Bob Livingstone is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCS 11087) in private practice for 22 years in San Francisco, California. He holds a Masters Degree
The issue of determining if you are in love or intensely addicted to another is an issue that crosses all ethnic, racial, class and age lines. How love is experienced in a modern world that values materialism more than anything else? It is challenging to define love today. I believe love is mutual self-less giving that is based on a deep trust. The characteristics of addiction are craving of a person, severe mood swings if unable to feel secure in the relationship, inability to function normally, obsession of your partner and severe withdrawal symptoms if your lover leaves you.
So, what is the difference between being in love from being addicted?
The characteristics of being addicted to someone else are:
1. There is full time drama in your life which causes chaos and confusion. Other friends and family members are dragged into your emotional upheaval.
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2. You are always trying to please your partner by giving more of yourself than you should – until you reach the point where you have no self at all.
3. After intense fighting, you are willing to take your partner back no matter how much he or she hurt you. The fight usually involves infidelity, lying, and other forms of cheating, but you take your partner back no matter how many times these offenses were committed.
4. You are afraid to exist without your partner even though you have been very much alone during your time with him/her. You don’t recognize that he/she is bringing you down.
5. Your partner crosses a boundary that should never be allowed. He/she physically assaults you, threatens your life and calls you stupid, the c word and the b word.
6. You feel that it is your job to rescue him/her from the inner hell no matter how abusive he or she is towards you.
The characteristics of being in love with someone are:
1. There is no fear of bodily harm, emotional abuse or other boundary violations.
2. You know you can trust your partner to do the right thing.
3. There is a distinct absence of drama and chaos.
4. When you have an argument, there is a respectful sharing of feelings.
5. You forgive your partner because you want to, not because you have to.
6. Your partner supports your need to be a strong, independent person and you support your partner’s need to be the same.
You now have the opportunity to choose between being driven by addiction or love in your relationships. For those of you who have been relating to others in an addictive manner, it will take lots of work and full time awareness to alter this course. However, it is possible to change and this will greatly improve the quality of your life.
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