Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love

Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love

by Pia Mellody

ISBN: 9780062506047

Publisher HarperOne

Published in Self-Help/Happiness, Health, Fitness & Dieting/Mental Health, Health, Mind & Body/Psychology & Counseling, Parenting & Relationships

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Sample Chapter

Separating Codependence from Love Addiction

A Love Addict is someone who is dependent on, enmeshed with, and compulsively focused on taking care of another person. While this is often described as codependence, I feel that codependence is a much broader and more fundamental problem area. Although being a codependent can lead some people into love addiction, not all codependents are Love Addicts, as we shall see.


Codependence is a disease of immaturity caused by childhood trauma. Codependents are immature or childish to such a degree that the condition hampers their life. A disease process, according to Diland's Medical Dictionary, is "a definite morbid process having a characteristic chain of symptoms. It may affect the whole body or any of the parts, and its etiology (or cause), pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown." I call the chain of symptoms that characterizes codependence the core or primary symptoms, and they describe how codependents are unable to be in a healthy relationship with themselves. These are the primary, or core, symptoms of codependence:

1.Difficulty experiencing appropriate levels of self-esteem,that is to say, difficulty loving the self

2.Difficulty setting functional boundaries with other people,that is to say, difficulty protecting oneself.

3.Difficulty owning one's own reality appropriately, that is to say, difficulty identifying who one is and knowing how to share that appropriately with others.

4.Difficulty addressing interdependently one's adult needsand wants, that is to say, difficulty with self-care.

5.Difficulty experiencing and expressing one's reality in moderation, that is to say, difficulty being appropriate for one's age and various circumstances.*

In addition to these, there are also five secondary symptoms that reflect how codependents think other people's behavior is the reason they are unable to be in healthy relationships. The inaccurate thinking represented by these secondary symptoms creates problems in a codependent's relationships with others, but these symptoms stem from the core problem, which is the bruised relationship with the self. These five symptoms are (1) negative control, (2) resentment, (3) impaired spirituality, (4) addictions, or mental or physical illness, and (5) difficulty with intimacy.


Codependents either (1) try to control others by telling them who they ought to be so the codependents can be comfortable; or (2) allow others to control the codependents by dictating who they should be to keep others comfortable. Either form of negative control sets up negative responses in the person being controlled, and these negative responses cause the codependents to blame others for their own inability to be internally comfortable with themselves.

*See Pia Mellody, with Andrea Wells Miller and J. Keith Miller, Facing Codependence (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989), especially chapter 2, for a complete explanation of these symptoms.


Codependents use resentment as a futile way to try to protect themselves and regain self-esteem. When people are victimized, they experience two things rather intensely: a drop in self-esteem, preciousness, or value, and a profound need to find some way to stop the victimization.

Anger gives people a sense of power and energy. In healthy amounts anger provides the strength to do what is needed to protect oneself But when we recycle the anger and combine it with an obsession about punishing the offender or getting revenge, we enter into resentment. Whether or not we actually carry out any real punishment or revenge, resentment includes the desire for it. Resentment debilitates the codependent because of the process of replaying the victimization in our minds, which brings on painful emotions such as shame, unexpressed or poorly expressed anger, and depressive frustration. Resentment plays a key part in the way codependents' lives are hampered by blaming others for their own inability to protect themselves with healthy boundaries.


Codependents either make someone else their Higher Power through hate, fear, or worship, or attempt to be another's Higher Power. Whether or not the codependent is aware that this is happening, this secondary symptom can be quite painful or damaging to the health and functional development of the codependent.


Our ability to face reality is directly related to our ability to have a healthy relationship with ourself, which means loving the self, protecting the self, identifying the self, caring for the self, and moderating the self. Living out of such a healthy, centered relationship with the self allows us to face the reality of who we are, who others are, who the Higher Power in our lives is, and

the reality of our current situation. Developing these abilities and perceptions is the core of recovery from codependence. But when we do not acquire a functional internal relationship and sense of adequacy, the pain that results inside of us and in our relationships with others and with our Higher Power often leads us into an addictive process to alleviate the pain quickly.

I suggest, therefore, that a person with an addiction is probably also a codependent; and conversely, a codependent most likely has one or more addictive or obsessive/compulsive processes. This secondary symptom, then, is the primary link between codependence and any other addiction -particularly love addiction. While experiencing the often unrecognized internal pain of the failure of the relationship with the self, and blaming others for this failure, the Love Addict turns to a certain kind of close relationship, believing the other person can and should soothe the Love Addict's internal pain through giving unconditional love and attention and taking care of the Love Addict.


Intimacy involves sharing our own reality and receiving the reality of others without either party judging that reality or trying to change it. Codependents with the core symptom of difficulty identifying who they are (their reality) and sharing appropriately cannot be intimate in a healthy way, since intimacy means sharing their reality.


Excerpted from "Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love" by Pia Mellody. Copyright © 1992 by Pia Mellody. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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