I had to look up the word “fleeting.” It’s so over-used I wanted to make sure I used it correctly:
fleeting: adjective: ours was a fleeting romance: brief, short, short-lived, quick, momentary, cursory, transient, ephemeral, fugitive, passing, transitory; literary evanescent. ANTONYMS lasting.
I had the luxury of witnessing a healthy response to “fleeting” love this past week while in Spain. But not romantic love. My children and I, as many of you know, go to Spain ever summer so that my kids can visit their grandparents and extended family members who are from Madrid. Because there is so little time to spend together, there is a sense of urgency among the grandparents and the aunts and uncles to try and squeeze in as much possible time together before saying goodbye until next year.
I compared this scenario to a love addict’s. For a love addict who senses an impending loss of relationship (even though he or she wants to ignore it and hope it just goes away), there is an urgency and desperation too in his or her actions and emotions. Obsession takes over. And the harder we hang on the less “the loss” might hurt.
In a healthy situation, the loss hurts too and there’s holding on, but it’s brief. Loss is accepted as part and parcel of life. We cry. We hug. But then, we let go. There is no certainty that we will see each other again. There is only hope.
July 5, 6 and 7 of The Break Up Journal are out. They are about loss. I am days away from seeing my “love” and I have sacrificed my own personal happiness in anticipation of a “better life” in the future. I am spending exorbitant amounts of money just to “numb” away the pain of waiting, I am not enjoying my kids, and I am miserable. I don’t think I need to say that this is an unhealthy response to love. This kind of behavior comes from a person who has no life of her own, no identity of her own. Who lives for one thing and one thing only. Most importantly, this kind of behavior comes from a person who SENSES, but ignores the possibility that her relationship may be fleeting…
When you choose to not “live in the now” and instead, live in a fantasy of “life will be better once we are together…” you deny yourself a truer, fuller experience of life. You close your eyes to what is happening around you and live in an unreal, shut-off world where others have trouble relating to you, and vice versa. Because, at this time in my life, I was on the edge of love addiction and true freedom from it, it was very hard to be present, yet I was trying. So, you can see the struggle. As hard as I try to get out into the world of Spain and experience it, I’m really only killing time until I can get home. Aside from one day spent wandering through a particular area of the city on my own, looking for vintage shops (which, by the way, I had lost interest in years ago, but was only “into” them again because P was into vintage), my only real joy came in the form of contact with P. That’s all I lived for. Shutters closed to everything else. The waiting game is ultimately a trust game. We tend to wait impatiently when that which we are waiting for may leave us, or may not be ours to possess. There’s an eternal sense of urgency to get back so that you can hold on tighter. It’s a sickening feeling that I don’t know if I get across well enough in these journals.
In current life, D and I just got back Sunday from separate trips. He took his kids out West to see the Grand Canyon, and I went back to Spain with my teenage kids to visit the in-laws and do a little side traveling. Because I have the luxury of knowing that my relationship is safe and secure with D, I am now able to experience travel in a totally new way. My focus is on squeezing everything out of a trip, experiencing everything I possibly can, taking risks, tasting every new food, and ultimately, not wanting the trip to end. What a strange feeling! And something I talked with D about last night. As much as I love him and as much time as we normally spend together, it was odd to be away from him and really, deeply, emotionally, mentally be away. I was free to experience the world without any associated guilt for not occupying all my time thinking about him and wondering what he’s up to. What a new sensation and quite honestly it scared me a bit. Had I wandered too far away from him? Should I have thought about him more, or tried to call more? And don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t thinking or fantasizing about being single or dating another man. I do want to be clear about that. What I was experiencing was a sense of freedom to be myself that I had never really allowed myself to experience before. That freedom scared me. But, at the same time, it was exhilarating.
Eventually, I concluded that as long as I come home and re-establish my typical level of closeness with D it’s all good. And that’s naturally what happened. Living in the now. As soon as we saw each other after ten days, we hugged, kissed and talked and talked and talked. And I was quickly reminded why I love this man so much. He and I are best friends. And when a best friend gives you a sense of safety and security that they are not going anywhere, even when you go out into the world, you ultimately build trust that you can come and go without serious repercussion.
