Do You Know The Difference Between Codependency And Love Addiction?

It can be challenging to understand behaviors and choices in life, particularly when the choices made seem to end in the same difficult, traumatic, or disastrous results. Recognizing and labeling these patterns or behaviors is essential to understanding what needs to happen to change negative and destructive thinking and actions to lead healthier and happier lives. 

Two terms that are often used incorrectly are codependency and love addiction. They are different issues, although there can also be overlaps in some patterns and behaviors associated with both terms. To help get a better understanding of the differences between love addiction and codependency, let’s take a closer look at each one. 

What is Codependency? 

Codependency is often described as learned behavior. For many people who are codependent, this learning began very early in their life when they used specific behaviors to deal with dysfunctional parenting. This dysfunction often included being emotionally neglected, abandoned, constantly criticized, and never receiving the approval they needed to feel good about themselves. 

Signs of codependency include:

∙       Looking to others for validation and recognition

∙      The need for approval from the partner

∙       Fear of being left alone or abandoned

∙       Problems in setting healthy boundaries

∙       Feeling responsible for the other person’s happiness and sense of self

∙       Enabling others

∙       Lack of sense of self or ability to recognize your own emotions

∙       Difficulty in communicating your needs

Codependent people often see themselves as “fixers”. They need to be the giver in the relationship and often find comfort in a relationship only when the other person is a “taker”.

What is a Love Addict?

A love addict needs to be in a relationship, even an unhealthy one, to feel complete. Like the codependent individual, the love addict cannot face the idea of being alone. However, they are drawn to the intensity of the first chemical reaction in a new relationship, which can lead them to constantly look for new partners to attempt to capture and hold this initial intoxicating sense of first love. 

Signs of a love addiction can include:

∙       The need to jump into a new relationship and make it serious almost immediately

∙       Obsession with the partner and the relationship to the point of excluding all other interests in life

∙       Confusing sex with love and expecting the partner to feel the same

∙       Extreme discomfort or feelings of being unworthy if not in a relationship

∙       Engaging in sexual activities as a way to stave off being alone

∙       Not caring about getting your emotional needs met as long as the partner agrees to stay

∙       Engaging in activities that are not pleasurable or go against your values just to keep the partner from leaving

∙       Staying in abusive relationships (physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual)

∙       Repeating relationships with past partners despite a history of abandonment or toxicity in the relationship

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The Differences:

A key difference between codependency and love addiction is the obsessive nature of the love addict. These individuals have an unhealthy and unreasonable need to be constantly in contact with the object of their affection. This can include physical contact or constant social media interactions or texts. 

Often the love addict chooses a healthy individual who immediately becomes overwhelmed with the behaviors. Despite walking away from the love addict, the addict continues to press the relationship in ways that are unhealthy for both individuals. They often jump from one relationship to another if they feel the “love high” is wearing off of the current relationship.

Codependency is also a focus on the other partner, but it is more based on trying to keep their partner in the relationship, not to fuel their need for the feeling of love. Codependents typically recognize the dysfunction in the relationship, but they believe if they can just find a way to fix the relationship, the dysfunctional partner will change and become a healthy partner. They are very likely to stay in an existing relationship, even if it is very toxic, rather than leave and risk being on their own.

Overcoming Love Addiction and Codependency:

It is possible to overcome both love addiction and codependency. Some effective ways to begin to make changes include:

∙       Therapy – working with a therapist or counselor familiar with love addiction and codependency can help you find healthier ways to approach relationships. 

∙       Self-care – becoming more aware of your own needs and prioritizing yourself over others is critical. 

∙       Self-esteem building – both love addicts and codependents tend to have low self-esteem. Learning to recognize your own strengths and characteristics is important. 

∙       Boundary setting – particularly for codependents, learning to set boundaries helps to prevent toxic relationships. 

∙       Getting comfortable with yourself – learning to be whole on your own is important for both the codependent and the love addict. Finding ways to get comfortable on your own allows you to make better choices in a relationship. 

Both love addicts and codependents can change their thinking and behaviors to move into healthier relationships with themselves and new partners. This change is not easy, but it is an essential step in moving forward and choosing healthy partners and relationships. 

By Sherry Gaba, LCSW, Transformation Coach and Author of Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love. Join my community Wake Up Recovery for healing after a codependent or toxic relationship:

1 Response

  1. Lee says:

    Well done

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