Addictive Love and Codependency

Posted on January 5th, 2012

What is the difference between being deeply attached and being codependent? What defines codependency? Can love be an addiction and if so, why? If a person realizes that they are in such a relationship pattern, is there a way to find more healthy love?

Healthy Need Versus Codependency

In a mature love relationship, it is possible for both parties to feel a strong attachment by which each person feels that they need the other in some sense. Each person feels independent and yet senses that the other person enriches them just as they do for their partner.

Codependency describes a relationship in which the two people are in the relationship because neither one of them really feels capable of being on their own. A codependent relationship may occur when one partner is committed to helping the other overcome an addiction. While the partner seems to be devoted and giving of themselves, they actually need the other person to need their help. Simultaneously, the addicted partner bounces back and forth between intense gratitude (I can’t do this apart from you!) and resentment because they feel they are being smothered.

Love addiction is similar to codependency in its exchange of "we need one another" for "I need you to need me," but it goes further. Love addiction goes on to replace genuine intimacy with intensity. There is no mutual unveiling of self, but a need to be needed that is so strong that one person will allow themselves to be mistreated by the other in order to maintain the relationship. The dependency in the partnership outweighs the love between them.

Here are some symptoms of addictive love:

  • In a healthy relationship the two persons retain their individual identity. In an unhealthy relationship, neither person can define where one stops and the other person begins.
  • Neither party feels safe enough to risk changes. Everything must remain status quo because it is uncertain if the relationship could withstand change.
  • Drama and intensity have replaced intimacy or true self-sharing.
  • Scorekeeping and bartering are common.
  • Rather than deal with their own problems they focus on trying to solve the other person’s issues.
  • Inability to problem solve on your own.
  • Irrational fear of abandonment during any separation.
  • Making yourself responsible for the other person’s feelings.
  • Psychological power games where one partner dominates the other.
  • Failing to accept that some behaviors will not be tolerated in a relationship.
  • If you feel that any of the above mentioned describes you and your current or past relationships, consider contacting a counselor to talk about what may be lacking in your own self-esteem. The drive to be needed and to experience intense rather than intimate relationships can be gently explored without assigning blame. New and healthy patterns of relating are possible once you are able to admit that changes need to be made.

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