I want to remind you that The Break Up Journal is a story of an unhealthy relationship and to watch out for signs of unhealthy, toxic thinking. Try not to focus on the superficial “love, love, love” stuff that I was imagining. What is boiling under the surface is desperation to be loved and validated, not from within, but from an outside source that, quite frankly, was never worth waiting for in the first place. Oh, hindsight is always 20/20.
Part of the recovery process for any addiction is grappling with what we want versus what we need. We may want the donut, but we need the apple. We may want the “bad boy,” but we need the “nice guy.” And this is a very hard emotional trigger to overcome. It requires a level of maturity that we previously never had, as well as a complete overhaul in thinking.
Want and need are wrapped up in several things, the first of which is the concept of immediate gratification versus deferred gratification: I want the pain to go away immediately, so I will call him and break my promise of no contact (NC) even though it’s not in my best interest. We place a higher value on feeding our emotions and getting what we want right at the moment as opposed to putting it off until there is a more appropriate (but often more difficult) way to deal with the pain. When you think of immediate gratification versus deferred, think of saving money versus spending it. When you hold off on buying stuff you want right when you see and you save your money instead, you are able to buy bigger and better things that have more value. My son is learning this lesson now (or not!). He had saved over $2000 for a new car. He needed only about $1000 more to get the model he wanted. Instead of waiting and working a little harder, he ended up blowing almost all his savings on t-shirts, food, and other stuff over the course of several months. When school started, and everyone was driving their car, he had to ask for a ride. Because he didn’t invest in a car, he is now dependent on others and has less freedom to go where he wants, which was his ultimate goal.
You need to see yourself as an investment. You need to see that the more you invest in yourself, the more hard work, love and education and experience you put into yourself, the more rewarding life becomes for you. The more valuable you become. Not only to yourself but others.
The second thing want versus need is wrapped up in is emotional thinking and logical thinking. Somewhere along the line, I don’t remember where, I learned that you think with two brains! Your emotional brain (which is ruled by your inner child), and your logical brain (which is ruled by your inner adult). To be a healthy individual means that there is a balance of power between these two brains, AND that both brains think in a healthy way. Most love addicts are ruled almost entirely by their emotional brains. And what’s worse is that their emotions are not very healthy to begin with. An emotionally-thinking individual tends to want what feels good. A logically-thinking individual tends to want what is rational, right and what makes sense. The conflict comes in when the two brains are not in alignment and desire different things. I am sure most of us can relate to this scenario: we are dating an avoidant person, someone who causes us a great deal of pain, yet we stay. Part of us doesn’t want to give him or her up (the emotional part), whereas the other part of us (the logical part) was driven to seek out help and knows the relationship needs to end.
Know that when something is right both the emotional brain and the logical brain are on the same page. They are in alignment. They want the same thing. When want and need are in alignment, both brains want the same thing. The trick is to give value to your logical brain and start to take it a hell of a lot more seriously than you have been. Many of us over-glamorize emotional and creative thinking. We tend to put a very ugly spin on “logic.” We see logical people as cold, rational, unfeeling, unemotional people who have no heart. Whereas we see emotional people as the salt of the earth. They are warm, passionate, loving and more “fun.” Not only is the kind of black and white thinking grossly untrue, it is detrimental to your health. You were given logic AND emotion and it is important to use both. By only using your emotional brain you cause a huge imbalance. “Want” wins out over “need” and the price becomes evident in the fact that you are not investing in yourself or caring for yourself properly. I do want to clarify that I do not think emotions are bad. But I do think that during recovery, a love addict cannot and should not trust or depend on their emotions. In order to balance the imbalance, use your logical brain most of the time. Until your emotions learn to feel in more healthy ways.
Want versus need is wrapped up in your personal belief system and level of maturity. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “It’s better to spend money today than save it for tomorrow. Tomorrow might never come.” And yet, if you don’t plan for the future, and tomorrow does come, then what? What do you have to show for yourself? While this personal belief in immediate gratification has some merit, it is an immature belief. While it addresses the human need for immediate comfort and to enjoy the now, it does not address the equally important need to protect oneself for the future. This plays heavily into self-care. In order to take care of one’s self, you need to set goals, plan, save, and protect yourself by postponing things you want.
