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Are You In Love, or Just Emotionally Addicted?

  • 13 min read

Have you ever been angry at an ex for leaving you?

Maybe even so angry that you wanted to get revenge on the person you used to love?

Have you ever stayed in a relationship, even though deep down, you knew this person wasn’t right for you?

Most of us have. And if you didn’t, I’m sure you’ve met plenty of people who felt that way.

We all have a friend who keeps going back to the same person despite our warnings. We’ve all known someone who gets stalked by a crazy ex, or has a former lover actively trying to ruin their lives.

It’s safe to say you don’t want that drama in your life.

So if you currently feel like there’s someone you can’t let go of emotionally. Or someone who shouldn’t have made the mistake of leaving you, wouldn’t you like that feeling to go away?

The Difference Between Love and Emotional Addiction

The root cause of this behavior is a feeling that most people would describe as “love”. But the truth is that it has little to do with it.

Let’s say you fall in love with someone. You start a relationship, and as a result, both of you are disgustingly happy all the time. You sleep together every night, you do every little thing together. You feel like you’ve met your “other half”. The person to make you “whole again”.

But then one day out of nowhere, they come up to you and say “I’m sorry. I don’t love you anymore. We’re breaking up.”

That’s it… There was no cheating. There was no malicious intent. They just didn’t love you anymore and left.

How would you react?

Obviously it would break your heart. And you’d need some time to get over it. I think anyone would feel like that.

But would there be any other feelings beside that grief?

Would you get mad at them for leaving you without first trying to fix things?

For robbing you of the amazing future you had together?

Would you feel so depressed about it that you couldn’t continue living your normal life?

Those are all common reactions. I’ve seen a lot of people treat each other in horrible ways after a breakup. I’ve also seen people treat each other equally bad when they were still together.  Which usually happened when one of them was scared the other might leave them.

Because they occur in relationships, these situations often seem to be painful aspects of “love”. But they are not.

In fact, these situations may be a sign that the person is not really in love.

They are just with someone who makes them feel good about themselves. And the thought of that feeling being taken from them is something they can’t stand. So if that person would take the feeling away from them, they would do anything to get it back.  And if they can’t achieve that, they’ll hold a grudge.

When you read what I just wrote there, would you say that description would be a good one to put under “LOVE” in the dictionary?

Of course not. That’s not love at all. It’s attachment and dependency.

If that is what you feel, a heroin addict is not “in love” with heroin any less than you are with your partner. It’s the same emotional addiction, just a more beautiful subject, and more culturally accepted.

“I can’t live without you” may sound like a romantic compliment in Hollywood movies. But if you think about what it really means, it’s not that romantic at all. It basically says “I use you like a drug. I need the effect you have on my psychological state, or I will not be able to function normally and may die of withdrawal symptoms.”

True love, would sound more like: “I feel great with or without you. But I choose to have you in my life everyday because I absolutely adore the person that you are. If you would be happier without me, then go do that. Do whatever is best for you, but I’d be delighted if that includes me somewhere.”

Who Is The “Love” Really About?

If you just read that whole description and start to suspect that you or your partner may be emotionally addicted to each other, it’s very tempting to think “but we also love each other!”.

When you are emotionally addicted to someone, I can imagine it feels that way. Like they’re the only person in the world who can make you happy like that.

But the truth is, when what you feel towards someone is “I love you, but only if you never leave me. Then I will hate you.” …then what you are feeling has nothing to do with the person you think you love. The only thing it means is that you’re afraid of being left alone.

People usually think that the more effort they do to “hold on” to someone, the more it shows how much they care about them. But it doesn’t. It only shows how much you care about yourself, and about not being alone.

In contrast to love, these emotional addictions never lead to anything good.  With possible long-term consequences ranging from chronic stress and constant fighting, all the way to murder or suicide (in extreme cases).

Sure, it may be possible to love someone and also be emotionally addicted. But in such a case, the addiction will most likely stand in the way of either of you truly experiencing that love.

The Abundance Illusion

Most of the people I coach come to me for dating advice. I’m also active in a lot of online communities about it.  There’s a great variety of mindsets among people in there, ranging from severely damaged to highly conscious.  And they all have in common that they want to get better at relationships.

One very common piece of advice given to young men in these groups, to cure their emotional dependency, is this:

“You need to have an abundance of women in your life. If she is the only person you have, then it will make you desperate and clingy. But if you know you always have others, you’ll act less needy. Being less needy will make you more attractive too.”

On the surface this makes a lot of sense. I used to believe it as well.

But a couple of years ago, something happened that made me realize this is not true.

I was in between 2 relationships and not looking for a new one. I went out every single night. I often did it alone without telling my friends. Because being alone would force me to talk to strangers and get very good at it. This really improved my social skills and appreciation for all kinds of different people. And of course, a lot of those people were women. So it led to having that whole “abundance” thing dating coaches are so excited about.

At first, I enjoyed this abundance of casual sex a lot. But one night something happened:

I was with a woman, and I started to get a weird feeling about me. There were some things she said and did that made me think she actually didn’t care whether I was having a good time or not.

I became aware that she looked at me as if a was just a cock, which unfortunately had some guy attached to it. (I guess many women who read this can relate to that feeling.)

This made me stop and think for a moment.

