The “Dance” of Love: The Love Addict vs The Love Avoidant
Author: Shernide Delva
An article in Addiction Today recently delved deep into love addiction and avoidance. While reading it, there were definitely aspects that I related to and moments where I thought, “That sounds familiar!” We all cope with love and emotions differently. Personally, I find myself leaning on the love avoidant side, insecure with the prospect of becoming vulnerable. The love avoidant seeks shelter in independence and self reliance. Learning to grow through becoming aware of your emotional walls will strengthen the opportunities you have for an intimate healthy relationship. After reading this, you may find that you identify with one side of the spectrum more than the other.
The Love Addict vs The Love Avoidant
A childhood immersed in fairytales (Cinderella anyone?) can make the love addict believe that the answer to loneliness lies in the arms of Mr. or Miss Right. It hits them with such intensity that the search for a perfect partner begins. For a love addict, they are attached to the idea of Prince Charming. They are enraptured by the fantasy of a relationship.
Enter in the love avoidant. The love avoidant believes they can rescue the addict. Such relationships are built on “if only”: “If only she talked less… If only he talked more…If only he took me out at night…If only she didn’t nag”
Love addiction/avoidance is the underlying component in the lives of many. The love addict and love avoidant coupling has been going on for centuries and it is still promoted in today’s digital age. It is no surprise then that many people end up with cold or broken hearts in these types of relationships.
What is love addiction?
Love addiction is defined as a coping mechanism in which “an individual is obsessed with a fantasy he/she has created about another person, believing he/she is ‘loving’ the other but in fact objectifying the other person through the use of the fantasy.” (Pia Mellody)
This perception of fantasy is usually started in childhood by parents who hide behind an emotional wall. As children, it’s impossible for a child to rationalize that the emotional wall is their parent’s personal issues so the child blames themselves and feels “less than.”
As the love addict enters adulthood, they believe that if nobody takes care of them, they will not only be alone, but they will be unable to survive. Therefore, in relationships, the love addict has very little, if any, personal boundaries becoming resentful and creating intensity in order to keep the relationship alive.
Love addicts live in a chaotic world fearful of being alone or rejected. They search endlessly for the person who can make them feel whole. Love addict typically have many opportunities to experience the love they think they want but they are more attracted to “falling in love” than the peaceful intimacy of a healthy relationship.
As a result, their daily lives focus on finding “the one.” Everything from going to the gym or doing hobbies or activities, even interactions, is based on this mission to find the love of their lives. The love addict is obsessed with the prospect of love. Are you the love addict? No?
Maybe, you are the love avoidant.
What is a love avoidant?
The definition of a love avoidant is “the systematic use of relational walls during intimate contact in order to prevent feeling overwhelmed by the other person. The love avoidant associates ‘love’ with duty or work.”
This coping mechanism is the result of a child being parented by an adult with no personal boundaries. Often the child feels “responsible” for another adult’s happiness, sometimes their survival. In this scenario, the child loses all sense of self and starts believe that esteem is directly related to how much they take care of other people.
So for a love avoidant, being in a relationships involves making sure walls are up to reduce the intensity within a relationship as the risk of showing vulnerability is simply inconceivable.
Love avoidance is rarely talked about but it’s something that many, me included, suffer from.
So what are the signs of a love avoidant personality?
1. Fear of intimacy and emotional closeness
For an avoidant, intimacy equals the risk of being hurt. In a healthy relationship, intimacy is essential however the love avoidant avoids it at all costs. Emotional closeness is the love avoidant’s ultimate fear. For the avoidant, intimacy is correlated to suffocation and being controlled. The love avoidant uses boundaries to make intimacy more difficult to obtain in a relationship dynamic.
2.What you see is not what you get…
The love avoidant changes in the relationship from a hero to suddenly becoming a cold, unavailable or unreliable partner. The love avoidant begins using coping mechanism to avoid getting closer to their partner.
The partner perceives these actions as the love avoidant is not “committed” to the relationship. The love avoidant will do anything to avoid intimacy such as making themselves extremely busy and creating drama to avoid physical intimacy. When you start to feel, do you back away? Those are all signs of love avoidance.
3. The presence of an addiction or a compulsive problem
It is very common for the love avoidant to submerse them in addictive behavior to keep people away. From substance abuse to behavior addiction, the avoidant will do anything to escape connection.
From my perspective, piling up responsibilities and avoiding social situations would inhibit me from facing dating opportunities or opening up to the idea of love or a relationship.
4. Resistant to help
The love avoidant is highly resistant to asking for professional help, either for themselves or their relationship. Asking for help would require the ability to openly be vulnerable and emotional connection is what the love avoidant fears the most.
The article goes on to say that love addict and love avoidant will inevitably find each other because the love addict will look for someone who will “save” them while the love avoidant wants to “rescue” someone. This is known as “the dance” Here’s one of many examples the article notes on how the dance occurs between the love addict and the love avoidant:
At the beginning of the relationship, the love addict is very responsive to the avoidant’s seductiveness and enters the relationship in a haze of fantasy. The love avoidant, fearful of hurting them, feels compelled to take care of the “needy” person:
Addict: “I am SOOOOO happy…I met this man and he’s everything I’ve always wanted…he has a fantastic job, loves travelling and loves children. We’re trying to see each other every day and we text each other at least 50 times a day….”
Avoidant: “I met this guy, I’m not too sure, but he’s nice, I mean… I may as well give it a try….”
So why do the love addict and love avoidant find each other?
Essentially, the article states that the love addict has a conscious fear of being abandoned and a subconscious fear of being alone. In contrast, the love avoidant has conscious fear of being controlled and a subconscious one of being abandoned. So they are both very similar, just on two ends of the spectrum. Both will lean onto each other unknowing of the underlying reasons that cause the two to gravitate toward each other.
In conclusion, learning about love addiction and love avoidance helps to promote boundaries and reflection in a relationship. Counseling can help remove the ideologies we have on what it means to be in a relationship. Exploring and receiving coaching can help establish healthy levels of emotional intimacy. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.