While the “bad boy” might seem like a great option now, and while he may make you feel wonderful and sexy now, what can he provide in the future? What’s his staying power? How will he benefit you a year from now, five years from now? Twenty? When we choose a partner, we need to have some bit of forward thinking and that comes from a level of maturity and an ability to see people as healthy choices or unhealthy choices. Choosing the bad boy, for me, was based on an immature notion I had had in my younger years of who I thought I was and what I thought was best for me. I learned that rather late in life that what I want did not match up to what I needed. I needed a family man. I needed a professional man who could take care of himself. I needed someone I could rely on, trust, and respect. More than anything, I needed someone who did not cause me pain and suffering. You tend not to think of any of those things when your goal is to find something you WANT.
So, my advice:
- Recognize the importance of deferred gratification. Oftentimes postponing pleasure as a way of achieving something of more value is the better option.
- Turn off your emotional thinking. At least for a year or two. Make logical decisions about things. Choose options not on how it “feels” but on its logical benefits. This is how you train yourself to align emotional thinking with logical thinking.
- Tweak your personal beliefs. Stop believing in things that don’t serve you in the long run. If you want to spend a little money now, that’s fine, but save a larger portion of it. If you want to satisfy a craving for love and emotional attachment do it in small doses with healthy people. Stop believing that expending all your emotions on the first date is healthy. It’s not. Think of the impact and consequences of your actions.
- Strive for maturity. That means making logical decisions, based on long-term outcomes. It means not empowering your demanding, needy inner-child by giving her free reign. Put her in a time out. It’s not all about her. Besides, she can’t make healthy decisions anyway (has she ever?!) And recognize that want is temporary; need is permanent. Lots of things in life are worth waiting for….
June 26, 27 and 28 of The Break Up Journal are up. And the icky downward spiral continues. I wasn’t able to figure out why this guy P was not writing to me every day. On the one hand, I grappled with feeling like a nag, always wanting attention, questioning his love for me. On the other, I had valid concerns that this new guy (not so new; we had confessed our love for each other after a couple months) should write more than a line or two after not having seen me in a few days. Was I detecting a red flag? Was I dealing, yet again, with another avoidant? Or, was I to blame? Was I being overly needy and demanding?
Anyone, healthy or not, can get stuck at this point. But for the recovering love addict, who has trust issues and feeble self-esteem, it’s a very perplexing dilemma.
It’s important to remember though, that when love addicts begin a new relationship, it takes a lot (and I mean A LOT) of effort on the part of the partner to help build trust. This is especially true if he’s dating a love addict who has had his or her fair share of deceitful or mistrusting relationships. A new, HEALTHY partner needs to be as honest as possible, have a decent amount of patience for a love addict’s mistrust issues (not forever, but for a relatively reasonable amount of time–6 months? a year?), and be willing to put in extra effort so that the love addict can heal and (re)establish trust. His words must always back up his actions, and his actions must point in the direction of care, respect, love, kindness and maybe even a little selflessness.
As for the recovering love addict, for her part, she must keep her eyes open for red flags, question the validity of her partner, test him (without being rude, deceitful or cruel) and work hard at facing the reality of the relationship (as opposed to keeping her eyes closed so as not to see anything that might remotely mean “the end”). She must be willing to accept and deal with whatever comes her way, good or bad, even if it means a possible break-up. And that means that she must always turn to her values, constantly checking to see if her partner shares those same values. Does he believe in communicating while apart? Does she? Is it more important that he have “me time” while they are apart, or is it important to touch base? If two people do not share the same expected values, a conversation should be had on the subject and compromise and negotiation should follow. I really need you to write me an email every other day, just a few sentences. That would make me feel better. Or, I really need to do my own thing and not feel obligated to write to you more than once a week. Neither of these requests are right or wrong. They are simply personal. And so, based on the couple’s ability to compromise, (he either writes the letters or he doesn’t; she either encourages him to write the letters, or she let’s it go and enjoys her trip), the recovering love addict can formulate her own feelings as to what she is willing to deal with. Can she live with her partner not writing every day or can’t she?
In the case of P, I could not live comfortable with the idea that he wasn’t writing every other day. And the reason is because I had not yet established trust with him. To me, if you love someone, you reach out to them. To me, that would have established trust. Years later, I was put in the same situation with D. I went away to Europe. We were newly dating. I told him I really needed him to write me long letters every other day. He did.
D built trust. P did not.
On the LAA boards today, someone posted the following cry for help: HOW exactly do I change, get well? HOW?
