The publishing house “MIF” published a book by psychotherapist David Richo “How to be an adult in a relationship.” Drawing on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, the author explores five signs of adult love and explains the role they play in our lifelong relationships. We publish an excerpt from the fourth chapter, which is dedicated to love addiction.

At first glance, addiction is no different from the romantic phase of a relationship. The difference is that the romantic phase passes, but the dependence on intense feelings and dramatization remains.

Love helps to develop, while addiction paralyzes and does not bring satisfaction, because this feeling accompanies the fall of the parabolic curve, which does not happen with addiction.

Addiction is also similar to unconditional love: “Despite the betrayal, I still love her after so many years.” (The phrase “after so many years” suggests that the natural cycle has been broken.) Addiction is not a bond, but a hook. Remember “Wuthering Heights”? This is not a story of love, but of addiction. Katie cannot stop loving Heathcliff, although he offends her all the time, and she can neither stay with him nor leave.

In adult life, people recreate the same bonds that they had in childhood. If at that time there were problems with this, they are waiting for addiction.

Unconscious memories from childhood form unconscious reflexes in adulthood. In all directions, the ocean of our past relationships stretches to the horizon, and we are looking for an island paradise in this expanse. And having found it, we overestimate it to the detriment of our needs, which can only be satisfied with conscious love. Being dependent, people need one of the elements [любви. — Прим. ред.] in an exaggerated form: for example, they perceive the need for affection and touch as a sexual desire.

Addiction gives rise to another problem: not only consent, but also refusal leads to an adrenaline rush, so the addict, in fact, does not care what to get. Thus, even ending the relationship, the person remains on the hook. We continue to depend on a partner, even when we part with him. Addictions of this kind often work in a seduce and run pattern, where a partner is lured and then turned away from him. After that, he does the same. Addiction combines fear and desire. Spiritual enlightenment consists in liberation from them, so addiction can be called a disease of the spirit, especially since it involves the search for the unattainable. Rumi successfully expressed this in his poetic lines: “My whole life is woven from erotic pleasures with my beloved.”

Dependent relationships are based on projection. In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara says, “I loved what I made up. I came up with a bunch of rags and fell in love with them. And when Ashley showed up, I put them on him, not caring whether they suit him or not. I didn’t see who he really was. I loved things, not him.” And at the end of the book, she adds: “I loved something that is not really there.” These words imply that she was not afraid to take responsibility: “I am not a victim of a projection. I created and maintained it myself. Whatever it was, Ashley liked it too.

Sex addiction or addictive relationships are not one-sided. Dependence is subject to one of the partners, and the second, feeling love for himself and feeling the power, decides how to respond. In such a painful (or rather blind) alliance, one acts directly, while the other beckons and runs away. That is why there are always two on stage.

The object of addiction has power, because it is voluntarily sacrificed will and life. Obsession with a person and his problems can last for years. This takes time that could be devoted to spiritual practices or creativity. The “greedy creditor” of addiction takes all the potential for itself and can lead to “incomprehensible demoralization”, as it is called in the charter of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In a healthy relationship, this is not possible. You can only have what you don’t have. Hence the paradox of dependent relationships arises: attachment deprives us of the object of sighing. The irony is also that the more you look for reliability in others, the less you feel it. Sometimes it’s scary to realize to what extent a partner influences our lives and our thoughts. But instead of running away, the addict cuddles even closer! Men who are dependent on women should be thinking, “Is this why I need a woman to support a part of me that cannot stand on its own?”

On the inscrutable paths of life, we always focus on something. We dedicate eighteen years of our lives to children, twenty to careers, fourteen to bad habits, seven to love obsessions. These periods sometimes overlap, but always keep us from contact with the inner life. We are afraid not to find mutual understanding with ourselves. The inner life seems to be a terrible abyss, when in reality there is space and beauty. Conscious meditations help to enter this space and make sure that it is not so scary there. Mindfulness is freedom from the fear that causes addiction.

Addiction is not indicative of weakness, illness, or inadequacy. This condition is common to everyone in one way or another.

Unrequited love increases desire, and this is natural. The eternal theme of love addiction has repeatedly surfaced in the history of mankind. We are neither the first nor the last to taste this cocktail of joy and pain. The feeling of compassion for oneself and the ability to look at oneself with interest, without shame, regret and malice, can lead the drama to a happy ending.

I would not recommend anyone to become addicted, but for all the disadvantages, there are positive aspects to it. It makes you understand children’s problems and unmet needs, find pain points. We realize how lonely, deprived and helpless we are, we understand who we really are, and this makes us more humble. The path to spiritual awakening can also be through addiction if you can let go of the ego and realize that you are not in control of your emotions, desires and needs. The agony of addiction will not be in vain if it helps you understand yourself. The Universe will send you a person to whom you will surrender yourself with giblets, if this is the only possible path of spiritual development for you. In order for Dorothy to gain magical powers, the universe sent a hurricane on her.

Finally, addiction shows how far we are willing to go for what we want. Although the object of addiction may be something absurd, but focusing on it helps us to discover in ourselves the ability to pay close attention to something and achieve a goal. These are precious skills for building intimate relationships that are just waiting in the wings.

The book

How to Be an Adult in a Relationship offers a fresh perspective on love—a perspective that focuses not on finding the perfect match, but on becoming a more loving and understanding person yourself. The publication will help move away from condemnation, fear and guilt and take an adult position in relationships.