:
Sex does not exclude love - however much us recoverers might seem to think this. I think we might generally confuse it.


We absolutely do, and this is where my patterns crossed over a lot. It has just been something I've come to terms with recently, that I had completely mixed up sex with love. I figured that if I loved someone (whether familial, friendly, or romantically), that must mean that I want to engage with them romantically/sexually. Obviously, this created significant emotional turmoil for me for many years. It has only been recently that I've realized that love itself has little to do with sex, and that in a healthy way, sex is really just one component of healthy romantic love.

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Again, I am not sure how this really differs from sexual addiction. My own relapse earlier this year was a direct result of not confronting the core issues behind my addiction. I had learned to abstain from the external behaviours, but this fooled me into thinking I had learned how to balance my emotional life. Gradually the pressure built up and the cracks began to show. I had confronted the behaviours, albeit superficially, but I was still vulnerable to the thought processes.

I understand the point you make that love addiction is not only driven by these thought processes, but contained within them.


That last line basically nailed on the point I was trying to make. And yes, sexual addicts will have to make that recognition too to completely transition to health. Many of the points I made in that post could completely relate to sexual addiction as well. I was not saying that these points had no relation to recovery from sexually based patterns...there are obviously many similarities, I was only trying to isolate what I specifically focused on for love addiction patterns and trying to make some distinctions in my approach.

Anyways, good post Shaw. Hopefully I clarified some things. Romantic delusions are a tricky thing to explain...as they are different from other compulsive rituals, though it's tough to articulate exactly how. But anyways, if it was useful to you, that's a plus. To go back to my point at the beginning, don't think of "sex addiction vs. love addiction". Think of "healthy vs. unhealthy."

:g:

FT

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"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell." - Buddha


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2011 5:42 pm 
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I know this thread is pretty much done, but I just read something online today that I think is highly relevant to both love, and love addiction, and wanted to share it. It's a piece called Love versus Fear by Sarah Nean Bruce, and I think it illustrates perfectly how the "love" in love addiction is not love at all; it is fear dressed up as love. Fear of never finding anyone. Fear of being alone. Fear masquerading as love, that goes on to hurt others. As you can see here from this piece, almost every single aspect of fear exists in love addiction. It really made me think about how much fear really does drive this addiction.

It also reminded me of Jon's excellent post, "What Love Isn't": http://www.recoverynation.com/recovery/ ... nglove.htm

Real love is so much more and so much better (as I'm slowly realizing). Anyways, I hope people enjoy it.

"Love vs. Fear."

LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL (fear is conditional)

LOVE IS STRONG (fear is weak)

LOVE RELEASES (fear obligates)

LOVE SURRENDERS (fear binds)

LOVE IS HONEST (fear is deceitful)

LOVE TRUSTS (fear suspects)

LOVE ALLOWS (fear dictates)

LOVE GIVES (fear resists)

LOVE FORGIVES (fear blames)

LOVE IS COMPASSIONATE (fear pities)

LOVE CHOOSES (fear avoids)

LOVE IS KIND (fear is angry)

LOVE IGNITES (fear incites)

LOVE EMBRACES (fear repudiates)

LOVE CREATES (fear negates)

LOVE HEALS (fear hurts)

LOVE IS MAGIC (fear is superstitious)

LOVE ENERGIZES (fear saps)

LOVE IS AN ELIXIR (fear is a poison)

LOVE INSPIRES (fear worries)

LOVE DESIRES (fear Joneses)

LOVE IS PATIENT (fear is nervous)

LOVE IS BRAVE (fear is afraid)

LOVE IS RELAXED (fear is pressured)

LOVE IS BLIND (fear is judgmental)

LOVE RESPECTS (fear disregards)

LOVE ACCEPTS (fear rejects)

LOVE DREAMS (fear schemes)

LOVE WANTS TO PLAY (fear needs to control)

LOVE ENJOYS (fear suffers)

LOVE FREES (fear imprisons)

LOVE BELIEVES (fear deceives)

LOVE “WANTS” (fear “needs”)

LOVE versus fear: what do you feel?

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/love-versus-fear/

FT

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"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell." - Buddha


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