I have answers and solutions, but you probably won’t like them. They are more difficult to do than choosing to remain a love addict. You see, being a love addict is EASY. The pain and suffering comes second nature to people like us, so, because that’s familiar, we just settle for it. The alternative–facing ourselves, facing our fears, actually taking actions and GROWING UP is far scarier and far more a risk–at least from our perspective, we think it is. But essentially that’s what you must do.
1. Face yourself and accept yourself, as is. Not who you’d like to be, or who you envision yourself to be. Or even who your parents envisioned you to be. Or who the last or next PoA wishes you’d be! Just you, as you are now. Possibly broken, still alive, scrappy, but human, and beautiful in your own right. And perfectly able to grow and change.
2. Face your fears. Love addiction or alcohol addiction (as you well know with your great insight) is not about addiction to the substance or the person, it’s about AVOIDANCE OF THE SELF. We avoid ourselves because there’s something scary there that we don’t want to see, or there’s a really scary task we desperately want to avoid–scary tasks we want to avoid can be anything from living alone, growing up and taking care of yourself, becoming financially secure, giving up a long held fantasy or belief, feeling uncomfortable or doing something you’re not good at, etc. Find out what you are most afraid of. It’s usually something right in front of your face, and most likely it’s what you are avoiding right now. Once you figure it out, DEAL WITH IT. FACE IT. ADDRESS IT. No matter how scary.
3. Know that there are two energies at work inside you: your emotional energy (the child within you) who you are most likely giving all the power to, and shouldn’t, and your logical energy (the adult within you) who wants to become healthier and brought you here. These two energies are battling for power over you. Let LOGIC win, for now. Force yourself or teach yourself about both energies and how to turn off your emotional energy, at least until you can balance out the two energies, and at least until your emotional energy knows its place. Right now, my guess is, your emotional energy is ruling your brain. It shouldn’t be. Emotions don’t make logical decisions and as adult grown ups, we really, really, really need to make logic decisions. What this means is, stop making decisions based on “what feels good now.” What most likely feels good now is no pain, and so, to dull the pain, we run back to a PoA, or pick up the bottle. Or “zone” out. Stop making choices on what feels good. Make logical, rational choices. I am in pain, but the garbage needs to be taken out. Or, I don’t feel well, but I need to go to work. Or, I am lonely, so, I will find something all by myself to do, etc.
4. All your great “insight” is just a start. You actually have to change your behavior and that means physically taking different actions. I too had great insight. Most love addicts, believe it or not, do. I knew everything about love addiction and still nothing changed. It’s because I never put all that knowledge into action. I knew what to do, I just didn’t DO IT. You know the expression “practice what you preach.” Start preaching healthy and then start practicing it. What do healthy people do? Well, they most likely don’t accept unhealthy people into their lives. They don’t sit around all day fantasizing about a better life. When they detect red flags they are not afraid to acknowledge them and if need be, leave a relationship because of them. They also have a set of personal values that outweigh the need for a relationship. Love addicts have values, but the relationship outweighs their values and becomes more important. Many healthy people do not see the world the way addicts see the world: a place where people and substances are available to take the edge off a painful existence. This is how I perceived the world for many years. Until I didn’t anymore. Find healthy people and start to surround yourself by them. Copy their behavior. Learn from them. Chances are you didn’t have healthy models of love growing up. Neither did many of us. BUT, you’re an adult now. You are free to find healthy teachers in this world and learn new ways of coping and managing your life. Also, learn your VALUES and stick to them. Make them more important than the relationship.
5. Change your perspective immediately. When I was at the very beginning of recovery, I felt overwhelmingly frustrated. I had no idea where to begin to get better. I was finally sick and tired of being sick and tired. Yet, I kept imagining that someone would come to my rescue and teach me, or do it for me, or give me the answers. But because this never happened (well, I received many answers, but they weren’t good enough), I then imagined taking pills to dull the pain. And then, at some point, I gave up these FANTASIES. And little by little I started to work on some RANDOM problem I was having. And then I worked on another. And another. And after five years of chipping away at my problems, I built a new me. And some of my learning came easy, and some didn’t. And I fell on my face MANY times in the process. But the one thing I think I had through it all was a sense of determination to succeed. I WILL get better, I said. You can’t read a 50,000 page self-help book and not come away without learning SOMETHING. And you cannot unlearn all you’ve learned about being healthy. What you can do (and what I did for many years) is refuse to practice a healthy life. Give up trying. And the only thing that causes you to give up is that you’ve lost your positive perspective. So…don’t do that. It’s hard to always remain positive. But it’s all you’ve got. It’s the ONLY thing standing between a love addict and a healthy person. Perspective.
