Am I addicted to love?

Ask Ammanda in love

I’ve only had one serious relationship, it ended some years ago but I still can’t get over it. I miss my ex often, sometimes in a physical and overwhelming way that feels like a kind of madness. The only respite is when I meet someone new to be crazy about. I recently realised I have feelings for a friend. But what worries me is how much this friend has replaced the ex in my mind. I can’t tell whether these feelings are real or whether I want so much to be in love that I’m constructing it. I spent my younger years absorbing Rom Coms and love songs while my main real life role model was my parent’s unhappy marriage. How do I tell if my feelings are real?

Ammanda says…

Well, I would say that your feelings are real because they’re just that: your feelings. You seem to searching for the ‘truth’ about them, and my overwhelming sense from your letter is that this process is wearing you down – and possibly out.

First of all, let’s normalise some of this. Lots of people seek the thrill of falling in love. Let’s face it, it’s intoxicating and usually makes us feel good about ourselves. That exclusive one-to-one connection that only the ‘other’ can provide is heady stuff – so much so that sometimes people find it difficult to let this feeling go.

As you suggest, your upbringing may have a part to play in all of this. Your parent’s relationship sounds like it may have been a difficult to be around. As kids, the adults in our lives are sometimes destructive towards each other in a way that can leave us feeling vulnerable and helpless. Sometimes we can take this anxiety into our own adult relationships, so, for example, some people can find it really painful if they’re not in a relationship at any one time, whereas for others being in one at all is fraught with worries about the possibility of it ending.

You say you watched a lot of rom coms and listened to lots of love songs. Obviously I don’t know exactly what was happening for you, but perhaps you did that because you wanted to see an alternative to your parents’ relationship. Perhaps those movies and songs felt inviting because they suggested a different way of being with someone – one in which people were loved and cared for by each other.

I don’t have much information about the serious relationship that ended, but it’s very clear that its loss has been incredibly difficult to come to terms with and that, unless you have something or someone else to focus on, you’re confronted with very powerful feelings that are difficult to manage.

But if I could say something here that will might sound a bit challenging: on my first reading of your letter I thought it read as if you were concerned that your feelings towards your friend might actually prevent you from yearning for your ex, rather than helping you to accept that the previous relationship had concluded and that new possibilities might be available. I found myself wondering if you might feel worried that any other relationship you embark on might never match up to the one you had.

While it’s probably true that we all have an image of our ‘ideal’ partner, this can sometimes be a pretty tall order for prospective ones to live up to. It might be a good idea to think back on the ‘craziness’ you describe to see if perhaps this has become your way of making sure there’s no time to think about your previous partner – but then maybe you start making comparisons anyway, and, in the end, the person you’re with just doesn’t live up to them.

You may be wondering if you’re ‘addicted’ to love – or rather to falling in love. While it’s true that some people do develop compulsive behaviours in this area, it’s often far too easy to pigeonhole yourself in this category. Of course, if you’re worried about it, please do talk through your concerns with a counsellor. But what I’d really like to you consider is this: why not try trust your feelings about your friend and see what unfolds?

It sounds as if you may have a belief that the one serious relationship you’ve had so far was so special that, although it’s very painful, you have to keep in touch with the feelings you continue to have about that person. But, as you’re finding out, that isn’t really helping. While taking a chance with your friend may involve dealing with uncertainty about how it will all work out – as well as requiring you accept them as a whole person (not just the bits you think you see when you’re falling in love) – it may also offer the chance for a new beginning. If you can hang on in there, you may just give yourself the opportunity to see whether this friend, while they may not be the same person as your lost love, could be able to offer you something just as valuable as they did.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)