tagReviews & EssaysAddicted to Love

Addicted to Love


Thanks to all those men who gave me such great research material...

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About a month ago I bought a book called How To Break Your Addiction to a Person, written by Howard M. Halpern, PH.D. I am not a great lover of self-help books; the one or two I have purchased over the years have been hit and miss to say the least. (The only truly useful one was Hot Sex by Tracey Cox. Go figure, ha ha.)

But this latest book was a revelation. After the best part of five years in a relationship that was for the most part described by my friends as "poisonous", I was finally able to make sense of what I had been doing to myself. And more importantly, I could see a way out.

Loving relationships are meant to be joyful. Being with your other half should make you feel happy, secure, warm and fuzzy inside. When you spend your entire life on an emotional rollercoaster of intense ups and downs, feeling chronically insecure and unable to count on the one person who ought to be there for you, you'd think that it would be sensible to bale out and find somebody better.

Wouldn't you?

But it isn't that easy when you're in the grip of what can only be called an obsession. Even when you know you're being treated badly and used for somebody else's selfish gratification, you still go back for more. Over time it destroys your self respect, but you still find it impossible to break the deadly ties. The thought of being without that person is terrifying and you lie awake at night, sleepless, tortured by thoughts of never seeing them again.

Even though I knew this person was bad for me, I still made excuses for him and held on to my belief that he would commit to me in the end. It didn't matter how much the evidence pointed to the contrary, I wanted my happy ever after too much to throw in the towel and accept that I was never going to change him into the man I wanted him to be.

Reading the book really brought it home to me what I was doing to myself. It forced me to see through all the self delusory things I had told myself over the years.

"We truly love each other -- it's all the other stuff that stops him being with me."

"We're meant to be together."

"I'll never meet anyone else who makes me feel the way he does."

"He's my soul mate."

As I skimmed through the psycho babble, I read about people like me, intelligent, rational people, who had found themselves trapped in terrible relationships, unable to break the bond and leave. It was truly scary.

Being addicted to a person is no different to any other kind of addiction: nicotine, alcohol, drugs. Severing your link with the person sends you into a period of intense withdrawal and agony. It's no wonder that we weaken and fall back into the same trap again...and again...and again.

I tried to break it off several times. In my heart of hearts I knew he was bad for me and we had no future. I would talk myself into ending it, then write an email outlining why I couldn't see him anymore, hit send, and immediately descend into a pit of black hell on earth. Invariably he would reply at some point and agree that it was the right thing to do, whilst telling me how much he would miss me. Naturally that made me feel even worse and for the next few days or weeks, I'd be dying slowly and painfully whilst missing him like a severed limb.

All the times where he had ignored me, or treated me with zero respect, would be banished into the darkest depths of my memory. The only things that remained were all the wonderful moments, the fun times and endless re-runs of the amazing sex we shared. Of course my traitorous heart would persuade me that I couldn't go on living without seeing him again and in a weak moment, I would get in touch. He would reply and before I could think it through, we would be back together and I would be back exactly where I started: pissed off and deeply unhappy.

But why have I allowed him to do this to me?

If I believe the book, it's all because of my relationship with my parents. Very Freudian. My mother was emotionally distant and not terribly maternal, and my father was absent most of the time. Now, as an adult, I'm drawn to men who are unavailable or flawed in some other way. I'm apparently trying to make them love me as a way of re-enacting my relationship with my parents.

I don't honestly know if that is a correct analysis, but I do know that there has been a definite pattern to my relationships.

My first love was older than me, but immature in many ways. He was a weak man with a weakness for alcohol. I soon realised he was bad for me, but I was madly in love with him and let him treat me horrendously for many months before we split.

My husband was also a weak man and before long I found myself in the role of taking care of him. He too had an alcohol problem that became worse over the years.

Another man I became involved with after my divorce was an emotional desert. He would let me get close and then the walls went up, leaving me out in the cold, insecure and desperate for affection. That was incredibly hard to deal with and even though I was intensely unhappy with him, I still clung on for dear life for far longer than I should have done.

Are we spotting a pattern here? You'd be forgiven for thinking that maybe I should just forget about relationships and stick with my cat for company. I have to admit, there have been plenty of times when I thought much the same thing.

But I'm determined not to make the same mistakes any more. Now I can see the pattern, I should be able to pick my next partner a little more wisely. At the first whiff of personality flaws and emotional issues, I'll run away faster than a Kenyan.

Or at least that's the theory.

Wish me luck!

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