I got an email from a reader and asked her permission to post it here:
Your book and posts have been a great source of comfort for me.Â ____ has been gone 14 months now and I feel myself slipping back into despair.Â Our children are 11 (boy) and 13 (girl) and parenting them alone is overwhelming.Â I read a few blogs, but yours resonates like no other for me.
I have been fixated on meeting a man and have had to realize that I am turning over my self-esteem to each one.Â It’s a cycle I am trying desperately to break and can’t seem to get it together.Â Fortunately, I know I am able to attract men, but I seem to have a voice telling me I must get one quickly to replace _____ â€“ the urgency is insane, but I can’t shake it.
I suspect these fears are not unusual, but I seem to be very anxiety-filled when someone (the man) is not validating my worth.Â Did you go through this?Â Were you able to figure it out and if so, how do you stop it?
Thank you so much for reading.Â Please continue to write early and often.Â Your posts are unbelievably helpful to me.
How many of us have been in this place? I was lunching today at a place I volunteer, a cafe in Seattle where people who are recovering from addiction come to have meetings, take classes, drink coffee and most importantly, stay connected. I got into a conversation with a young woman there who told me she was there because of a Love addiction.
“Love addiction?” I asked. Is that different to “Sex addiction?” I hadn’t realized there was a separation of the two, but there is apparently. We had an amazing conversation where she recounted her experiences with what she dubbed “serial monogamy,” a series of relationships that at times jepradized her life, given how abusive some of the men were.Â She described a period of severe “withdrawal” which I have to say sounded very much like a severe form of grief to me, unable to get out of bed, body tremors (not that I have experienced those), lethargy, and a lack of memory of that time. She tried to go cold turkey and not have a relationship for a long period of time, but in the end, “relapsed.” I know, I have tried before to link grief and addiction and many people don’t agree with my analogy, but I have to say I do find some similarities.
The clincher for me though, the thing that struck home was when she told me that she is working through a 12 step program and that one of the dangers of recovery from Love Addiction is a swing of the pendulum from being addicted to love to shunning people/relationships altogether, what she called “Love Avoidance.” She described the desire to put away the notion of having a relationship of any kind, given the bad experiences and her desire to hermit herself in her home, cooking to her heart’s delight.
When Arron first died, I felt a physical craving for him that I write about in my book, describing it as a hole in my heart, leaking love, something that needed filling up. Every night I went to bed imaging him holding my hand, I longed for him, craved him in a very profound way. Sound familiar? I don’t know about you, but I craved love as part of my grief. When love was gone, I went into withdrawal and when I got through my withdrawal, I either dove right back into the world of dating, latching on to the first person who came along and filled that hole for me, thus feeding my craving like the woman who wrote me the email above, or else I become aware that I had a craving, an addiction, and I held myself back from entering a new relationship, fearful that the love I felt for the new person in my life wasn’t real, or that it would disappear again, which if I am perfectly truthful is how I have been feeling for the past few years. I go on dates, but I don’t seem to really ever connect with anyone I am on a date with, or I find fault with the person, or feel disappointment. OK, that is dating, yes. But I feel as if I have a rather severe case of this kind of detachment, the kind of thing my new friend called “Love Avoidant.” I just Googled “Love Avoidant” and got this:
“Love Addict”/Avoidant Pattern*
|Process of person’s relationships|
|Love addict||Security, safety acceptance, â€œonenessâ€ (merger)
Greatest fear is abandonment
Underlying fear is healthy intimacy (in enmeshment the core of the person is actually sealed off)
|Self-contained individuals who appear strong, stable (often avoidant or obsessive compulsive, like their families of origin)||Line up next relationship before leaving current one–forming love triangles
Instant closeness, looking for â€œmagicâ€ feeling
Obsessing about partner
Talking obsessively to others about him or her
Acting out anger and revenge for being abandoned
|Enters relationship in haze of fantasy–found this stable, strong, accepting individual
Gets high from fantasy
Denies how walled in avoidant really is
Avoidant gradually becomes distant and shuts down, abandons relationship in some way
Love addict acts out anger & revenge, turns to affairs and addictive sex
Partner capitulates and renews relationship, or love addict moves on to new relationship
Sense of self and self esteem does not develop–love addict remains in dependent position. Ability to tolerate fear and discomfort must develop for growth to occur
|Avoidant person||Wants to be connected, but not closely
Greatest fear is intimacy/engulfment
Can have a hard time rejecting others or saying no
|Individuals who provide much of the enthusiasm and intimacy for both of them||Ambivalence all the way through may be in relationship because can’t say no||May show initial traditional romantic pursuing, but ultimately enters relationship because love addict provides most of the â€œintimate energyâ€; may fear would never make into a relationship otherwise
As love addict wants more and more attention avoidant attempts to please by giving it to them–at least initially
Eventually avoidant becomes overwhelmed by enmeshment and/or neediness of love addict, becomes critical, and eventually backs off from relationship or abandons it
Feels relationship has failed, sometimes gets involved with addictive behavior or affairs to distance, distract, or numb out
May return to relationship out of guilt or fear of being totally alone, or moves on to connect with another partner
Cycle of abandoning and returning can go on and on, especially if love addict starts to move on
I am feeling a little bit like I belong in the “Love Avoidant” table. Could these patterns be common among widows/ers? Or is it just my own little twisted world over here? Something about all this has clearly struck a nerve with me and I am curious about that.
Here is a CNN article I found that explains more. Some of the suggestions for getting over love could also work for widows(ers).