At least I've admitted I have a problem. That's the first step, no?
I'm B.A. Marvell and I'm a love addict. (Note: this is Love Addicts Anonymous and that's not my real name.)
I wanted this piece to be deeply personal, but the truth is I'm not ready to get into the whole mess of me. I don't know if I ever will be.
Let's put it this way, though: I've put more than a year of my life into a love addiction, which I'll define non-clinically as "a habitual need for the attention and returned love of a love object, who, more likely than not, doesn't return the feeling."
I've been told it's called limerence and the official definition is: "The state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one's feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship."
Like all things with love, I'm not convinced there's a good definition. The relationship-ish thing I speak of is over, but I still hope for some sign that I didn't just imagine the feelings he seemed to have. Maybe it was just limerence on my part, maybe it was more on both of ours; turning these questions over in my mind is part of the problem.
But here, an example of how dark it can get: Me, crying in the shower many a morning and chanting a mantra, "He doesn't love me. He never loved me. He never will."
It still hurts. Every day. Unless I squelch the entire addictive tendency, I'll likely have limerent feelings for this person until a new limerent object comes along. Some days I tell myself that I'm not going to get over it, and that's fine. I'm a writer; I'm supposed to feel a bit broken, right? (Healthy, I know.)
I get through it by quoting poets and playwrights to myself. Especially things like, "The heart will break but broken live on." (Lord Byron, poor guy.) I get through it trying to be grateful for my reality, which includes a family who loves me.
So, to get on with it, the following signs you may be a love addict are just from me, my own experience (which is more complicated than I'm even stating here). I'm not remotely trained at this head-and-heart stuff. I'm not a therapist. (There's a better checklist on love addiction here, for those of you dealing with it.)
1. You love how things feel in the beginning.
I love the discovery phase, the wooing phase, the phase where it all seems to click.
2. You fantasize often.
Being a writer is a real "ugh" factor here. I can tell myself stories about the person of my dreams and how they feel the same way. I can read subtext into dialogue where there is none. In short, I can construct whatever world I want and then be crushed when the world isn't as I made it.
3. Your attraction to the other person upends reality.
In the beginning, when all those chemicals are swirling and the charm offensive is all in-your-face and in-your-pants, I see no reason whatsoever that the rose-colored glasses ever have to come off. With my love object, there were massive complications (my family, among other things), even if we had pursued a real relationship.
But I frequently told myself that love can conquer all, even though 1) I don't know if he loved me, and 2) Getting into the nitty-gritty of our situation was ridiculously complicated and probably would've sent me running if I really had to sort through it.
4. You think everything will naturally fall into place.
This is habitual. Any big-time crush I've had, I've always thought, "Well, if we're together, everything else will make sense." I think I'll finally write more, finally get my sh*t together, finally make sense of my world. I imagine my heart will finally land where it needs to be and build a nest decorated by inner peace, harmony and frequent, always-inventive sex.
And why would I think that? In what world does finding your partner mean things just fall into place? Get a grip! Also, always-inventive sex is overrated; switch it up now and then fine, but if you know your partner's pleasure centers and points, why do you have to reinvent the wheel all the time? The wheel is happy doing its wheel things.
5. You find more meaning in words than actions.
The guy who always shows up and takes care of things, who supports my dreams by making things easier for me to attend to them? I probably take him for granted. (Fact: I do.) But the guy spinning yarns and quoting poems, and making me believe he can see inside this dark heart of mine because he can recite a little Yeats from memory? He's the one, even though I know actions should speak louder.
6. You're always pining, but he/she isn't.
If you're really into me one day and the next all but gone, I'm all yours. I don't need to say more here. This isn't healthy.
7. You're bored by the thought of stability.
A calm and easy bond built on affection, trust, support — a partnership — well, that sounds like a commercial for a family car I don't want to drive.
I tell myself I want that stuff (or should want that stuff), but my brain lingers on the idea that every day should be a passionate tumult, a Heathcliff and Catherine affair: doomed but like your heart will be ripped out if you're not together. (I even once told aforementioned love object that "Don't we all just want that Wuthering Heights sh*t?" Surprisingly, to me, some people don't and are probably happier for it.)
8. You become competitive with yourself.
Maybe this is just me but, perhaps due to a deep emotional insecurity, when someone describes me as a superlative I eat it up and hope for more. I want to be the best, the most beloved, the most everything.
I fall for people who've been with a lot of people or who juggle a lot of people, in hopes of proving that I'm the most worthwhile and the most right and somehow valuable. (This is probably where loving myself first would really help.)
9. You obsess over him.
The guy I wanted to love me is with someone else. I do a lot of these things. In fact, I wrote an article based on my experience. No, I'm not proud.
10. You always fall for someone you can never fully have.
There are days when I think, if I just think hard enough about him, I can make him dream about me so intense that he wakes up in a sweat and, maybe, feels compelled to reach out.
A friend of mine told me, "I think you want this person because you've never fully HAD him." And he's probably right. (He's also a love addict.) If this guy suddenly wanted a real relationship with me and was a devoted and caring boyfriend, I'd probably get bored and go in search of someone new.
So, the problem is in me. For me, love is a drug. I get a high from attentions given mercurially and then drop into despair when the attentions wane.
Wondering if you suffer the same disease as me? Here's my best advice: Look at your patterns. Do you or have you kept a journal? Mine are mostly false starts, but when I look back I notice a theme. There's always a crush who's the answer to everything. When there wasn't a crush, there was a vow to find one.
At least I've admitted I have a problem. That's the first step, no?