I hate to make sweeping statements, but I’m gonna: love addicts need to avoid Love Avoidants. Period. People who suffer from love avoidance are not good or bad, but they are NOT the best choice for a Love Addict.
Of course, I was always attracted to love avoidant men nearly all my life. If I took inventory of the personality traits of all my exs, whoa, they’d almost all be love avoidants. So, when I recovered, I made my list of VALUES (ahem, if you have not done this yet, get on it. It’s one of the most critical steps in your goal to not make the same mistakes again and change the caliber of person you are willing to date). I placed things on my list like “I will never date an alcoholic or a drug addict ever again.” For me, that was a red flag. It was something I could not handle in my life. If someone was into smokin’ a little weed here and there, yeah man, this was a huge trigger for me. I knew, by this point in my life that if I dated a guy like this, I would NOT be able to change my opinion of the habit, nor would I be able to accept it or live with it. It had to go on my list. And when I started to date again, it was an easy red flag to look for. A person’s drinking or smoking habits crop up right away, in the very early stages of getting to know him or her.
But what about avoidance? I put it on my list of values. Well, I put “Will not neglect me” on my list. That should cover it, I thought. But how would I even screen for neglect when most guys in the beginning stages of dating were all over me and into me? Every love avoidant I’ve ever known never started out love avoidant.
My life depended on this information. I did NOT want to date another one of these types again. And I was beginning to think that all men were avoidant of love, which is completely false and completely dangerous thinking. When you start to think in terms of black and white, in terms of ALL MEN ARE (fill in the blank), you then begin to settle and accept bad behavior as your only option. Not good. So, I came up with two SOLUTIONS that I used during my dating life that changed my ability to have control over whom I dated. Here they are…
1. I got to know the stereotypical qualities of love avoidants. Yeah, I know, you’re not supposed to stereotype and everyone is so different and blah, blah, blah. I am the first to repeat that you cannot think in terms of all men are this way or that. But, let’s consider this. The human brain stereotypes for a reason: to make intelligent deductive and inductive conclusions about the world so as to be safe and protect himself. When you stereotype you do not say, “All men are assholes.” Instead you say, “Most people from this particular group share these qualities.” People are predictable. They share similar qualities. They can be grouped together so that you can form a general idea about whether or not you belong to this group. It’s how corporate advertisers find their niche market. And why you see high fashion, world travel and anti-depressant ads in affluent magazines like Vanity Fair. And why you see sex tips, romance novels and fake nail ads in magazines like Cosmo. People fall into lifestyles. Well, it’s the same for avoidants. They too can be stereotyped. Here are some of the qualities to look out for:
- Over the age of 40 and never been married.
- Over the age of 35 and never been in a serious, committed relationship longer than 6 months to a year.
- Possibly drinks excessively, smokes pot or does drugs.
- Has not treated women well in past relationships.
- Avoids responsibility in his life (financial, social and personal)
- Doesn’t take care of himself well.
- A Peter Pan (someone who exhibits signs of wanting to remain eternally youthful and never grow up).
- Falls desperately in love with women within the first weeks of the relationship.
- Not interested or ambiguous about commitment of any kind.
And here are a few more personality traits on Avoidant Personality Disorder from the DSM-IV
▪ Hypersensitivity to rejection/criticism
▪ Self-imposed social isolation
▪ Extreme shyness or anxiety in social situations, though the person feels a strong desire for close relationships
▪ Avoids physical contact because it has been associated with an unpleasant or painful stimulus
▪ Feelings of inadequacy
▪ Severe low self-esteem
▪ Mistrust of others
▪ Emotional distancing related to intimacy
▪ Highly self-conscious
▪ Self-critical about their problems relating to others
▪ Problems in occupational functioning
▪ Lonely self-perception, although others may find the relationship with them meaningful
▪ Feeling inferior to others
▪ In some more extreme cases — agoraphobia
▪ Utilizes fantasy as a form of escapism and to interrupt painful thoughts
Before you let your inner-caretaker take over and convince you, “this is a great guy! I feel sorry for him already.” Remember your VALUES. These are the types of qualities in people you want to avoid.
