COLUMN: Addicted to romance?

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By John Lapp

This topic is a familiar one with too many people I have had in my office over the past 40-plus years. While most people are familiar with the usual run-of-the-mill addictions, namely alcohol or drugs, most have not known that those who would be classified as “romance addicts” are as addicted to their “fix” as all the other more common addictions.
This type of addict has a pressing need to always maintain an illusion of being in love, but it is often more in the form, rather than the substance. There is a sort of need, even a demand for approval, a need which escalates, but not always to a satisfactory level and leaves the addict with a recurring sense of disappointment.
The addict in this case appears to lack confidence that he/she can cope without life providing some form of either real or imagined relationship with someone. The addict is so emotionally caught up with this relationship that there is a sense of an abundant level of emotional energy and excitement which may not be consistent with the world of reality.
There is a sense that the object of interest relates to a world where a “prince” or “princess” will come into one’s life and they will be “swept off their feet.” The painful illusion is that this usual fantasy will most likely not be attainable.
It’s the “trappings,” the external things, like how attractive, or well-dressed, or other external presentations that catch the attention of the addict, leaving much to be desired as it relates to the real person inside. The addict struggles with what it takes to have a happy, committed relationship because that requires the development of intimacy.
The addict has a desire to have a particular “setting” to make the relationship have a sense of excitement, wanting to set and maintain a high level of emotionality to keep the relationship intact.
Feelings, and emotions are more important than the time it usually takes to develop depth which requires a more mature approach. In my practice, I have met and worked with many addicts who have attempted many, many relationships, but always with the unfortunate but expected end, which usually means the addict is “brokenhearted” again and again.
One of the addicts that came into counseling had been through five or six of those kinds of relationships, and it took a lot of effort for her to realize that there was a man in her life who truly liked her as a person and it was discovered that he had developed a romantic interest in her, but she was always too occupied in her words, believing that he wasn’t her type, because she often referred to each new relationship as the one that she was always looking for.
She even had used the word “hunk” to describe the newest guy she was fantasizing about. In time, after realizing she was always doing what the words of a song at that time stated: “looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces.” All along she knew in her heart that this long-established deep friendship she had always had with the other man. She eventually gave up her addiction to find the best hunk, and found what she had available to her all along.
She described him as a very nice guy, not always her kind of “fun guy” to be with, very studious and goal-oriented, and someone whom she had known for a long time and always enjoyed the times they had together. She gave time to develop the depth of this relationship, and shortly thereafter they became engaged and married.
The “chemistry” that happens in addictive relationships is all too often buried in a deeper than life, too-high level of emotions, often without much substance. Part of the problem, and this has been studied for many years, is that love can be confused with infatuation, which is more often than not an experience of high levels of energy and feelings of emotional excitement, the “dream-like” statements similar to “our eyes met from across the room and suddenly there was sort of a ‘magnetic’ draw that brought us together.”
Another addictive statement I heard in my office was “when I saw him I was immediately caught up with how handsome he was, how beautiful his hair was, and how well he held himself.”
I often wondered if at that time they believed the song that was on the popular music charts entitled, “Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name.” Now, I’m not old fashioned in the sense that looks don’t matter, because they really do, but if the addict decides that this relationship will take us into the future based on this immediate attraction, that person has never viewed the photos of an older man or woman when they were young and their bodies were nearly perfect.
Bodies change, hair often recedes without “re-seeding” and the young figure has given way to some normal changes. The couple in the later years who are still growing in their real love for one another should periodically look in the full-length mirror and see their own reflection before seeing how the mate has changed. Maybe that’s why the wedding vows include such things as “for better and for worse” and “in sickness and in health.”
The addict has often believed that they will go off together in the sunset, still looking like they always have looked. That, my dear friends, is not likely to happen, although we should do our best to maintain a decent physical condition, but even then, there will be “sags” and “lines” appearing in our body changes.
So, addict beware. If you live in an illusion that includes that the “hunk” will always be “hunky” and the “babe” will always be the “babe,” this isn’t possible when you live in the real world of committed love to “love and cherish until death do us part.”
The wedding vows have a lot of deep content, although not too many remember what they vowed to each other. But when they do, it is a sign that the love they have for each other has grown out of a loving maturity and a deepening love that is not made out of superficiality.
In a sequel to this topic, I will present another similar one as it relates to relationship addiction, similar in some ways to romantic addiction, but too different to consider that they are the same.
In addition to last week’s topic, the essence of true love, and what real love is all about and how to know if you have it or how to develop it, you now know that real love will take you the distance, the long-haul and you will be blessed by it. Happy Valentines Day!
May God bless you as you assess your relationship and always try your best to make it better than it has ever been, It may be hard, but usually is well worth the effort. For more information, call 502-477-2818.