In ancient Greece, there were five words to describe different kinds of love. Romantic love was called eros, the love between friends was referred to as philia, and storge was a natural affection that occurred between people. Thelema was love based on a desire to do something, and agape was a selfless, giving love. By comparison, we only have one word for love in English, and even though we have lots of words describing different aspects of love, those words are not love itself, but rather facets of it.
On the surface it would seem that addiction is a different thing entirely, but it’s surprising how much these two ideas can overlap. There are two levels of meaning for addiction – one is the etymological root, addictio, which simply indicates a surrender or giving something over. In modern times, however, we interpret this more as an enslavement, habits or practices so traumatically habit-forming that the person caught in the habit sustains lasting and significant psychological or physical damage. This puts addictive love on its own level, and as you can imagine it can lead to some pretty dangerous places if it is left to its own devices.
Thomas Moore, the author and spiritual leader, maintains that most of our addictive behaviors are brought on by us misinterpreting and distorting our soul’s longing. Over the years I have come to notice that when we are not truly in touch with who we are, we don’t really know what we want or need. This can lead to us regressing to comfort behaviors we learned in childhood – potentially destructive ways to deal with perceived longings. In the case of being externally referenced in the “object love” catagory, oftentimes this can set us up for entering into addictive relationships again and again.
Being repetitive in itself is not a bad, thing, however – many of our successes count on us being able to engage in and repeat positive patterns. It’s when the repetitious behavior is destructive or harmful that we need to identify it and do something about it. If we can spot it, we can take the opportunity to look more deeply inward and examine our actions.
How boring is that, though? In a world full of interesting bad boys promising fun and adventure, opting for less drama may seem like the wrong choice… at first. If you are starting to suspect that you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people who engage in addictive relationship behavior each year, you might want to ask yourself the following:
Do you feel excited by a sense of the forbidden in your relationship?
Do you get antsy or agitated when you don’t know where this person is?
Do you feel like your attraction for this person is beyond your control or bigger than you?
Are you overcome with a natural high whenever you speak to this person?
Have you noticed that this persons values and behaviors are not like yours?
Do you find yourself rationalizing their behavior more and more as time goes on?
Do you find yourself doing and saying uncharacteristic things when you are around this person?
Do you go to extreme lengths to please this person or be sexy for them, hoping that they will remain interested in you?
Do you find reasons to stay in the relationship even though you know it’s unhealthy or even a dangerous addiction?
Have some of your other important relationships (family, friends) been damaged by this relationship?
Do you feel increasingly unfulfilled by the direction the relationship is heading?
Do you know somewhere inside that this is not the right person for you, yet you still don’t leave?
Being aware is important, and it’s a great starting point if you think you may be addicted to your relationship. Having the strength to look at your own situation in an objective way takes a lot of courage. So here’s what I would say: if you are in a dependent relationship that you think edges over toward addiction, start keeping a journal and make note of anything that seems suspicious to you. There are plenty of groups out there that help people deal with the patterns that lead to addictive relationships, and they can help support you in your quest to attain a healthy love life. If you’re at a loss for where to start, find a local chapter of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.