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Renate Vanaga https://unsplash.com/photos/qDRv0kP8zow

Is It LOVE or ADDICTION?

John would lure her back, buy her presents, promise a committed future.

Conflicts were fixed by sharing their true thoughts and feelings, not with sex.

You are not here to struggle with anger, guilt, and resentment

Surprisingly, it’s become difficult for many lovers to connect in lasting intimacy. Dating has almost become a thing of the past, and apps practically guarantee instant gratification. When physical attraction and hooking up take precedence over getting to know someone, you run the risk of an addiction, rather than true love. There are clear differences.

A Strong Foundation

Love, at first sight, might be exciting, but like a firecracker, it’s soon to fizzle out. Secure attachments do not happen instantly. Getting to know each other and building positive memories create safety and trust, a necessity for enduring times of stress and uncertainty.

Norbert Buduczki  https://unsplash.com/photos/tM-AOYwCK_Y

Tall, blonde Betty met buff, brown-haired John on a dating app. Their magnetic attraction bypassed coffee or lunch and led them directly to the bedroom. But after a few weeks, the fighting began. John would ignore Betty, but then reappear for wild sex after a few days. They’d be okay for a while, but soon the cycle continued.

Breaking Up Rather than Breaking Through

Addictive relationships are always teetering on the edge of a cliff. Since problem-solving skills aren’t a part of the arrangement, breaking up is the go-to solution. Both parties suffer frustration until the relationship explodes. Then, rather than either person making the internal change necessary to break through, they break up. Like any addiction, the mind conjures up euphoric recall, and they reunite in imaginary bliss. The pattern continues until one person wakes up and decides to end the insanity.

Susan Q Yin https://unsplash.com/photos/Ctaj_HCqW84

John and Betty continued the break-up/make-up pattern for years. When John would abandon her and get back on the dating app, Betty also acted out her pain with other men. Once the tables were turned, John would lure her back, buy her presents, promise a committed future, and Betty would succumb to his seductions. But no one changed, so the cycle continued.

Growing Together

If a person does decide to grow, one or the other often sabotages the progress. People in addictive relationships are unconsciously reliving what they lacked in childhood or witnessed from their parents’ relationships. There is an underlying desire to right the past and bring dysfunction to love. But this can’t happen without a conscious effort.

If either person would recognize what’s happening, they could use the past to heal the present. For example, someone might say, “I realize I’m triggered when you block my calls and won’t speak to me. My mother/father would shut down on me, and I felt like I didn’t exist.” By being vulnerable and sharing each other’s triggers, they could move past the walls they repeatedly hit.

After six mostly miserable years, Betty focused on changing herself. Through therapy, new friends and interests, she stopped trying to get false love from John and learned to love herself. It wasn’t easy, but instead of longing for the fantasized Adonis, she’d do something good for herself. Finally, after several relapses, she told John she was grateful for the growth opportunities, but they both deserved better, and this time she meant it.

Intimacy vs. Sex

Hot sex might be fun, but it’s more of a mental high than physical gratification. The initial intensity doesn’t last and often leads to boredom. The best sex evolves from discovering what excites each other and from feeling close and safe.

A year after breaking up with John, Betty met Sam at a volunteer event. Once they started talking, they realized they had a lot in common. The following week they met for lunch and were forthcoming about relationship goals. After deciding they were on the same page, Betty and Sam started dating. They took it slow and focused on building a friendship. Conflicts were fixed by sharing their true thoughts and feelings, not with sex. Over the next year, their confidence in the relationship led to a permanent commitment.

Relationships have one purpose, to share and receive love. If a relationship runs on unresolvable conflict, use it to heal your past or move on. The bottle of alcohol will not change into sparkling water. You must realize that if you don’t take the first sip, you won’t get hurt again. Until you decide to change, the addiction will continue to consume you and, slowly over time, it will rob you of many precious moments.

You are not here to struggle with anger, guilt, and resentment, followed by delusional reunions. Be willing to face the underlying fear that pushes you to return to a relationship that does not serve either person. Once you replace those fears with self-love, you can escape the addiction maze and find the love you were meant to have.

Donna Marks Avatar