2. I took my time when I started dating again. This is one of those things that sounds easier than it actually is. So often we meet someone, and whether we like it or not, our emotions take over. We feel like we’re just along for the ride. Well, get over this. Stop letting your emotions control your behavior. You are emotions are there for a reason: to tell you when you’re hot, cold, angry, sad, etc. They are reflectors of the bigger picture. But they do NOT have the ability to make critical, logical decisions that will guarantee your safety. The biological cocktail of chemicals that ignites when you first meet someone you have chemistry with is a part of the animal urge in us all to procreate. So, hear me good, if you are not an animal, and you do indeed have a human brain, you need to use BOTH. So often even the healthiest people depend on their emotions to guide them. This is not good. There needs to be a balance between logic and emotion. Your logical brain in the adult in you. It is capable of shrewd, emotionless analysis of a situation. It is very possibly the side of you that recognizes the red flags and says “I need to stay away from this guy. ” The emotional side of you is the child within. It says, “But he’s so hot! I gotta have me some of that.” The child side of you (the emotional side) does not recognize red flags, is apt to put her hand in the fire, and will run out into the middle of oncoming traffic to chase a pretty bouncing ball. This is not the appropriate behavior to employ when making life decisions about things like work, money, housing, and relationships.
You were given a brain. You need to use it. Especially when dating. That means giving up certain long-standing dreamy concepts like “love at first sight.” It means no more “falling” in love. And it means that you don’t have spontaneous, careless, throw caution to the wind sex on the first date. This is reckless behavior for a love addict. And it’s as dangerous as letting a toddler hang out an open window ten stories up. That toddler is you. Close the damn window and be responsible.
Take your time when you date. This means simply enjoying a person with no hoped for outcomes. It means getting the whole “I wonder if he’s the one” out of your brain. And it means giving up the notion that dating is romantic. It’s NOT! You may be attracted to someone, and they may be attracted to you. But dating someone new is partly awkward, and mostly filled with the unknown. I hate to take the thrill out of it. But it’s work. It’s the part of the relationship where there really isn’t a relationship yet. And it’s both of your jobs to see if there should be a relationship or if it’s JUST chemistry.
And speaking of chemistry…we click with lots of people. If you are older and wiser, you know this already. I clicked with so many people in my lifetime I was like a camera. Click, click, click. I found out that clicking didn’t necessarily mean that these men would make for good boyfriends. Having chemistry with someone is a great precursor to a healthy relationship, it may even be a good “sign” that you will get along. But it by no means, and I repeat…it BY NO MEANS signifies the health of a potential mate or the health of the relationship you might have with them. You can click with an axe murderer. But you wouldn’t want to date one.
Lastly, and most importantly, dating slowly and getting to know someone over months, not just days or weeks (and not just online, but in person!) BUYS YOU TIME. Time is the greatest gift when you’re set to the task of getting to know someone, because only time reveals a person’s true character and allows you to see what they may initially want to hide (like their insecurities about intimacy or their fear of commitment). The is the time you can see for yourself how they relate to others too. But the best thing about giving yourself more time before “falling” in love, is that it allows you to make an educated choice about someone and thus, love consciously, as opposed to just falling for someone recklessly, without thinking.
Warning: flirting with Joe Romance and seducing him, but holding off on sex almost as a tease is not what I mean by buying yourself more time. Pretending you’re not interested in the hottie down the block so he will pursue you isn’t either. Buying yourself more time means taking the sexual and romantic elements out of the equation for a little while. It means getting to know someone as you would a friend. And getting to know a friend is pretty basic. It takes a blend of logic, wisdom, insight, chemistry, and kindness. If it continues to feel good the friendship continues. If it doesn’t, or it’s not mutual, the friendship usually ends.