If all this woman cared about was me making her fell pleasure for a moment, but she didn’t give a fudge about me… Then why was I there? Was I doing the same thing as here? Just using a stranger to feel good?

I guess I was. She was pretty and friendly. But I didn’t specifically like her better than other people.

After that night, I started to observe myself.  And I realized that of all the “abundance” of women I had in my life, most of them were not in it because I liked them more than other people. They were only in my life, because they were pretty and didn’t act in ways I don’t tolerate. And I used them to create this illusion of “abundance” that made me believe I wasn’t emotionally addicted to anyone.

But that was not true.  I was tricking myself, just like many other single people with an active sex life.  And here’s why:

I’ve written about quitting alcohol before, and how it changed my views on addiction.

In relationships, it’s the same thing.

Just because you have multiple (potential) partners in your life that make you less worried about one of them leaving you, doesn’t mean you’re not emotionally addicted anymore.

Like I said, the emotional addiction is not about the other person, it’s about you.

So having “abundance” in your dating life doesn’t fix anything.

All it does is give you more people you can use to try fill the emptiness inside you with. Good job!

But the way you relate to those people is actually still the same. Sure, you’re not clinging to one person anymore. But you’re still clinging to “women” or “men” (or both) as a concept.

The Fear of Being Alone

When this is the case, you’re clinging to other people because you fear being alone. Because there’s a big hole inside you somewhere. An emptiness that you don’t want to be confronted with. So you always try to be with someone who can fill that hole with happiness.

But other people will never be able to fill that hole for you (unless you’re a woman… or a man who’s into that).

The hole is bottomless. Anything that you put into it to try to fill it, will just fall out on the other side. You’ll enjoy the feeling of being fulfilled for a moment. But after that it’s gone. Just like you need another cigarette, another drink, or another piece of candy, you will need another dose of what you think is “love” in order to fulfil you.

So you will never be able to truly receive other people’s love as long as you put it in this hole. It will just fall through you.

The only way to fill that hole is to accept it. To learn to love yourself first. To love yourself with all your flaws, dark sides and mistakes. To love yourself until the hole is not only filled, but it becomes a cup that spills over. And you’re overflowing with love that you can now share with all the people you meet.

This all sounds like nice and poetic hippie garbage, but I promise you: People will notice it. It’s real.

What’s in it for you then?

Well, now that you’re no longer desperately trying to fill this emptiness inside you, you’ll also finally be able to receive someone else’s love and feel it in your entire being. Instead of just having it fall through the hole.

Then again, once you feel that way, you probably won’t be asking what’s in it for you anymore in the first place.  Because now, when you are with someone, it will be about the other person. While at the same time, you’ll love yourself enough to not stay with anyone that’s treating you badly.

Whether it’s a relationship, a friendship, or casual sex, it’s only healthy for you when it’s 2 people coming together who already are at peace with themselves, and appreciate each other.

Any sexual/romantic meeting, however brief, is at its most beautiful when it’s an EXPLORATION of each other, not an EXPLOITATION.

Exploring each other is an endless source of beauty.  Exploiting each other inevitably ends to you both feeling worse than you did at the start.

How to Learn to Love Yourself and Stop Being Afraid of Being Alone

It’s easy to confuse loving yourself with narcissism, but they’re actually polar opposites (I thought I wrote an article about that, but turns out I didn’t. Maybe later 😉 )

So learning to love yourself is not about constantly reminding yourself how awesome you are.

Instead, the first step is self-acceptance.

Be honest with yourself. How are you currently relating with the people in your life?

Would you get mad if they left?

Would you make all kinds of efforts to convince them not to?

If they did, would you seek revenge?

It’s okay if you do. The most important thing is that you admit, and accept it’s how you’re feeling right now. We all have emotional wounds. It’s okay. Now instead of continuing these patterns, seek help from a therapist.

If you’re afraid of ending up alone, confront that fear. Make a conscious choice to end up alone, for now…

It may seem like a horrible idea, like you need other people to be happy. But you can’t expect anyone to give someone a sense of well-being they don’t feel on their own.

If this is the case with you, the best thing you can do is be in a relationship with yourself first.

Take a break from dating, don’t have sex for a year for all I care. Get rid of your other addictions.

Spend lots of time alone. And I don’t mean alone watching TV or texting. I mean alone in silence with no distractions. Just observing your thoughts for a few days.

When you feel bored, don’t go hang with people. Be alone instead and don’t avoid the feeling.

Consider traveling alone.

Every night before you go to sleep, sit in silence with your eyes closed for 20 minutes and watch what happens inside you.

Spend as much time you need doing these things. The end result we’re going for here is you deeply realizing things like…

“Hey. Even though I prefer being with people, I can actually handle this world and its unexpected challenges. On my own.”


“If I WOULD be alone for 2 years, I’m pretty sure I would still be happy.”

Because from that point on, every friendship, relationship or casual encounter will be an enrichment to both of your lives. Not a requirement.

And you’ll start lifting each other up instead of using the other for your own happiness.

Doesn’t that sound great?

Golly, it sure does 😉

So put as much time in this as you need. No matter how horrible it feels in the short term, it’s worth taking your time to go through it.

In fact, it may be the most important project of your life so far.

It’s an investment in your future self.

And everyone else you meet will thank you for it as well 🙂

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