6. Give up. Yes, I said it. Give up. Give up the neediness for a romantic relationship. Give up the EXPECTATION of a romantic relationship. Give up the fantasy that you deserve a romantic relationship and that it is owed to you. It’s not. You need love and companionship in this world for a more humane existence. And you definitely need sex to procreate. But you do not NEED a romantic relationship. This is a cultural construct of western civilization and once you stop watching love stories and reading romance novels and take a good look at human history and anthropology you will come to understand that human beings don’t need romantic love. They simply need closeness to people to survive AND to thrive (yes, can you believe it? You can thrive without romance–most people do). You can get closeness and thrive through family, friends, pets, a satisfying career, etc. And because the world doesn’t owe you a romantic relationship, and there’s no knowing whether you’re destined for one or not, REFOCUS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE ON YOU AND WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL. Here’s an exercise for you: imagine you are living in a world with NO CHANCE OF ROMANTIC LOVE. What would you do? What would you look for? What would your goals be? Who would you befriend? As a love addict, we all must imagine ourselves as individuals separate from any romantic notions. When we are truly able to do that and we can focus our attentions on other things, we have won half the battle. And while love addiction is not about love or romance at all, but rather, about avoidance of the self, we (as love addicts) still need to deconstruct the fantasy that we’ve built around the notion that we are DEFINED by whatever partner or romantic relationship we happen to be in.
7. Learn better coping strategies through better management of your life. In my opinion, it is not the addiction that needs to be dealt with, it’s the addictive personality. The rest of your life, you may most likely want to turn to SOMETHING (who knows what) to dull your pain. And you will most likely do it obsessively, unless you understand what drives your addiction. If it’s not alcohol or men it might be shopping. Or gambling. Or whatever! There’s no sense in going to AA, then switching to LAA, then switching FAA or SLAA, or NA, etc. It’s all the same. Whatever you are addicted to is irrelevant. It’s your WAY to protect yourself. Once you build yourself up, learn how to cope with stress and manage your life like an adult and suddenly, poof! the need to run away is gone, or lessened. So, how do you learn to manage your life better? You live it. Stop running away from things. Practice, practice, practice. One of the things in life that scared me to death was working. At a job. Well, it stressed me out so much because I had zero experience, zero confidence, and being in situations that I didn’t feel comfortable or confident in stressed me out. So…I would avoid working by hopping in to a relationship. And then of course, I would be broke and need money and the vicious cycle would begin. So….go to school. Learn a trade. Get good at something. And allow yourself TEN TIMES to practice a hobby before giving up. Learn about better communication, how to create boundaries, when to talk, when to shut up. Learn how to manage your money, your free time, your living space, your stress. Yes, learn to manage stress in healthier ways. The more control you take over managing your life, the more confidence you will have in your life and the less you will need to depend on men or booze or whatever other object we can shove in the perceived “void.”
Shall I go on? Because I’m really not finished yet! Bottom line: you are in the right place. You are beginning a journey that has MANY MANY opportunities for growth. I’m glad you’re here. Keep reading.Keep posting. Become part of this community. Read my blog thelovelyaddict.com. And whatever you do, DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOURSELF. You, not anything or anyone else (except maybe your kids if you have them), are your best investment. Really try to understand that. YOU are your biggest and best investment. The more you learn about better health, and the more you do to work towards better health, the more of an investment you are making in yourself. It’s that easy.
Three new entries have been posted on The Break-Up Journal. Don’t forget to scroll all the way down on The Break Up Journal’s main page and click the “Follow this Blog by Email” link so that you receive notices of new posts.
My favorite entry of these three is June 24th. A lot of soul searching and a perfectly formed description of what I now understand to be introversion:
…As I drifted through the streets yesterday and took in all the people and their sad and lonely faces and their bad smells and rotten circumstances I came to the conclusion that I do not belong in a city. I am too delicate. Fragile. Too easily influenced by the energy of others, both good and bad. Actually, too drained by the energy of others, good and bad. I don’t have a way to shut the world out and be peaceful within myself. I let everything in. I would like to learn evasiveness. I would like to imagine a wall around me where I can look out, but not let anything in to disturb me.
