Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thoughts on Love Addiction And Love Avoidance: An Introduction

I have received several emails about this issue, so I have decided to post a series on the basics of "Love Addiction and Love Avoidance."

I have taken all of this material and that which I will present from Pia Mellody's writings and lectures, and my professional training with "The Meadows" treatment facility. This is all her her copyrighted work that I am citing here for educational purposes only!!!

Pia Mellody, Senior Clinical Advisor for The Meadows and Clinical Consultant for Mellody House and Dakota, is known and respected as a preeminent authority, lecturer and educator in the fields of addictions and relationships. Her work in codependence, boundaries, and the effects of childhood trauma on emotional development has profoundly influenced the treatment of addictions and issues around forming and maintaining relationships. She is the author of several extraordinary books, including Facing Codependence, Facing Love Addiction and her latest book, The Intimacy Factor. As one of the pioneers in the field of recovery, she developed theories on the effects of childhood trauma that became the foundation for The Meadows� programs and are, in large measure, the reason for its success. Much of her work at The Meadows includes counseling with staff and individual patients. A highly acclaimed lecturer, she maintains a schedule of speaking engagements and training workshops throughout the world.


Love Addiction and Avoidance are not about love at all. It is all about trauma reactions inside a relationship. Love starts with thought which requires an awareness of self or others that allows you to hold both in warm regard. Those who are “hard to love” require “heaving lifting” for the other party because the respect and love are not reciprocated or done so evenly. Respect is a willingness to tolerate others violations, even when you really don't have to do so. All this requires self esteem.

Note that we have three basic human needs that are God given and easily compared: love, sex and food. Just as with any need, we can manage any one of these inappropriately or to extreme. In terms of extremes, we can seek out fulfillment compulsively (like an addiction) or we can avoid and deny our needs compulsively. Both of these unbalanced extremes are self-destructive.

We all face disappointment and shame which Mellody calls “experiencing our humanity.” For the Christian, this would be experiencing our sin nature and the shame and disappointment in our failure to overcome our natural desires that have not yet been transformed to be like Christ. Until our degree and process of becoming like Jesus and our level of sanctification grows, we tend to fall into the same human trappings as everyone else. We tend to confuse love with caretaking. We tend to go about this in predictable pattern.

Two Patterns

Pattern 1: Love Addiction

All about making up a fantasy about another person and falling in love with the fantasy

The fantasy involves

  • seeing the other person as god-like
  • capable of saving the love addict from his/her fear of not being able to make it on his/her own
  • and loving him/her forever.
  • They are someone who will “love you into loving yourself.”
  • The fantasy objectifies the partner or the counter part in the unhealthy relationship (reducing them to an object of fantasy).
  • This actually means that the partner is not acceptable to the love addict, therefore the love addict objectifies them by seeing them in terms of their own fantasy and not as the partner really is.

Pattern 2: Love Avoidance

Compulsive relational cycle that appears to be intimate but actually avoids intimacy and vulnerability

The love avoidant

  • gets a sense of value from (compulsive) caretaking
  • the partner confuses this with love
  • They are “allergic to vulnerability”
  • Their sense of value comes from caretaking and is a means of avoiding guilt.

Relational Connections in Childhood

Type I: Healthy Relationship

  • A relationship of Functional Bonding: Caregiver takes appropriate car of the child (affirming, nurturing, and limit setting)
  • Caregiver takes care of the child and uses personal boundaries which protect the child appropriately.
  • The care and responsibility for the child rests completely upon the adult caregiver.

Type II: Caregiver Uses the Child

  • A relationship of Enmeshment: Caregiver uses the child to take care of himself/herself (affirming and nurturing must be earned by the child and must provide these to the parent as well)
  • Caregiver is without personal boundaries
  • The care and responsibility is partly provided by the parent, but the child is also required to reciprocate for the benefit of the parent)
  • Produces a Love Avoidant type adult because the child resents the usury on some level. (Demanded sacrifice as a duty or obligation will always produce some degree of resentment.)

Type III: Caregiver Abandons the Child

  • A relationship of Neglect/Rejection (Can be a partial neglect or inconsistent abandonment and neglect, or complete abandonment)
  • Caregiver is detatched and "walled-in"
  • The parent provides no care and bears no responsibility for the child and has no functional relationship with the child at all.
  • Produces a Love Avoidant type adult because the child is always seeking the fantasy of love and attention.