Category Archives: connection

Relationship Addiction

Hi.

My name is Amy and I am a relationship addict.

Yes, it is a thing. A very real and very debilitating thing.

From Ann Smith via Psychology Today:

The relationship addict experiences intense “abandonment anxiety”. This anxiety triggers panic, low self worth, feelings of emptiness, isolation, and possibly depression. The addict may believe they are worthless without their partner. They almost always feel unbearable emptiness. Love addiction is a compulsive, chronic craving and/or pursuit of romantic love in an effort to get our sense of security and worth from another person. The causes of love addiction are fairly easy to identify: inadequate or inconsistent nurturing, low self esteem, absence of positive role models for committed relationships, and indoctrination with cultural images of perfect romantic love and happily ever after endings.

It dawned on me as I said goodbye to the last relationship I was in, just a week or so ago, that something wasn’t right with the way I was reacting to the loss. Something felt off, so I did what I do best, I did some investigative work on myself and my behavior. I took a look back at my actions with this person, within the relationship, and found myself kind of disgusted. I wasn’t necessarily shocked to discover that nothing about my behavior had been healthy or ‘normal’, just kind of disappointed. It was a realization that I didn’t want to make or admit.

But deep down, I knew that it was time to deal with it.

Finally.

I am addicted to love.

I was a rollercoaster of emotion and anxiety during my last relationship (something I thought was just me, in addition to my current grief over the divorce). I thought my explosive (head-over-heels love) and intense emotion was fueled by love and my big, huge heart. But, my anxiety would be more pronounced when I wouldn’t hear from him for longer than a few hours or, god forbid, an entire day. I would feel nothing short of despondent; panicky. And when his feelings didn’t seem to match my own in intensity or explosiveness, I got even more anxious and more emotional. It was exhausting. I have no idea why he put up with me.

Since we have said our respective goodbyes, I have been an anxious wreck. Mornings seem to be the hardest. I wake up, and without that good morning check-in fix, I feel anxious, undone, and completely alone.

To be perfectly honest, I feel terrified. But of what, I have no idea (a fact that is really pissing me off). I am home alone right now and literally just screamed to no one: “What the fuck are you so afraid of?!” And promptly burst into tears. Sigh.

I have a feeling that this is going to be a long, hard, uphill battle.

I have been this way for as long as I can remember. Ever since boys noticed me in the 8th grade (and I noticed them back). I suspect that the behavior took root because I grew up in a home without a father and had an emotionally distant mother who I didn’t easily connect with. I watched my father die and never had a male role model. After his death, my mother relied on me to be the other parent in the household. I was 9. Perhaps, as a result, I was left with a void, a hole, severely low self-esteem, and a debilitating fear of abandonment.

From http://www.loveaddictiontreatment.com:

Love (and relationship) addicts are terrified of abandonment. They rely on others to fulfill them, and to make them feel happy and whole. Without their love object, they feel worthless and incomplete. This is often due to a lack of love and nurturing from their primary caregivers while growing up. The abandonment they experienced may have been emotional (i.e. – their parents were physically present but emotionally detached), or physical – one or both of their parents left, died, was ill, or absent much of the time.

Perhaps my childhood ended at age 9? I am almost 43. That is 34 years of emptiness. Holy crap.

*shudder*

From what I have read, true love addiction is less about the search for love and more about finding a way to control tough emotions. Going from one relationship to another without any room for grieving, mourning, or processing through a previous loss means getting to avoid feeling those tough emotions. I thought I had a failsafe way to avoid dealing with my father’s death and subsequent abandonment shit when I married my first husband.

But that relationship didn’t satisfy me, so I found another more exciting guy and married him. We lasted 16 years. I thought I would be safe forever; we had 2 kids! That meant commitment – a guarantee, a promise, right?

Holy shit. NO.

When my second marriage failed, I had no choice but to deal with the grief from my father’s death (finally) which came back in one giant terrifying matzoh ball of horror. When that train wreck came, in addition to grieving my marriage and my family, it is no surprise that I ended up in the hospital.

But wait, I didn’t I really have to deal with any of it, did I? After I got out of the hospital, my subconscious knew just what to do. I did what I had always done when a relationship ended or seemed unsatisfying. I jumped right back into online dating and I hopped right into a new romance. Surely this new and exciting person would save me and help me feel better and I would be happy?!

Again, holy shit. NO.