There’s a reason love addicts are attracted to sex addicts, avoidants and narcissistic types. What do all these types all have in common? They offer very little in the way of true intimacy, and that, my friends, is something a love addict cannot handle either.
Instead of focusing on the sex addict, the avoidant and the narcissist, focus on yourself. Ask yourself this very difficult question: if I crave the intimacy of a relationship so desperately, why is it that I keep going after people who cannot give that to me? If I crave an ice cream cone, why on earth would I go to find it at the hardware store????
Love addiction is a paradox. It is not about love. It is about avoiding the self and avoiding true intimacy (with yourself and with others). At least sex addicts and avoidants can recognize their intimacy disorder. It seems that many of us can’t. And yet, we are the same. We are opposite sides of the same coin.
Don’t be fooled by the “love” in love addiction. There’s not much love in a love addicted relationship. What is there instead? Fear (of abandonment), need, desperation, drama, pain…
So, I’ve created a new body of work called The Break-Up Journal. Many of you, throughout the years, have asked me how I recovered and what happened, and so, instead of “telling” I am showing.
The Break-Up Journal is an actual account of my last love-addicted relationship, the break-up that ensued, the withdrawal and my ultimate struggle into recovery. Because this is an actual account, transcribed from hand-written journals, nothing is held back. But, because of that, reading can often be cringe-worthy. There are ridiculously stupid lapses in judgment on my part, huge slips, relapses, and several stellar losses of dignity. At times, reading is painful. And trust me, when I re-read this journal, I want to whack this girl over the head and say, What are you an idiot? Don’t you see?!
Fortunately that girl is long gone, but her story remains, and hopefully it can and will add insight into your own struggle with love addiction.
I am planning on posting five entries per week. It is meant to be read chronologically, so that means starting with May 31 (on bottom) and reading up.
Be sure to check out the About the blog page and the Cast of Characters, so you have better insight into the story line. And while names and dates have changed to protect identities, if you are familiar with my blog, you will probably be able to figure out who’s who.
My guess is, if you’re a love addict, the concept of “discipline” either makes no sense to you (that’s only something the military needs to practice, right?), or you recoil from the mere mention of it (sex dungeons, disciplinary parents and hard work, oh my!). Either way, love addicts have virtually zero self-discipline. At least when it comes to relationships.
How and why we tend to be less disciplined people is a mystery. From my own experience, I was raised in a somewhat unruly environment. I would certainly get into trouble if I did something wrong (I used to sneak into my mother’s closet, pull out a dress of hers, and then take scissors and cut it up into pieces so that it fit me. Needless to say, I got into trouble from time to time). But on the whole, I would have to say my parents were not disciplinarians, nor was their parenting very consistent. I grew up, in fact, believing that discipline was a bad thing for creative individuals and that people “like us” should be without boundaries or rules, simply living free so as to express themselves…
Those beliefs, as idealistic and freeing as they seemed at the time, were not very realistic. They translated into a rather directionless, undisciplined adult who ended up not really knowing the benefit of boundaries, rules, self-discipline and deferred gratification. And who certainly never had the self-discipline to make many of her creative ideas come to fruition.
Only now, after years of recovery, do I truly understand how faulty and self-sabotaging those beliefs were. And they were all based on a lack of understanding about the idea of discipline. To me, it was “bad.” Discipline was for non-creative, military-types. Period.
I was so wrong.
Setting the record straight, here are three powerful definition of discipline, taken from Wikipedia:
- Discipline is the assertion over more base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with self control. Self-discipline is to some extent a substitute for Motivation.
- Discipline is when one uses reason to determine the best course of action that opposes one’s desires, which is the opposite of Fun.
- Self-discipline—what many people call “will-power”—refers to the ability to persist at difficult or unpleasant tasks until they are completed. People who possess high self-discipline are able to overcome reluctance to begin tasks and stay on track despite distractions. Those with low self-discipline procrastinate and show poor follow-through, often failing to complete tasks—even tasks they want very much to complete.
