I am so terrified of rejection, being alone and being unloved. All my life I have managed to escape possible addictions but I had no idea that I was already an addict. In high school I was introduced to alcohol but I found that it was not really my thing. Sure I do have a glass of wine on occasion but on most occasions I find myself politely declining alcohol. In varsity I was introduced to cigarettes and marijuana but they were not to my liking either.
I have been strong all my life and I told myself that no substance could control me. I decided if and when I wanted a drink or a smoke. I had no idea that there was an addiction lurking in the background and slowly creeping in to my life until it found permanent residence.
My name is Phumula and I am a love addict.
I’m sure many people will not understand this, but it is real. I and probably many others are yet to discover that truth for themselves. I crave love and I cannot control it. Once I am in a relationship I become a “love sick puppy”. That is a definition used by my recent ex to describe me. He made me think long and hard about my previous relationships. Yes it is true, I become obsessed with staying in the relationship and keeping the partner I have happy, even if it costs me my own happiness.
To really understand love addiction we need to first know what addiction is. According to Medical News Today addiction is a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. This means that you cannot stop it or control it; it controls you.
Love addiction is called a behavioural or process addiction. Pia Mellody, author of Facing Love Addiction, says that, “Possibly the most significant characteristic of love addiction is that we assign too much time and value to another person.” According to Mellody, “love addicts neglect to care for or value themselves while they’re in the relationship.” As a love addict you crave the love and attention of your partner, you centre your whole world on that one person. At least that is what I did. I did not care for much and in the process I neglected myself, my family and my children – all in the name of love. The absurd thing is that it is not about a person because even when the relationship ended I found another person and started the whole destructive pattern again.
My destructive pattern included going from one relationship to the next without even blinking an eye. When I was in a relationship, my partner was my world and I altered myself to fit in to their world. I would go on a diet if they needed me to be slimmer; I put on weight if they needed me to be chubbier. I would cut my hair, grow my hair and put on weaves, not for myself but for my partner. I did not think much of it until just recently when I realised how I have never lived for me. I don’t know why I crave love and approval so much that it interferes with my sanity and reasoning capabilities.
I remember being at an ATM with my recent ex. He would literally cash me out of the little money I had. Being unemployed and all it was not much but I deprived myself and my children of a few basic essentials so that he could cover his own needs. I looked in the mirror and I did not like what I saw… why was I so desperate?
It all started in 2007 when I was in grade 9 and I had my first relationship. I could not sleep without dreaming about him. I could not go a day without seeing him. He was perfect, he was my entire world. I did things for him and with him that I am even ashamed to discuss because I wanted to hold on to him and make him happy. He took advantage of the situation and I ended up losing my virginity just so he would stay with me. Our relationship lasted for six years on and off and resulted in the birth of my first child. I don’t even remember if I spent a month by myself. I had another relationship whilst my child was still an infant which is uncommon or rather immoral in my culture but I did not care. I needed someone, someone who was going to hold me and tell me that everything was going to be alright.
I did not want to be alone. Being alone felt like constant torture. I was in pain, overwhelming pain. It was like my heart was bleeding and I was anxious all the time. My heart ached for someone, a perfect stranger, but all of these relationships were far from perfection. I was used and discarded more times than I can recall. Still I needed to move on to the next relationship. I could not stop; I did not want to stop. It started to feel like a coping mechanism and I did cope. I sacrificed more than I wanted to, I gave more than I needed to and I put up with things no one should have to put up with. I was desperate for love and I still am! I do not want to die alone. I want someone who will stay with me and love me the way I know I deserve to be loved. I want someone who will appreciate me for me and I will not need to change anything about myself for them to stay. I am a love addict, a sucker for romance, and I am okay with that because I believe in true love and that one day it will find me.
Can I handle myself better in a relationship? Yes, I can and I will. From now on I will not be inferior anymore nor will I lower my standards or change myself to fit in with someone. I will continue my search for true love because I believe with every fibre of my being that “Mr right” exists. He is not a figment of my imagination but a living breathing human being that is out there somewhere and one day our paths will cross. So for now I am happily single, learning every day to love and value myself above all else.
How do you know if you are a love addict? Here are a few signs to look out for:
- Confusing love with obsession.
- Having few or no boundaries.
- Intense fear of being alone.
- Becoming attached to people who are emotionally unavailable.
- Idealizing people.
This is a summary of the signs and symptoms of love addiction by Jim Hall, a love addiction specialist. For full information and how to deal with or break free from love addiction you can visit his site, Love Addiction Help. Alternatively there are many support groups that focus on love addiction. You can find a meeting here.
Read about one writer’s inner conflict about when to lose her virginity here
Tell us: Have you ever put the happiness of someone else above your own?