For most, the answer to this question is yes. Of course we all crave a sense of validation and the love of others. Those are human needs. However, where the need for others’ love and approval becomes the sole criteria for our own sense of self worth, we cross the line between a healthy need and an addiction to love and approval. While love addiction is not yet a formally recognized addiction, love and approval addiction is arguably far more prevalent than any other substance or process addiction. One might say that we live in a love and approval addicted society.
What is love addiction?
At Life Works we appreciate how difficult life can be for the love and approval addict. Many of the clients that we see with love addiction appear to be enslaved to some of the following beliefs;
- My sense of happiness and well-being is entirely dependent upon whether I get love and attention from another person.
- I cannot make myself happy.
- Others are responsible for my feelings and state of mind. Therefore if someone cares about me, he or she can’t do anything to upset me.
- I cannot tolerate being alone.
- When I’m upset, it’s someone else’s fault.
- If someone rejects me, it means I am unworthy and unlovable.
Living and socialising from this belief system can be a very precarious act, for in order to obtain the needed love and approval one will necessarily have to say and do the right things all the time. As no human being is capable of honouring this insatiable need for approval and attention, chances are that the love addict will be on an emotional rollercoaster, which sees them swing between a high whenever they get their ‘fix’ (love and approval) to a low, when the source of their ‘fix’ is absent. Frequently these lows are accompanied by feelings of anger, resentment and deep hurt, for without the ability to self-soothe and love oneself one is dependent on external validation in order to once again feel good.
Adopting a new relational style
Love addiction is essentially rooted in self-abandonment and this vicious cycle of highs and lows, is often established in early life. Many with love addiction issues will have grown up in families where parents have displayed similar behaviours, and changing this relational style can be difficult although not impossible. An essential step in initiating this change is admitting to operating in this manner. Daring to take an honest look at what this behaviour has cost you and will cost you in the future if you are to carry on this way requires an open mind and an open heart. However, with conscious effort and a willingness to change, an inner transformation that improves the quality of your relationship with yourself and others is possible.