We live in a culture that glorifies addiction.
Work addiction. Material wealth addiction. Social substance addiction (alcohol, tobacco, coffee). Food addiction. Exercise addiction. Sex addiction. Technology and social media addiction.
And love addiction.
Love, our most basic and beautiful capacity as human beings has been reduced to a roller coaster of peak highs and crashing lows.
Our popular music all sings of love addiction. Yearning, heartbreak, and drama is the staple recipe of song after song after song (when it’s not about sex, that is).
Our tv shows and movies create a habituated normalcy about the dashing mystery of love-avoidant men, and the women who anxiously flock to their dark allure.
Love addiction manifests as an interplay between these two states, anxiety and avoidance. The anxiously attached desperately grasp for that which is unavailable, while the avoidant runs from that which is too available and together they paint a painful portrait of passionate despair that can go on for years and years.
An anxious love addict believes that love IS this thrilling state of anxiety, this heightened intensity in the nervous system that is concerned that the object of desire will someday abandon them. It is the grasping, pleading, allowing (of poor behavior) and the relief and return of passion when, after strange and unexplained absences, the avoidant returns (either physically or emotionally)… until the cycle plays out once more.
I have read countless surveys asking women what they most look for in attraction with a man, and consistently the response “chemistry” emerges.
Chemistry. An interesting basis to form a relationship upon. A biochemical hormonal cocktail dumped into the blood-stream that then hijacks the brain and heart into feeling all the feels. If one is anxiously attached then this chemistry is nothing more than getting that next fix, that next high.
The delicious heart palpitations and moistening between the thighs is actually the foreboding of drama to come. It is the signal of anxiety and for sure if it is felt now, it will be felt 100 times more strongly later. The body never lies, unless it is addicted… and then it lies all the time.
The body never lies, unless it is addicted… and then it lies all the time.
An addict, by definition, is incapable of making choices in their best interest.
You say you want a good man or woman. Yet do your actions truly align with that?
To a love addict, secure attachment is boring. It is dependable, available, honest, moderate, sober. The nervous system is calmed and relaxed in the presence of a securely attached person, there is no heightened intensity, there is no chemical fix… and if these are your signals for love, you will glance straight past someone radiating security as if they were nothing but a certain and stable piece of furniture in the room.
To a love addict, secure attachment is boring.
We have made romance into a game of push and pull. It is a game of addiction. It is a game of who is going to trigger the anxiety in the other first. The less invested one wins, and then loses.
Anxious and avoidant attachment co-arise. If you are one, you are also the other.
You are anxious for what you can’t have and avoidant of what you can have. Thus someone who returns your calls on time, who checks in with you about how you are feeling, who is open and honest with their attraction for you… these things can, even though you say you want it, shut you down, have you desire to run away and flee.
Ugh! It’s too easy, too available, too honest. Where is the passion in that? Give me my fix of yearning, please!
Or perhaps… it’s actually truly terrifying to come out of the addiction to be deeply seen, met with stability, vulnerability and an opening to the depths of love. I mean, we use addictive habits to numb ourselves from reality.
And when that being is less available, doesn’t reply in a timely manner, doesn’t give clear signals that they like you… then the exhilaration of not knowing, the endless ruminating of the unpredictable fuel the desire to have them, and have them now (only if you can’t actually have them now, of course).
Some years ago I engaged a foray into the world of pick-up artistry and seduction. It was short lived as I quickly became disgusted with it and vowed never to use that understanding in seduction again.
The thing I was most disgusted about was that it worked.
I didn’t have the language to understand what was happening then, yet now I do. The whole seduction game works on getting a woman into her anxiously attached state. If I can trigger her insecurity and get her to need to validate herself to me, she will f**k me, and usually pretty quickly. And then once she f**ks me she will be attached to me, and I will get to decide if I want to date her further or not.
And it worked. Repeatedly. With intelligent women. With spiritual women. With loving and caring women.
The sex I had from these encounters felt empty because I knew I had tricked her. She didn’t actually like me, she just liked the love-chemistry fix I was giving her because I knew how to trigger her emotions. I was their drug dealer, and I was paid in sex.
I was their drug dealer, and I was paid in sex.
There are many men who play this game successfully. I’ve watched them. I’ve watched women who might proudly pronounce “that stuff would never work on me” succumb and become just another notch on the bedpost.
It works. And it works well, because we are addicted to that high.
Coming out of addiction is a strange process. It requires an entire re-patterning of one’s response system. This is why I suggest that chemistry is a really really bad cue to place the basis of attraction upon.
Chemistry is pre-rational. It doesn’t take into account any sense of rationality, the higher order thinking that can assess the actual suitability and compatibility of another person to one’s own values and lifestyle choices. All that chemistry says is “let’s make babies!”
Assessing another on their dependability, honesty, availability, compatibility, intelligence, integrity, values alignment and so forth isn’t sexy, until it’s sexy… and then it becomes very sexy.
Many people list these kinds of attributes in their desires for a mate, yet fewer are those who can truly listen to the allure of healthy attributes over the crooning cocktail of love hormones.
Through a choice to look for different cues our bodies and being can be rewired. It is possible to get wet or hard from a relaxed nervous system (parasympathetic) rather than a tense or anxious one (sympathetic). Yet it takes time, and our culture does not value it. Everything is about high stimulation.
High stimulation lives, high stimulation love.
