Dear Beth

Relationship/ love addiction, by online counsellor

Happiness is: gorgeous wild flowers adorn Ontario meadow

Article about the different types of love addiction below the letter

How can I get back my wife?

Dear Beth:

We got married 6 months ago. I asked my wife several times why she wants to leave me. We have even not yet started our life and you are willing to leave. She says she is fine with me as a friend but no more like a wife. I just want to tell you that I am living separately from her since last four and half months. And since that I am trying to convince her that she should at least give me a chance before going for divorce. But she is insisting on divorce only.

The mistake that I did was that she lied to me several times and even she was not giving me enough time, so I tried to convince her that she is not doing the right things. But she did not give me a postive response. So after waiting couple of days, I decided to talk with her father. I told her father whole story. Since the day I talked with her father, she said because I have talked with her father she has got a bad feeling in her father and mother’s heart. And I was the one who did this. So she is not willing to continue with me. She is saying even if she was doing wrong I should not talk with her parents. I have even promised her several times that I will never ever do this again, just give me a chance, but she is not giving. I have tried more than my abilities but I have failed. I do not know how I can get her back. She told me several times now there is nothing in her heart for me. But I do not want to lose her. My life is only because of her.

She is still getting everything from me. Gifts, money and other support, but whenever I am asking for living together she is refusing. I am becoming helpless. There is no idea in my mind of how can I get her back or win her heart. I have even stopped calling her parents since last 2 months but there is no change in her behaviour. Whenever she needs she is calling me for help, like money for shopping, travelling, help to find a job, to pay the bills. I am doing everything but on the other hand whenever I am asking to live together, she is refusing. I don't know what to do any more, I love her so much, could you please help! ...

[Can you suggest a free counselling service?] I am spending my whole salary on my wife. I do not have enough funds to pay expensive fees.

Beth Answers:
I have seen this type of situation before, and it is very sad. It looks as though your present approach is ensuring that your wife is not motivated to live with you and is also ensuring that you will continue to experience rejection, remain unhappy and feel bad about yourself. When you try to buy someone's affection, it sends them the message that you do not believe that you yourself are good enough. Not everyone is discerning enough to value and respect someone who does not value himself, and most people are not attracted to someone with low self-esteem. So your wife is accepting the money, which she does value, and rejecting you as a husband. This is the sort of situation that is often referred to as a relationship addiction or love addiction. It is also sometimes called codependency. The essence of an addictive process is that the way a person is trying to deal with a problem is what is actually preventing them from solving the problem and making it worse, so they become more and more invested in the behaviour and refuse to give it up. It is a self-perpetuating cycle.

On the money question, there are some public agencies such as Family Services which will let you see a social worker on a sliding scale, but it is only inexpensive if your income is low. They do not give you a lower rate because you have debts, or because you have other priorities for spending your money. You might find a twelve step group useful. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous is one of several relevant twelve step groups. You might also want to look at a book called Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood, written to help people escape from relationship addiction. I do think you badly need counselling, though. Think about your priorities.


Types of Love Addiction

by Beth Mares

An addiction is a self-defeating pattern of behaviour that the sufferer wants to stop and can't. It typically involves an obsession that stops one from having a balanced life and getting one's emotional needs met. Here are a few examples of the many different manifestations of love addiction that I have seen.

Some, as in the letter above, involve an exaggerated and inappropriate loyalty; in many cases the person is abused or taken advantage of; sometimes this involves an addiction to rejection, and some addicts are obsessed with trying to decide whether to stay or go. Other love addictions, on the contrary, involve an inability to be faithful or to be satisfied with a partner. Some of these would also meet the definition of sex addictions.

Most "love addicts" have an overwhelming anxiety about being alone; one relationship quickly follows another, or overlaps.

Some are fixated on the honeymoon stage; as soon as the real world intrudes to end it, the relationship does not work any more for the sufferer, who compulsively seeks a new relationship.

Some women (and occasionally men) are extremely capable and independent, and seem to be having a good life, until they get into a relationship; then they get locked into an addictive pattern and fall apart.

For some women, sex is about hooking a man, and is typically very passionate; when a commitment is made and the desperation disappears, such a woman finds that she is no longer aroused. Her passion may be revived if her lover cheats, if they have a big fight, or if for some other reason she thinks she is losing him (or her). This syndrome is sometimes regarded as a form of low sexual desire, a sexual dysfunction, but it also involves a relationship problem.

Another pattern, often called a sex addiction, is such a ubiquitous cultural pattern among males that it can only be called an addiction when the man wants to stop it and can't. Like Tony Soprano, he needs to have a "good" spouse who looks after him and the home and raises the children, and a series of mistresses to have fun with. Occasionally we see similar behaviour among women.

There are a variety of love triangles involving love addiction--for example, some people expect one significant other to take care of them (in some cases treating him or her outrageously), while acting as caretaker to the other, sometimes putting up with abuse in the process. (I say 'significant other' because in some cases only one of the relationships is romantic/sexual; for example, one may be the spouse and the other could be the mother, child or platonic friend.)

This list is by no means exhaustive. 

Relationship addiction is usually a life-long pattern, and in my experience it does not change until it is interrupted by appropriate in-depth psychotherapy. Behaviours characteristic of love addiction may be present temporarily in response to life events; sometimes the person recovers spontaneously or with the help of therapy; other times the temporary condition may develop into a life-long addiction. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of love addiction, I would advise you to talk to an appropriately qualified therapist or counsellor.

I can offer online counselling for relationship problems if you live in English Canada and have high speed internet connexion and a private place to talk. A smart phone will work. I might also be able to see you in my East Toronto office if you live close enough.