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Am I Co Dependent or Addicted to Love?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Radio Show, “Stay Sane Now Show,” with Claudine Struck

After listening to the show, your comments, opinions and experiences are welcome and encouraged.

Claudine: You’re listening to Stay Sane Now with your host, Claudine Struck. If you need some help getting through the week and feel that life isn’t keeping you sane, send an email to the show, and we can address the issue right here. The address is staysanenow@gmail.com. Now, back to Claudine.

Welcome back to Stay Sane Now. This is Claudine Struck, your host. Today our show has been about codependency and love addiction. Are they the same? Are they separate? We’re speaking with a series of experts, trying to help to us to de-code and understand these two pathologies and how to heal.

Our next guest is Dr. Allan Schwartz. He’s a featured writer on Mentalhelp.net, a public service of the Centersite. Dr. Schwartz has been in private practice for more than 30 years and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Colorado. He received both his MSW and Ph.D. from Yeshiva University in New York. He is a certified psychoanalyst and graduated from the National Psychological Association of Psychoanalysts. Welcome, Dr. Schwartz.

Allan Schwartz: Thank you. Good to be here.

Claudine: Thank you for joining us today. So, I’m wondering if you can give me your theories in terms of what you think about codependency and love addiction. Are they the same topic, or do you feel they go hand-in-hand?

Allan Schwartz: In my opinion, they go hand-in-hand, They’re really the same topic. The love addicted person is somebody who is codependent, which means that – remember the old song, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places?” That’s what they’re doing.

Claudine: So, how do you know the difference between the two?

Allan Schwartz: Well, a codependent person, you can call them love addicted. Look, all of us want to be in a loving relationship. Everybody wants to have a partner and to feel loved by the partner and be able to provide love to the partner. It fulfills a basic human need for a sense of belongingness and emotional fulfillment.

A codependent person, for a variety of reasons, is looking for the same thing that all of the rest of us are searching for, but from people who aren’t able to provide it. Now, the rest of us will tell ourselves, “This isn’t working,” and move on. The codependent person continues to pour resources into a bad investment. They are convinced that if they could just change this other person, if they could just stick with them, if they could fix them, then the relationship will succeed, and they will have the love they want.

And what they do is they badger this other person who is not committed to the relationship, never really was. They don’t listen to that information, and they continue to pour attention into it, make demands of the other person, demands that, right from the start, they find unreasonable. And as a result, this codependent person continues to feel rejected, frazzled, depressed, and yet is utterly unaware of what they themselves are doing.

Claudine: Well, that’s a question of mine. If one has been functioning in this manner, how would they know to function any differently? And does this affect women and men in different ways?

Allan Schwartz: In my experience over the years in my therapy practice, it’s predominantly women. I’m not sure I can answer the reason why for that, but there are some men who have shown up that way. But predominantly, I find that it’s women, and ultimately, these women do find their way into therapy because they feel depressed and hopeless. I mean, how many times can a person suffer rejection? It finally dawns on them that something is wrong. Now, up until this point, they’ve blamed the other person, but when you have enough other persons, or when it’s gone on long enough and there is enough pain, they come into therapy.

But I find in working with people like this in therapy, even though there’s now an awareness that something is wrong, there is still a tendency to blame the other person and even to tell me that, “Look, I’ll bring my lover into therapy. Maybe you can fix him.” Or, if it’s the other way, “you can fix us.” Of course, that never works. And when I have agreed to see the two together, the other person shrugs their shoulders and says, “Look, she doesn’t get it. I’m not interested. I don’t want to marry,” or “I don’t want to spend more than once every other week with them. I don’t want to feel tied down.”

It’s a part, really, of rather than codependence or addiction to love, this person is dealing with a personality disorder, and it’s a disorder in which they have, going back to their childhood, suffered enormous amounts of rejection and even abuse. And in a way, what they succeed in producing is the self-fulfilling prophecy, where even if they start out with a person who maybe is interested, they become so dependent and so demanding that they really succeed in pushing the other person away and end up in exactly a repetition of the same situation where they feel rejected, hurt, out in the cold, and desperate the minute they’re not feeling loved. It’s very painful and it’s very painful to watch it happen.

Claudine: So, do you feel that this is a generational legacy, and someone at some point in the generational legacy has to stop and make some changes?

Allan Schwartz: Someone has to stop and make some changes. I’m not sure what you mean by a generational legacy.

Claudine: Okay, let me rephrase it – a generational personality disorder. Because, naturally, if my mother is codependent, I’ve learned certain patterns and ways of existing that are transferred.

Allan Schwartz: Oh, I see. Yes, observational learning. You know, our parents are role models and yes, most definitely, a father or a mother who has been codependent this way… Yes, whether it’s genetics or whether it’s learning by observation, by having been shaped by this thing by watching my parent in this way, yes, I end up this way myself. I was also thinking generational in terms of… You know, it’s very interesting when you read literature from the 19th century, when marriages were arranged, you don’t find this kind of thing so much.

Claudine: Why is that?

Allan Schwartz: Because there wasn’t this overriding anxiety to find a partner. And I’m not saying that it’s better to have our parents select our partners for us, but today when there’s much more freedom and much less family support, there’s a great deal more anxiety about finding a partner. And I think that that plays into this type of personality, who starts out with a great deal of anxiety, feeling unloved, and very frightened that they’ll never find anyone. But then there’s the paradox. When they do find someone, they drive them away anyway. So it’s hard. And this is something that they’ve learned from their parents.

Claudine: Right.

Allan Schwartz: And they’ve learned it through watching parents where one is abusive to the other, or one or the other has been abusive to the child. You find it in families where there is a lot of substance abuse, weak fathers. Even for the boy or the girl, a weak and dependent father produces this sort of thing. It doesn’t necessarily come from a daughter learning it from a mother. The role of the father is very important, and if there’s a weak and dependent father, this can produce the same thing in the girl because the role model of the father is enormously important for her.

Claudine: So then, how do you protect your children?

Allan Schwartz: You protect your children – that’s a very good question – by staying away from drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol don’t mix with raising a family. By not engaging in blaming your spouse, but by working together towards finding solutions. I think that in an age where there is not a lot of family support for young couples, it’s a good thing to go for marriage counseling. To find ways to be cooperative with one another.

It’s interesting, this past weekend in the magazine section of the New York Times, there was a long article about a woman with a good marriage of 10 years. She and her husband are both journalists, and she thought, “Well, gee, let’s go for marriage counseling to see if we could find even deeper happiness.” Well, at the end, what she discovered – and they have children – is that the pursuit of happiness is the wrong pursuit, but rather it’s a pursuit of getting along together with each other and discovered she has that with her husband.

They’re able to communicate with each other, be open with each other and work together, and that’s going to produce well-adjusted kids. I mean, sometimes there are going to be quarrels, but where there’s constant quarreling and bickering, hostility and blaming, and it’s never ending, it’s not going to produce a sense of self-confidence and well-being in the children, who will then grow up themselves feeling frightened, insecure, dependent, and very pessimistic about relationships.

Claudine: Dr. Schwartz, I am wondering how our listeners can learn more and contact you.

Allan Schwartz: Well, I can be contacted a variety of ways. I can be contacted through Mentalhelp.net. My articles are there and my email connection. Or people can email me directly at my email address dransphd@aol.com.

Claudine: Repeat that again.

Allan Schwartz: D as in David, R as in Robert, A as in Allan, N as in Nathan, S as in Schwartz. Then Ph.D. At aol.com.

Claudine: Excellent. Thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom with us today. We’re going to stop here for a short break. We will be back. This is Stay Sane Now.

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