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Intimate Partner Violence and Love Addiction

May 25, 2017

By Rebekah Givens, Behavioral Health Technician, Willow House at The Meadows

Imagine that what you crave more than anything else in the world is love and acceptance.

Now, imagine that throughout your life you have continually tried to earn the love of others, yet your efforts come up empty time and again.

As a result, your self-esteem plummets and you blame yourself for not being able to get it right. Your need to be valued is so consuming that you will do anything—become anything—in order to get that love you crave. You bury all your feelings, wants, and needs deep inside and never pay them any attention because if other people see them, they will toss you aside. They always leave because you aren’t worth their love.

Over time, you become empty of yourself and live for the purpose of fulfilling the wants and needs of others. You hope that someone will eventually appreciate you and satisfy the secret, desperate need you have to be loved. As much as you want it though, you don’t quite let yourself believe it’s possible.

The Crossroads

Imagine that our love addict meets an individual with the opposite mentality. This person believes that their wants and needs are supreme; they have every right to have their needs met. At first, our love addict and this other person both feel that they have met their perfect match. Their relationship fulfills the surface level needs of both parties as the love addict meets every need their partner presents and the partner validates the love addicts need to be appreciated. While the relationship could continue like this indefinitely, it is also possible that the demanding partner in this relationship could take advantage of the love addict and become abusive.

The question is whether or not love addiction has an impact on intimate partner violence (IPV). Logic tells us yes, but let’s take it deeper and look at what is happening in each of these conditions and the extent to which they influence each other.

Definitions and the Downward Spiral

Love addiction is defined as an individual consistently putting the needs of their romantic partner before their own. A love addict will try to meet every want and need their partner has in order to feel needed and gain the love and affection they crave. Love addicts often determine their worth based on how they are perceived by others—particularly their romantic partner(s).

When a love addict enters into a relationship with an individual who takes advantage of their deferential nature, it can easily lead to manipulation and even intimate partner violence.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is any physical, sexual, or psychological harm inflicted on one member of a relationship by the other. Physical and sexual abuse are recognized as any event in which one individual hits, kicks, shoves, or demands unsolicited sexual favors from another individual. Emotional abuse is the use of intimidation, threats, and demeaning remarks intended to make one member of a relationship feel shame and less valuable than the other.

Any person is capable of becoming abusive to their partner. Similarly, everyone has the capacity to put the needs of others before their own. However, when the extremes of both these cases intersect, the probability of the relationship becoming manipulative and abusive increases.

IPV generally results in shame, guilt, and decreased self-esteem. These traits eventually lead to denial, minimization, and rationalization by individuals caught in this cycle. Love addicts affected by IPV, in the midst of their search of love and acceptance, will minimize their wants and needs by refusing to admit there is a problem. They will rationalize to themselves and others that their partner needs them to meet certain needs better, faster, or in different ways. The abuse isn’t so bad because they are finally needed.

Course of Treatment

Because they have often spent so much of their lives focusing solely on the needs of others, thinking about their own needs may seem entirely foreign to the love addict. Even if they leave one abusive relationship, they are likely to move directly into a similarly harmful relationship unless they learn to think differently about themselves and their worthiness. They must learn to see themselves as having valid wants and needs, and realize that it is ok for them to ask for these to be met.

In order to restructure ones thinking so completely, counseling is often necessary. If the love addict turned to drugs or alcohol in order to help them get through their abusive relationship, they could also need support as they detox and learn to handle stressful situations while sober.

If you have been the victim of intimate partner violence, Willow House at the Meadows can help as you begin recovery from PTSD, trauma, anxiety, depression, as well as alcohol and substance abuse. Here, you will also have the support you need as you begin to develop healthy self-esteem and see yourself as a valuable, contributing member of society.

If you would like to explore treatment options for yourself or someone you love, call us at 800-244-4949, or contact us online.