Romantic love can be all consuming. In the beginning stages of a relationship, one or both partners may be overwhelmed with feelings of affection for the other partner. Couples may want to spend all of their waking hours together and actually crave each other’s presence when apart. These feelings are not uncommon in many budding romances. However, when they persist and lead to unhealthy behaviors, this type of love can become destructive. Much like an addiction to drugs or alcohol, people who experience love addiction pursue their drug at the expense of their friendships, careers, family members, and even self-respect.
In a recent article, Dr. David Sack, a psychiatrist and addiction specialist, explains what love addiction is. He says that people who are in addictive relationships experience limerence, a term introduced by psychologist and author Dorothy Tennov to describe love obsession and dependence. Limerence mimics new romantic love, but unlike true love that constructively develops into reciprocal, mutual affection, limerence is usually destructive. When one partner exhibits limerent behaviors, they may begin to cross emotional and physical boundaries in order to secure the attention and affection they need. Even when the feelings are not returned, the limerent partner may continue to chase after the other partner. Sack says, “Behaviors may become dangerous, such as stalking or unwanted contact, and require outpatient or residential love addiction treatment, professional counseling, and/or 12-step work.”
Limerent relationships are not all bad. Although most end with one partner being rejected and hurt, some actually grow into healthy and mutually loving unions. Individuals who display limerent behavior in one relationship may continue to do so in future relationships, creating a pattern of destruction and disappointment. Sack suggests that individuals who believe they are involved in a limerent relationship, either by their own actions or those of their partner, work with a professional to identify the negative behaviors. Understanding the cause of the limerent patterns will help an individual become aware of why they behave the way they do and give them an opportunity to transform negative patterns into more positive and promising ones.
Sack, D. (2012, June 28). Limerence and the biochemical roots of love addiction. From the Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sack-md/limerence_b_1627089.html
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