Those who vacillate between love addiction and love avoidance are called Ambivalent Love Addicts. Most Love Addicts and Love Avoidants are ambivalent at one time or another. They crave love, but they also fear it.
The most famous kind of Ambivalent Love Addict is the Narcissist. On the surface, the Narcissist appears to be an Avoidant. He or she is usually aloof, detached, self-confident, self-centered, domineering, and/or afraid of commitment. However, when you leave Narcissists, they can turn into Love Addicts because they can’t handle being rejected. They turn to manipulation, aggression, and even violence to hold on.
The History of the Term Ambivalent Love Addict . . .
In the self-help world, labels change every few years. The alcoholic home became the dysfunctional home. The co-alcoholic became the co-dependent and then the love addict—as well as the “woman who loves too much.” In 1983, I was part of the transition from co-dependent to love addict, and like thousands of others, I embraced recovery.
In recovery, I soon learned that part of the recovery process included writing a timeline or history of my relationships. This is when I discovered that I had one additional problem. I chased after unavailable men, and ran from those who loved me. Or I ran hot and cold in the same relationship year after year.
As I was discovering this about myself, the self-help community was keeping pace, and I began reading about the “avoidance addict” or the “love avoidant.” Interesting!
This description of myself sufficed for a while to describe my dilemma, but eventually, after a little therapy, I began asking myself, “What if I suffer from both love addiction and love avoidance? What do I call myself?” Well … I thought about it for a few weeks, and finally came up with the term Ambivalent Love Addict. ALA for short.
Of course, I am an educator, so I put this term out there for others to use. I have discovered in this process that almost all love addicts and love avoidants are actually Ambivalent Love Addicts. I am not alone. Almost all of us who have a history of failed relationships obsess in one relationship and run in another. Or we run hot and cold in the same relationship. (Even, like myself, if we never experience love avoidance until we get into recovery, we are still ALAs at the end of the day.)
As a consultant to Five Sisters Ranch, I naturally use this new term with my clients. I am just amazed at how many people eventually identify with this new description of their love life over the years—especially after they are taught about the confusing world of the sub-conscious. In the hope of keeping it simple, the Ambivalent Love Addict has the following characteristics.
Characteristics of the Ambivalent Love Addict . . .
▪ Ambivalent Love Addicts (ALAs) crave love, but they also fear it.
▪ They may avoid intimacy altogether by obsessing about love through romantic fantasies about unavailable people.
▪ They may only get involved and obsess about emotionally unavailable people.
▪ They may become addicted through romantic affairs rather than committed rela-tionships.
▪ They may become addicted to people and then sabotage the relationships when their fear of intimacy comes up.
▪ They sometimes initiate relationships with more than one person at the same time in order to avoid moving to a deeper level with any one person, and then become addicted to the whole group.
▪ They may break up and make up over and over again in the same relationship and become addicted to this pattern.
▪ They sometimes sexualize relationships to such a degree that emotional intimacy is non-existent, and then become addicted to either the sex or the relationship—often both.
▪ No matter how addicted they are, they cannot commit to the future. They live in the moment.
▪ They can love, commit, obsess, and even become addicted; however this will go hand in hand with avoidance tactics, like a difficulty with affection and opening up emotionally. They are there, and they are not there. They come close, and then move away. They let other things outside of the relationship get in the way, i.e., hobbies, work, friends, lovers, addictions—anything. They just cannot open up to a deeper level of emotional intimacy, and yet they are unable to let go of the relationship.
If you are an Ambivalent Love Addict get help. There is a recovery program out there to help you make better choices.
Susan Peabody has been an educator and counselor for thirty years. She calls herself a "wounded healer" because she is a recovering love addict herself. Considered an expert in her field, her books include: Addiction to Love, The Art of Changing. Recovery Workbook, and Where Love Abides (her memoirs). For more about Susan and her work, check out her website www.brightertomorrow.net or call her at at 510-778-8880.