For a love addict wanting and needing to become healthier, self-discipline is a must. We must learn to overcome obsessive thoughts, stop reaching out to our PoAs, change our current behavior, and change the way we think about certain big ticket items like love, relationships and who we are. All this takes loads of self-discipline.
So, how do you become more disciplined? There are a few resources on the internet to help. Forbes magazine gives a leadership version here. And then there’s Pick the Brain that offers tips for self-discipline when it comes to things like getting to the gym. Both set of tips can be applied to love addiction. But my personal favorite resource on self-discipline comes from Uncommon Help, a site designed for self-help and awareness. Read the 7 Self-Discipline Techniques. Then, print it out. Read it daily. Repeat.
Discipline is not scary. It’s the internal force that allows you to choose the apple over the donut, get up and go to the gym when you don’t feel like it or make decisions based on reason and logic, rather than emotion. Discipline is often a trait you’re born with, but it can be a learned behavior. But it is one concept that many love addicts fear. Why? Because discipline means change. It means giving up something in the short term to get to something far greater and far more rewarding in the long term. It means kissing the safety blanket of your addiction (i.e. your person of addiction and your addictive behavior) goodbye by stepping up to the plate and taking control of your life. It means having the willingness to take the risk to be a better person.
If you need a motivating mantra to start being more self-disciplined, use this: Enough already. I need to grow up. I need to stop being a little child, acting out, getting what he/she wants and crying when I don’t. I need to see value in disciplined behavior. Especially if it means living a more authentic, happy life.
Now, go get ’em!
All the self-help books tell you you have to meet your own needs. And while, for the most part, that is true, it’s not entirely true. If I break my leg and get rushed to the ER, there better be a team of competent doctors there to meet my needs because heck if I have to operate on myself.
Love addicts have a rough time figuring out which needs they can and should meet themselves, and which needs they believe should be met by others. I believe that much of the confusion over this choice stems from an inability or refusal to see one’s self as an adult versus a child. Love addicts tend to need attention and care that would normally be bestowed upon a child. But we’re not children. We are adults. And as an adult here’s how you figure out what needs you should be meeting yourself, as opposed to which needs others can meet for you…
YOU are responsible for meeting your basic needs: water, food, shelter (that means taking care of yourself financially), and clothing are all examples of basic needs. Basically, you need to be at the least self-sufficient.
YOU are responsible for meeting your own mental, emotional and physical needs: this means taking care of yourself, making healthy choices, keeping fit, eating well, incorporating spirituality into your life, filling your own void (if you think you have one), and working through or resolving any mental, emotional or physical issues you may have. This is no one else’s job but yours.
YOU are responsible for meeting your higher needs: higher education, finding and cultivating appropriate and rewarding friendships, finding a partner who is kind, respectful, loving, and compatible, being happy, finding and having a fulfilling career, entertaining yourself and being the person you aspire to be are all examples of higher needs. YOU are responsible for meeting those needs. No one else.
So, what needs of yours are others responsible for meeting?
The need to communicate & be social
The need for intimacy
The need for common human decency: Whether you know it or not, you have a human need for respect, tolerance, decency and to be treated humanely. Everyone is not expected to love or even like you, but they (and we) must meet the need of every human to treat others with dignity and respect. Many love addicts ignore this kind of need in exchange for other seemingly more important needs (sex, companionship, etc.), never realizing that you should not ever have to give up this need. We all deserve respect. Period. If you’re not getting it from certain sources, you need to reassess why that person(s) is in your life. You need to recognize that this is a valid and essential need, and that it should be met by yourself AND others. If it is not, you move on.
The need for friendship: while you are responsible for going out and trying to make friends, those friends, in return, are responsible for meeting your need for a compatible friend. If, however, they cannot meet that need you should move on, or stop expecting them to be a friend.
The need for intimacy with another human being: while you are responsible for going out and trying to find a mate, that mate, in return, is responsible for meeting your need for a compatible, respectful, intimate and loving partner. If, however, they cannot meet those needs you should move on, or stop expecting them to be your partner.
Lastly, I think it’s important to note that no one owes you anything, once you are an adult, except for respect (and sometimes you don’t even get that). And while you are able to expect that some of your needs can be met by others, you, my friend, are responsible for the bulk of those needs being met. If you are not meeting them, today is a great day to start!