I truly believe that it is possible to come back into secure attachment though, and this is the basis for us creating a healthy future for ourselves and the generations to come. However, it needs us to come out of denial, to stop normalizing abusive romantic behavior.
I actually think a big onus here is on women. It is when women stop responding to their anxious attachment that they will stop being seduced by avoidant men, and stop avoiding available men… this is then when the avoidant men will finally come out of the delusion that their behavior is ok and acceptable and finally feel the pain of their actions, because then avoidance will no longer work as a mating strategy.
I actually think the chronically avoidant is in so much pain that their entire system has gone into numbness. Love is seen as overwhelming, smothering and inherently unsafe. It is seen as the incessant manipulations to give give give, until the system cannot handle it any longer and it shuts down.
It’s so much easier to f**k and leave. Get your intimacy quick, and get out just as quick before you are engulfed.
As a woman, if you are ok with your man disappearing for days at a time without letting you know. If you accept him being dishonest, saying nothing is wrong when you know for sure something is… if you let the heart palpitations of his power games of being less invested than you drive your attraction… then you not only condone, you promote the culture of addiction, and say that his actions are ok. If you choose this man over any other, even worse if you take him on as a project hoping that your unwavering love, your readiness to accept anything in the name of love, that you will heal his wounded little boy and he might finally turn and love you, just you… you do him a disservice.
If he does not exhibit the desire to change, nothing you can do will change him.
What then is the impetus for an avoidant man to change his ways?
When a man becomes securely attached he actually lessens his stakes in the mating game as it is right now, he removes himself from the pool of available women desperately looking for their next fix and if he refuses to deal, he loses his customers.
A securely attached woman is already with a securely attached man. Often for a long long time. In a culture of the love addicted, the pool is small for those men who reform themselves, so why would they?
Unless you, as a woman, let them know that they must by healing yourself first. By no longer accepting this kind of behavior in your life you drive the evolutionary pressure to evolve. You hold all the cards in the mating game.
Woman, you are so much more powerful than you realize.
A securely attached man isn’t sexy until you finally see that he is. And then oh wow he becomes the sexiest thing imaginable.
They are out there, more than you might realize. Or they are waiting to be out there yet conflicted because the best strategy is still a manipulative one.
If the rules of the game don’t change, well then… the game will continue.
To the men… if the numbness and despair of living behind walls of avoidance becomes too much, then come out of it. Yes, it will be harder, for a time, yet an open heart and a life of integrity is worth the initial sense of crushing loneliness, the intensity of discomfort that has one need to go within and learn to find self-esteem from the source itself, rather than a trail of hearts dashed.
The life of manipulation is never satisfactory, regardless of who is playing it. Manipulating with avoidance, manipulating with anxiety… neither of these strategies serve for one’s well-being, for a life that can truly thrive.
To heal love addiction is to model secure attachment. To model it for oneself, in all relationships.
I have so much care here for myself and others. We didn’t choose to be love addicted, it happened to use. Our early childhood traumas, whether we were neglected or enmeshed with our caregivers (even in small ways) set us up to live our lives out in patterns that hurt, forever grasping and seeking a security that just wasn’t available to us then.
We can make it available to ourselves now though. And I believe this is how we begin to heal.
To the love anxious (woman and man) it is to learn to self-regulate, self-soothe, to lean back into a sense of self. To understand that underneath the anxiety is actually a belief that you are not worthy, not truly loveable and that you have to fight, and grasp, and cling, and plead for love. And to learn to see that inherently actually you are, always have been, and always will be worthy.
You are absolutely worthy of love. You are made of love and you don’t need someone to trigger you into it by their unavailability.
You are absolutely worthy of love. You are made of love and you don’t need someone to trigger you into it by their unavailability.
To the love avoidant (man and woman) it is to train oneself to become dependable. To respond to others when they reach out, even if it’s with a simple “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now, I’ll get back to you tomorrow”. It is to do what you say, to show up when you say you will. It is to tell the truth, to live in integrity.
A happy life filled with secure and stable love, and all the very real pleasures that brings, depends on it. It exists on the other side of the discomfort of recovery and the superficial boredom of sobriety, from not getting that fix. It’s when we learn to make choices that truly serve our best interests, and move towards partners that are joyously willing to do the work of healing, vs familiar partners that just trigger our addictions once again. It exists then as an immensity of contentment and joy, with also a fair share of challenge and work. It is the possibility of sharing life with someone who is really in, who really wants you, and who will truly show up.
I’m sure it does.
The health of our children depends on it. The health of our culture and society and our relationship to this planet depends on it.
This post holds true for me as much as anyone else, and is tinged through with my own regrets, resentments and frustrations.
I have been the anxious irrationally overacting or pleading with a partner who is ignoring me or refusing my touch. I have pursued unavailable women and taken their lack of interest to mean that I am inherently unworthy of love. I have closed myself down behind walls of silence, withdrawn emotionally to any contact from a confused and disturbed romantic partner. I have avoided the available woman unconsciously thinking that surely her availability means there is something wrong with her (because I’m inherently worthless, right).
None of this is healthy. And sadly all of it is much too common, to the point of normalcy, in this love addicted society.
I believe freedom from these destructive patterns exists. I believe that a deep sense of worth sourced from within and from the universe is possible. I believe that healthy, secure, stable and drama-free love is real.
I want it for myself. And I want it for everyone else.
Because this is how our world becomes an even more beautiful place to be.
Reposted article by author, Damien Bohler – a deep thinker immersed in the worlds of integral theory, psychology, authentic relating and permaculture.