STOP FOCUSING ON THE RELATIONSHIP
I’ve been reading a lot of posts lately on the LAA website where the individual (the love addict) is focusing his or her recovery on finding, maintaining, waiting for or trying to create A BETTER RELATIONSHIP, as if having a loving, intimate perfect relationship were a sign that he or she has beat this whole love addiction thing.
THIS IS NOT THE CASE.
Love addiction has little or nothing to do with the external world of dating and finding love. I think this is the hardest thing for any of us (me included) to understand. So I’ll repeat it:
Love addiction has little or nothing to do with the external world of dating and/or finding love.
It has to do with your own, personal inner ability to love YOURSELF and BELIEVE IN YOURSELF and not use relationships or people as a means of escaping your pain and suffering.
In fact, I will go so far as to tell you that by focusing so heavily on your recovery for the sake of being good at a relationship, you are continuing the faulty pattern that got you into the mess in the first place. And by “mess,” I’m talking about your addiction (NOT your relationship, NOT your PoA). Your addiction: That draining, exhausting, undermining, self-sabatoging defense mechanism that YOU built for yourself many years ago to protect you at some point (not from dating, mind you, but from pain; physical, mental, sexual or emotional), and which has now become a defective, poorly functioning crutch. Not only has it become a crutch, but it has become something you don’t even recognize anymore. Suddenly, now that you’re older, you think you have a problem with men or women or relationships in general (and you do, but…) But you think, if I can just figure out how to BE in relationship, I’ll be fine. Sadly, that’s not the answer. In fact, it’s the problem. And it’s resurfacing and resurfacing and resurfacing with each new relationship you get into.
My wonderful, loving mother used to say to me, “Tracy, God gives you the same problem over and over again until you figure out how to fix it and get it right. When you fix it, the problem never comes back again.” She was so right. For the longest time I thought I was just dating the wrong guy or I was weird, different, strange. I bought a MILLION books on how to repair a relationship. I bought self-help books on how to love myself and how to be the perfect person I could be…I did all of this for the sake of finding the right man. Little did I know I was trying to fix something that was not even broken. I was trying to fix something that I had NO CONTROL OVER: men, dating, love, etc. I was trying to fix the wrong thing!
In fact, as recently as last year, I thought I had finally overcome all my problems with men. I thought I had finally proven my worth by dating a guy that loved me and I loved him (despite a few little problems, that I supposed I had to overlook, even though they didn’t make me feel too good inside). And then one day, he dumped me. One day, he said, “I don’t love you. I must have made a mistake.” And upon hearing that, I lost it. I lost EVERYTHING, and I came to the bitter conclusion that I was not meant for love. It was at this point in my self discovery that I FINALLY got it.
Love addiction has NOTHING to do with LOVE or men or relationships. It has to do with your independent ability to survive and thrive in the face of loss and pain, and not to cover pain up by losing yourself to the relationship for safety and protection. It has to do with who you are as JUST YOU, not who you are as you relate to the relationship you’re in. Recovery and self-worth come when someone dumps you or craps on you or beats you down or fires you and you allow it to happen without crouching and hiding. You allow it to happen and you face it and all of its consequences but you do NOT let it get the best of you. You do not identify your self worth with it.
Self-worth is a huge part of a successful recovery as an LA. Self-worth is based on identity. It is based on having an identity of one’s own and not feeling like a failure or feeling worthless because a relationship did or didn’t work out. And considering that one of the biggest issues love addicts have is a loss of identity and loss of self, this is where recovery needs to be focused– on finding one’s own identity. The more we look to solve the problems of our lives outside ourselves, the more lost we become. And sometimes when we hold on to a failed or failing relationship it is because our identity and self-worth is so wrapped up in it. You are not that relationship. Separate yourself from the relationship and start believing in who you are and what you are worth as a man or a woman who is viable and functioning without an intimate relationship.
When you have put in the time to do that, to understand who you are and recognize and make peace with your own identity, then you are more prepared when an opportunity for a relationship does come up. At that point, you don’t settle. You don’t take the only thing out there, or the first thing that comes along, or just anyone to make the pain go away.
YEs! Everyone wants to be in a loving, intimate relationship. That is undeniable. It is also part of our biology, and it is a practical, possible, real desire. But we must have a core self first; we must know ourselves and be able to stand on our own and have something to bring to the table first before we can introduce someone new and healthy into our lives. Dating is, after all, a more advanced stage of development. It might take awhile. It might take deferring gratification and putting time and energy into developing the self. But it’s worth it. You are worth it.
Somewhere along the line we, as a group, learned faulty defense mechanism to get us through some pretty tough times. They worked then, when we were ten and twelve and seventeen. But they don’t work anymore. Addiction is a defense mechanism. It doesn’t work. And just as the alcoholic must learn to survive and know himself without the bottle, and just as a drug-addict must learn that more drugs is not the answer, we too, must stop seeking out solutions through the PoA and The Relationship. The solution, the answer is in building the self.
Here’s a parable I always loved. You may have read it before in some variation:
There was a young man searching outside his house, in the grass, for his keys. It was a sunny bright day, with lots of mid-afternoon sun streaming down. An old man came by and asked what he was doing.
“I’m looking for my keys,” he said. “I lost them.”
So, the old man wanting to help the fellow out, started looking in the grass along side of him. After awhile, the old man said, “did you maybe drop them in a different spot, because we’ve been looking here for a while now and I’m not seeing anything.”
The young man looked up from the grass and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I should have mentioned that I lost my keys inside the house.”
The old man was dumbstruck. “I’m a little confused,” he said. “If you lost them inside the house, why on earth are you looking for them out here?”
“Because there’s more sunlight,” he said.