Michelle Zelli discovered her own addiction to love after 40 years of bouncing between painfully toxic relationships. She shares 11 signs you might be addicted to love and how to overcome them
Michelle Zelli, 56 spent years with what she called ‘a broken man-picker’, flitting from one intense, passionate yet heartbreaking relationship to another until, at 45 she finally found her own path for healing. She has now become a life coach helping other women overcome their emotional blocks. You can read Michelle’ story here. Now, Michelle shares the key signs you could be addicted to love and toxic relationships and follows with advice on how to change.
You lose yourself in the other person
You lose your own sense of self by incessantly wondering what your lover is thinking, feeling and doing in a relationship. You see life through their lens, not in an empathetic way but obsessively and you’re pretty blind to who you’re becoming.
You neglect friends and family
Your best friends and family now fit around his schedule and demands. Not in a balanced, mutual compromise but in a desperate bid to see him every moment he’s available. Something inside you whispers: ‘make the most of this, grab all you can, it probably won’t last, just like the others.’
You change yourself to what you think he/she wants
With little thought for who you really are, you change yourself to fit in with their criteria. Love addicts are often attracted to men who confirm their own perceived inadequacy with constant criticism, blame and shame . They often attract narcissistic men who are drawn towards a love addict’s neediness, vulnerability and eagerness to please.
You feel let down when you see them
You feel slightly deflated each time you meet. He’s just not as charismatic/attractive/sensitive/attentive as you remember. This is a sure sign you’re falling in love with a fantasy image, rather than the real person.
You doubt yourself
You constantly doubt your own worthiness of love and attention; always feeling a little spaced out, off balance and potentially exhausted. It takes a lot of energy to constantly feel inadequate or not worthy of another person’s love.
You tolerate bad behaviour – and then more bad behaviour
You allow behaviours you wouldn’t tolerate from other people in your life from your love. For example, he may disappear for days on end or even months and then swan back into your life like nothing happened. He might speak harshly to you in private or public or disregard your needs. He might blame you for his own shortcomings. He might have an off the scale anger problem. You tolerate it and go back for more. You may not even recognise the person you’re becoming.
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You’re literally ALWAYS worrying about pleasing them
You find yourself spending more time worrying about how to make him happy, whilst feeling increasingly disconnected with yourself and your own needs and wants. Despite your prizeworthy efforts, he becomes increasingly moody and critical.
He finds imaginative ways to convey his displeasure with you, often using ‘gaslighting’, a term used to describe the act of intentionally confusing and disorientating, with a maze of lies and subterfuge.
You ignore red flags – like verbal abuse
Before long you’re dazed by the verbal attacks: ‘You’re crazy, just look at you!’ But they’re so convincing, you may start to believe them yourself. Your friends have noticed you’re ignoring ‘red flags’. You dismiss your fiends’ advice, falling deeper and deeper into the spiral of mind f*cks, untruths and boundary breaking behaviour that this person is dishing out. You may even distance yourself from the people around you who have the audacity to voice their worries and concerns for your well being.
You make excuses for them
You make excuses for his flakiness, put downs or lies, whilst being ever harder on yourself. Afterall, your love will change him, right?
Crazy becomes a familiar way of being
You feel out of control, having lost your centre of gravity, you just don’t know who you are anymore.
It’s drama after drama
You bounce from one drama to another. Tears and fights become the glue of the relationship and often a precursor for amazing, intense and passionate sex. It’s so energy draining, you have little left for anything – or anyone – else.
12 steps to overcoming love addiction
Set boundaries and stick to them
Notice your own inner dialogue and behaviours. Take responsibility for your reactions, if you stop liking yourself, it’s time to call yourself out and change the dance. Know your deal breakers and set your boundaries and stick to them.
This can be hard but if one of your boundaries is, for example that you won’t tolerate the ‘disappearing act’ from a man, calmly say so, and if it happens again, ask yourself whether you’re worth more than that (you are).
Don’t ignore any unhappy feelings
If you feel sad, anxious or angry for more than 20 per cent of the time, ask yourself why you’re staying and still playing? Is this an old pattern and time to seek professional help in healing your unconscious wounds?
Practice self-esteem exercises, self-love and self-nurture. When you look after yourself, you’re teaching the world your self worth.
Let out your inner child
Connect with your inner child. They’re vulnerable and needy of your reassurance and unconditional love. They’ve been woken up by the hope of feeling known, valued and loved. Remember, it’s your job, not another person’s, to take care of your inner child. You have to make yourself feel loved, cherished and totally accepted first.
Know all your red flags
Write down your red flags and stick to them. No exceptions! You will become a genius at convincing yourself that their latest misdemeanour was just a ‘one off’, despite having enough evidence to compile a back catalogue Elvis would be proud of. If he starts to get critical of you or shows signs of having a temper, know that this kind of behaviour often gets worse with time – not better.
ALWAYS be honest
Communicate honestly, talk openly and hear the dialogue from a place of self-respect. Do not sell out. If they love you, he or she will see the best in you and welcome the opportunity to strengthen your authentic bond. In a healthy relationship you will feel heard and significant, but remember no one should always be expected to compromise.
Keep the relationship balanced
Make sure your relationship investment is balanced between the two of you. If they compromise on the movie you watch, you get to choose where you eat later. Regular reviews of your love landscape will help you stay in balance.
Stick to your boundaries
Own your behaviours. Love addiction can turn the calmest creature into a hysterical mess. Put down clear boundaries for yourself as well as the other person. Be an individual of integrity especially towards yourself. Do what you say, stick to your self-promises and be unapologetic for your self-compassion and acceptance. One boundary might be that you always go to yoga/out with friends on Thursday nights and he tried to convince you to stop because that’s the night he wants to see you. Ask yourself whether you really want to miss yoga or seeing your friends to see him or you’re just choosing that only to please him.
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Remember, their behaviour tells you who they are, it doesn’t define you. Keep this golden nugget at the forefront of your mind. All too often we’re inclined to hear ourselves think ‘He or she got mad and angry and out of control because I should have known better than to.’
Keep yourself well
In a healthy relationship we focus on keeping our own side of the street clean, no matter how messy theirs becomes. If that means therapy for you, do it.
Reflect in a journal every night
Be kind to yourself, you’re not perfect and nor do you need to be. Simply end each day by writing three ways you ‘have made yourself proud today’. Be sure to write, not just think. When you commit pen to paper you’re magnifying the impact of the positive focus. Practice daily by acknowledging your shifts, changes and growth. Be specific, be objective, be ready to be the woman you’re proud to be.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help
When a new relationship is demanding and stressful from the get-go, ask yourself honestly ‘What is my part in this dance?’ It can be difficult to untangle what’s ours and what’s theirs. Own your part and allow them the space to own theirs. Relationships bring up our emotional wounding and provide a fertile ground for self-awareness and growth. But we can’t see our own blind spots, so consider professional help from a love addiction specialist. Chris John is an expert therapist, in central London and one of the best I have found.
When our patterns and wounding are expertly illuminated we have an opportunity to change and consciously create a new relationship story.