Sex and love addiction isn’t a phrase I use lightly. It’s a sickness and I’m pretty convinced I’ve got it. There’s a laundry list of characteristics of a sex and love addict; I’ve pulled the ones that apply to me for this article. There is hope for recovery from this addiction, but in the meantime, I’m suffering like crazy as a result of these characteristics.
I’m terrified of abandonment and loneliness. Some of my worst fears are being by myself and feeling alone. They spook the crap out of me. I’m scared to the point where I avoid them at all cost. I cling to someone to avoid being abandoned. I do everything I can, including manipulating and controlling, to keep someone around. I ensure that I’m never alone in order to avoid the bite of loneliness.
I compulsively pursue one relationship after another. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a serial monogamist. Once one ends (or even before that) I’m onto another relationship. Just days after a breakup, I have all my dating apps downloaded onto my phone again. The key word here is “compulsively” — I often know it isn’t a good idea for me to be dating, but I’m drawn to doing it anyway. I rarely leave space for myself to heal in between lovers.
I become emotionally attached to people before even knowing them. I can’t tell you how many relationships I’ve had that only last a few weeks, but I’m absolutely devastated when they end. My response is totally blown out of proportion because I’ve convinced myself that I’m basically already in love with them. I become incredibly emotionally involved, being super vulnerable, with someone I barely even know.
I become sexually involved with people before even knowing them. This is a personal preference—whether or not to become sexually involved with someone early on, but I know that I operate best when I’m not sleeping with them too soon. Nonetheless, I sometimes find myself in their bed on the second date, wondering how I got there. I become sexually involved prior to even really knowing who they are, sometimes putting myself in danger of being assaulted.
I confuse love with attraction. I’m with someone and I feel an electric spark. The connection is absolutely intoxicating. It feels as if we’re going to have something really good. This is just physical attraction and perhaps some emotional fairytale creating going on, yet I think that it’s love. I feel as if the person is “the one” or at least someone very special. I’m not able to wait to see if we’re actually compatible before jumping to conclusions.
I feel empty and incomplete when I’m alone. Maybe one of the scariest characteristics is how I feel when I’m not dating someone. I feel as if there’s something deeply wrong with me, that I’m alone because I’m defective. There’s this sense that I’m not a whole person because I’m not dating someone. It’s really a sad and empty feeling that happens. It doesn’t matter how much I know logically that I’m okay alone, I can’t shake the feeling of emptiness.
I become immobilized by romantic or sexual fantasies/obsessions. My most recent experience of being immobilized by obsession is when my ex and I broke up. After the breakup, I couldn’t stop thinking about contacting him. I was desperately obsessing about getting back together and fantasizing about how things could be different. These thoughts were so debilitating that they ruined entire days. They sucked up so much energy that I couldn’t live my life. This sort of obsessive thinking is not uncommon for me.
I attach myself to people who are emotionally unavailable. It’s as if people who are emotionally unavailable have a blinking light on their head, guiding me their way. I don’t know how I manage to pick them, but I do. I involve myself with people who are unable to give me what I need and this just makes me want them more. I chase them further, attaching myself even more to them. It makes no logical sense, but I guess that’s the nature of addiction.
I assign magical qualities to others and blame them when reality falls short of expectations. I create fantasies about who the other person is, blowing them up to be larger than life. For example, I’ll think of someone who will “always be there for me,” then I’ll be devastated when their humanity inevitably shows and they can’t be there for me. My expectations are way too big and I make the other person out to be superhuman, then get super upset when they prove they aren’t.
I use sex or emotional dependence as substitutes for nurturing, care, and support. True nurturing, care, and support should come from all over. It should come from friends, family, professionals, community members, etc. It can also come from partners, but they shouldn’t be the sole caregiver, especially when they’re doing so in the form of codependency. This isn’t truly care, it’s a part of the sickness. Sometimes I also use sex to get my emotional needs met. This works about as well as a band-aid on a sinking ship.