Since the split a year ago, I have had 3 relatively serious, sexually intimate relationships. When each one ended, I broke all over again. They were unhealthy relationships (though I didn’t think so or realize it at the time) as they were a means of getting that love ‘fix’ and avoiding the big, huge, debilitating emotions that accompany being alone (for me). I was still hiding from my demons; my inability to feel whole, complete, or satisfied with who I am as a person without that constant need for external validation. Seeking internal validation from external sources for most of my life has done so much damage I really don’t know where to begin picking up the pieces.

For me, being alone feels like I am dying. And right now, in this moment, I feel like I am dying. The longest I have ever been single was a mere few weeks when I was 19 years old. It was during that time period that I had a suicide attempt. That is how scary it felt then. It feels just as scary now but thankfully, I am 42 and have 2 beautiful children that anchor me to this world.

I know that this realization/admission is huge. I know I am on the right path and acknowledging my underlying behaviors and motivations has felt very scary but also very empowering.

Life and love feel like this big ball of tangled up shit that I have to finally sit down with, examine, and sort through. On my own. My goal is to be single for 6 months.

That is not until April. Gulp.

Am I scared? Hell yes. I am completely terrified.

I have been leaking out my power and my essence and my very self all over the damn place. It stops now.

It is time for me to go and find all of my missing pieces. And put myself back together.

I am Rebuilding Amy.

 

 

Resources on love and relationship addiction for you:

http://www.loveaddictiontreatment.com/the-roots-of-love-addiction/

http://loveaddicts.org/40questions.html

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L.O.V.E.

I have been having some of the most beautiful and poignant discussions around love lately. What it looks like, what it feels like, how it grows or fades, what it needs to blossom, and what it takes to make it go away.

Because let’s be honest, sometimes we do need to make it go away.

*this post might be super abstract for many of you. I have a very visual mind and will do my best to paint you a good picture with my words*

In my mind, love is a linear spectrum. It is all pink-hued and soft at the beginning; gentle, bubbly and quiet. As it progresses from left to right, the colors subtly shift from pinks to deeper pinks, (I would say mauve, but I abhor that color), to fiery reds, and deep blood-colored burgundies.

After careful consideration and lots of processing with friends, it is my opinion that this love-line, if you will, works something like this:

Everyone has their own love-line for every relationship they enter into (I am really only speaking about romantic love here). You have one whenever your heart finds someone – regardless of whether or not that love is reciprocated. It progresses from left to right and, for some people, it can start off explosive and fast. For others, it might be a slow and steady progression or perhaps a slow and steady surprise. It begins as infatuation, then perhaps a crush, then you might be struck dumb when you realize you have some serious feelings brewing for someone.

But here is the catch; new love can only progress to a certain point. That first tickle of love can only move forward on this continuum of love if it is reciprocated. If it isn’t, then alas, your love will get stuck there and you are essentially left with a heart that feels full to bursting and has no where to go.

Yeah, ouch. We have all been there and it hurts like hell.

Now, let’s say that you have that crush, you are head-over-heels for someone and that love is requited? That is when you have that forward momentum toward the far right end of the spectrum. That is when love can grow and deepen and blossom into a love that can last for years and builds itself a home in your DNA. That love can fade, but the essence of it stays with you forever. That is the love I have for my ex-husband. It will never leave – it is a part of me. And that is okay.

I need to address this aspect of ‘love’ as well: What if your love continues to move toward the right end of the spectrum without being reciprocated? It is my opinion, that perhaps you might have entered into a space of unhealthy stalker-like tendencies. I would venture to say that this is a psychological issue of some kind and you should seek professional help. I am dead serious.

So, how does a person who finds themselves stuck in the bursting, crushing-hard, love stage make it stop when that love is unrequited and has no where to go? Boundaries! Big, fat, hard, scary boundaries. The only way forward, toward letting go and healing, is to wean yourself off of the drug that is love and go cold turkey, right into a stage of zero contact.

Research shows us that falling in love is indeed akin to being on drugs.

This is an excerpt from a post by Shauna H Springer Ph.D.

Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and relationship researcher, conducted a series of illuminating studies on the brain chemistry of love. Specifically, she found that the same brain chemicals (that is, massive amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine ) are in play, and many of the same brain pathways and structures are active when we are falling in love and enjoying a cocaine-high.***

Consider the specific euphoric effects of smoking crack cocaine. In the short run, according to the website cocaine.org, smoking crack cocaine leads to enhanced mood, heightened sexual interest, a feeling of increased self-confidence, greater conversational prowess and intensified consciousness… “It offers the most wonderful state of consciousness, and the most intense sense of being alive [that] the user will ever enjoy.”****

You need to rid yourself of that drug that is love. Once and for all. Completely. Block a phone number if you have to, delete them from social media, steer clear if they are in your social circles. This advice may seem extreme, but for me, it has worked in the past and gotten me to a space where I was able to let that love fizzle and fade and come back around to a space of a deep and solid friendship with a former crush. But I could not have done that without the no-contact rule. It took a whopping 23 days and now he is one of my closest friends – and I don’t feel anything other than a deep, friend-love for him.

Once again, I am currently stuck on the left side of this love-line; the pink, effervescent side. It is unrequited, and I am in that space of having to back off and untangle my heart and travel backward and let go. Back to myself, alone. I love easily because I walk around with my big, open heart right on my sleeve. It finds connection in the strangest places and I have no choice but to go along for the ride. I have tried casual, I have tried slowing down, and though I did manage those things for a time, it isn’t really a comfortable state of being for me when my heart wants OUT.

But here is the thing – something I am coming to understand and accept about myself, is this:

When my heart gets involved, I don’t do casual. I don’t do half-assed. I don’t do lukewarm. I dive in headfirst, with a fearless and reckless abandon. I may be too much for some people, but the truth is, most people are not enough for me.

I was told once, by a wonderful guy, that he wanted to ‘steer’ the relationship, He told me that if I were the one to take the reins, I would drive us straight off of a cliff.

And he was right.

But I would rather have someone hold my hand and jump off with me, than go in circles, endlessly, forever.

 

Age. Apparently, It’s a Thing.

I am finally acknowledging something that hurts to admit.

My age is starting to bug me. It is becoming a ‘thing’ my mind keeps coming back to. And per usual, I need to pay some attention to these thoughts; to process through them and make sense of the acute physical distress they are currently causing me.

I didn’t mind growing older until now. Age made no difference! I had a husband and a family. I had my partner in life and in love; we were growing old together! That was the plan, god damnit! Now that I seem to be growing old alone, I feel sick to my stomach about what this means. I constantly feel the pressure of time; and I feel as though it is running out.

I can’t explain why, but I feel terrified and alone and scared. This is causing me distress and the fact that it is causing me distress is pissing me off. Royally.

Get it together Amy!

I don’t want to feel old. I don’t want age to be a ‘thing’ but fuck, it is and I cannot ignore it any longer.

I have no idea why it is that I seem to keep connecting with people who are 10-15 years younger than I am. I am one of the older people in many of these new social circles I seem to gravitate toward. I am starting to feel self-conscious, a new feeling for me. Is it because I am in this new ‘adolescent’ stage in my life? I am literally rediscovering who I am and where I fit into the world, and this has me out and about, meeting new people all the damn time. But why should it matter what age these new friends are?

I suppose that most people my age have families and marriages and lives that involve family stuff. I don’t have that any more (that fact still hurts like a mother fucker). But at the same time, I don’t want that. I don’t want that life of complacency or stagnation. I don’t ever want to stop learning, growing, or playing. That doesn’t seem like really living to me.

At all.

I want adventure and laughter and new experiences. I want a partner in life and love. Explosive love! Unhinged, unabashed, unfiltered LOVE. Bring it.

(And yet, don’t. Because I am scared shitless of getting hurt again).

I seem to like younger men and society dictates that I am a ‘cougar’ because of this. I do not like that label. Actually, I fucking hate it. It is disgusting and rampantly sexist. Being called a so-called ‘cougar’ takes away from who I am as a fucking HUMAN BEING. I am a woman, and my age or my status in life should not be what define me. Sure, those things make up an integral part of who I am, but I am much more than that ridiculous label would imply.

I don’t like being called a MILF either. Aside from the gazillion reasons this label is offensive, I know exactly why it irks me. Being referred to as a so-called ‘mother-I’d-like-to-fuck’ defines me in terms of my physical self and also in regard to my kids. I am literally in the process of clawing my way back to myself outside of that role. It has taken a momentous amount of energy to untangle those cords that bind me to my children.

Labels such as these make me feel ashamed and embarrassed – like there is something wrong with me. Age doesn’t matter! (That is what I tell myself, constantly). A connection is a connection regardless of how old I am or how old someone else is. But I can feel myself silently snickering – laughing behind my back so to speak. This older woman hanging out with much younger people. It turns my stomach and makes me feel like some hopeless loser chasing something that doesn’t exist. A life that isn’t for me. I feel separate; like an outside observer.

