As a child, I grew up in a home where there was chronic rage, conflict and emotional disconnection. Furniture was broken, doors kicked down due to rage from… well, I didn’t know why. I just learned to carefully scan the emotional environment for cues as to whether I should hide or try to fix, soothe. Never really to any avail. My brothers, sister and I lived with my mom; but then there was my beautiful father – he was tall, dark, funny very charming, and not around. I rarely ever saw him, my parents having divorced when I was 5. When I did visit him, he looked like all the heroes of my childhood Hollywood era. He always had a young, beautiful girlfriend, nice cars, and lived on the beach in Southern California. To me his life looked like a movie set. A movie I wanted to be and live in to escape my real life. I knew that he was the hero/rescuer I wanted and needed. But my longing for him stayed unrequited and I believe I confused longing for love. His unavailability is what kept my fantasy of him in place for years.
By 13, I spent much of my time in fantasy. Fantasy that I was beautiful, interesting, precious – this fantasy took the form of being ‘seen’ by some crush, a boy that to me embodied love, caring, and adoration… of me. My day-dreaming provided me with a powerful pain-killing effect; killing the pain of an angry, critical mother and an absent father.. I would spend hours in day-dreaming that I was dancing on stage (I danced in ballet and a dance company) and some boy would see me and fall in love with me. At that time, not having any real knowledge of sex and romance, I saw that 13 year-old boy and his thinking of or watching me not in a dirty or sexual way – but rather it was his longing for a girl so beautiful and perfect as myself. His adoration and longing for me would meet and cure my own.
I specifically remember times when I would have to pay attention in school or elsewhere. I would have to pull myself out of the fantasy which would literally often cause me some slight physical pain.
Like many children deprived of love, attention, consistency and unconditional regard, I quickly grew love addict features, e.g. day-dreaming of the perfect love, craving unconditional and constant adoration, pedestalizing crushes, fantasizing their perfect qualities and being unable to see any flaws. The movies and music of my childhood and teenage culture and era reinforced and added to my fantasy.
When I look back, I realize I literally craved male attention and limmerance. Not any or all males, but the specific one that I came to believe would prove my worth as a beautiful, lovable girl. He could and would qualify and validate my worth. If he saw, longed and pursued me, I could relax and sink into the feeling of love and safety.
It happened a bunch of times. Boys or young men that (I now realize) had real and growing feelings for me, but once the dopamine infused haze of desire and pursual faded, I would feel a deadening and disinterest (of my own) creeping in again and ultimately, I would find a way to cause ‘drama’ and excitement – negatively or positively. I would find their flaws, blame them for not doing whatever thing would make me feel pursued, loved, or special. As they would become human and our relationship would become less ‘intense’, the familiar discomfort and pain of my own low self-worth would increase and they would have to go.
I feel sad for that girl. For her loss, and for being so lost, so searching. In her search for ‘love’, she caused pain and confusion to others. When I think of some of my early dating behaviors, I cringe a bit but realize it was out of hurt and pain. I now have compassion for that girl and for the young men that were certainly hurt. My teenage, young adult romantic needs were insatiable and unrequitable. It took me years to see that. As I finally recognized the problem, took time through therapy to increase my sense of self-worth, I became able to see that I had “used” these boys and young men. Whatever their faults or their role, they were humans that I had objectified to be agents of my healing. I became able to see that their own issues and pain of low self-worth were often the catalyst in their trying to rescue or ‘fix’ me. If they could rescue, help, take care of another, they could raise their own self-worth. It was sad and futile for both of us.
I have seen what I now see as a love addition/love avoidance cycle, or withdrawer/pursuer cycle, thousands of times in my work, in my social life, in the media, etc.. After engaging in my own therapeutic work to correct this, I recognized the cycle in my clients as a psychotherapist. My own healing and the relief it has brought, drove me to become an expert in the area of love, relationship, sex addiction. I became certified through the Meadows (Wickenburg, AZ) and through the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) as a CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist).
I hear many of my clients say “this is the way I am” – revealing their core belief that they need love from another (particularly a romantic relationship) or they simply cannot be “ok” without a relationship, let alone happy, relaxed and engaged in a full life. I feel incredibly passionate about helping to decrease suffering of folks with these issues. I know it can be different. It is for me.