I am also endlessly running in circles trying to figure out my path as far as all of this romantic/love shit goes. I am drawn to real, genuine, honest people who are doing the hard work of knowing themselves and working on themselves. It doesn’t matter if they are 27 or 37. At this point in my life, I can recognize a meaningful connection within the first 5 minutes of being near someone. I have come to understand that I am a highly intuitive person with a gift for connecting with people. My heart is huge and I am still trying to be ok with this – to celebrate it instead of curse it as I get hurt again and again.

This post isn’t going to end with something uplifting or happy.

I can’t bring that to you today and for that, I am sorry.

When I sit, and give all of these nagging thoughts about age and time a voice, I feel like an old lady. I feel used up, beat up, like a weirdo with kids and a life of responsibility. I feel like I’ve lost an entire decade of my life. My marriage feels like it was a joke. Resentment toward my children rears its ugly head and I feel a loss so deep I feel scared I will never be able to move past it.

Big, deep sigh.

Connection

Connection.

Why is it so important?

Why does something so (seemingly) simple hold so much weight?

I know connection is what is missing from my life. Real, genuine, meaningful connection. I have interactions with other humans throughout my day; the small and the large variety of bipedal creatures. I am blessed with wonderful people that I chat with at work, online, on the phone. But those connections are brief and generally not diving into the deep end of the pool. We, as human beings, absolutely prefer the shallow end of things. We feel safest there.

The connection I am longing for is the one with that person you can bare your soul to and feel safe in doing so. That someone who is on your same wave length, gets you, and whatever crazy you might bring to the table. You can share anything and everything with this person and they not only hear you, they see you, and they validate you.

So, why do I need this? Why do you need this? Why do we all absolutely need this?

I think it is the sharing of ourselves, our emotions, and our stories with other humans that makes us feel seen. Sharing our deepest and most vulnerable selves is gratifying and authenticating. When we have people in our lives who hold space for us, for our most secret selves, we become whole. That connection becomes a mirror in which we can see ourselves more clearly. We feel accepted for who we are. We become more adept at diving into that deep end.

We all have very rich inner lives; busy brains. We feel, we think, we love, we hurt. When we share those most vulnerable pieces of ourselves and the stories and emotions that go with them (in a safe space) our ability to be vulnerable is validated and supported, thereby making room for more vulnerability in the future.

Vulnerability –> Connection/Validation –> Increased Vulnerability

And we know now, that a life lived in a vulnerable and aware state, is the best and only way to live, right? We know that a life lived on the surface of things isn’t living at all. Don’t be a watcher or a surface dweller! Be a participant! Get in and get dirty!

We all have deep insecurities we wrestle with. Shit we may not even admit to ourselves. When we allow vulnerability into our lives as a daily practice, we are making room for those parts of us that feel uncertain; unsafe. When I sit in a meeting with my fourteen 4-yr-olds at work and I cry, I tell them I am okay and that it is okay to cry.

I can cry on the phone with my sister now. It has taken me years to be able to do this. And I’ll tell you something, every time I cry and open up to her, I feel better.

With practice (sadly, I’ve had lots lately), I can bare my soul and my sadness to people and when they see me and hold space for me, it reinforces this fact: I know I will be okay. With every hurt and every gaping wound, I grow stronger and simultaneously more vulnerable. I feel and I share and I learn and I grow. It would seem that we have ourselves another paradox. Being vulnerable creates room for joy, pain, connection, growth, and strength.

I think that the connection I lost when my marriage ended has been the single most devastating part of this shit-show of a divorce. When you live with, and love someone for 16 years, you speak your own language, you have inside jokes that literally no one else would understand. I miss that like an ache in my chest. When that connection is severed, you are left reeling and wondering who the fuck you are without it.

I thought I had found the possibility of that again, just recently, and I opened myself up and allowed love and vulnerability back into my life. And now I am hurting again nearly as badly as I was last fall. And it’s the loss of the connection – the validation – that hurts the most.

This leads me down a path that I don’t want to go down. But trudge on, I must.

Shouldn’t I be okay without that connection? Shouldn’t I feel validated and whole on my own without someone externally reinforcing my sense of self? Yes? No? I don’t know???

I love being alone. I struggle with feeling alone. I love my independence. I struggle with not having anyone at home to talk to.

I shall investigate this further at another time when I am not so utterly exhausted. I will leave you with this little gem:

The other day I had a conversation with some lettuce.

I can’t believe I just admitted that.