Dear Love Addict,
I know this is going to sound counterintuitive, and completely radical, bordering on hopeless and cruel, but I want you to really THINK ABOUT what I am about to confront you with:
What if someone came up to you today and said, “You will never be able to love anyone or have a sexual relationship with anyone ever again; you’re only option in life is to love and be loved by family and friends.” Period. No lusty sex. No romance. No life partner. No marriage or wedded bliss. Life would simply be lived as if you were an 80-year old man or woman who had lost his or her partner, and thus all hope of romance. What you did have, however, was the comfort, love and happiness from family, grandkids, friend and yourself. Think about it. Think deeply. Imagine it (Love addicts are great at imagining!)
What would you do? How would you feel? How do you feel thinking about it now? Is it a fate worse than death? Would you give up? Decide not to participate in life anymore? Bury yourself in a hole? Or would you adapt to your circumstances and try to enjoy what you did have (instead of dreaming of what you could have)?
Granted, this is a rather bleak exercise. But it’s an important one. Depending on how much thought you gave it, this exercise can help determine just how addicted (or should I said married?) you are to the idea of NEEDING romantic love. It also begs the question, at what point in your life do you accept and love yourself AS IS, without constantly seeking that which you do not possess?
Here’s the deal:
Your job as a human being who loves himself or herself, is to accept your life and your situation as it is, and to give up this fantasy, this life of LONGING. When we long for something, we cannot see or appreciate what we have in the now. We are blinded by HOPE for a future that may not ever be ours.
Sometimes love addiction and longing for love and affection is akin to a person who constantly seeks fame and fortune and feels like a failure if these things don’t come to him. His whole life is built on the hope that he will be rich and famous some day, but his chances of becoming those things, as with everyone’s, are slim to none. So he spends his whole life in longing, never appreciating what is right in front of him. All the work you are doing, seems to be for this one outcome: to meet and love another human being. But what if this never happens? Western culture lies to us by telling us in movies and novels that romantic love is the most important thing in the world, BUT IT’S NOT! There are other things of more value. But you cannot see that because you are starving. The work that you do on yourself is for you and your own personal strength. We do NOT do all this recovery work to GAIN a relationship. That’s not why we do all this work. That’s NOT recovery. Recovery is about loving yourself and accepting who you are AS IS. It’s not about becoming a hero and winning the leading lady. Or having a man dote after you and be your Prince Charming. It’s about saying, I MAY NEVER FIND LOVE AGAIN, BUT I’M OK WITH THAT. For most people, this is the scariest, ugliest truth that they never want to face. It was for me. But once you face it, once you accept it, once you embrace reality, it is then, that your whole life changes. Not for anyone else but you.
You are longing for something you do not have. You are building a life on things and wishes you do not possess. You have to somehow accept what you DO have and be happy anyway.
My breaking point came when I was 40 and realized that there was no one for me. The well had run dry and I would probably never love again. I would probably be alone for the rest of my life, except my kids and my family. I had a choice. I could either be miserable about that and dwell on what I did not have, or I could do something else. I could make peace with whatever I had at the time.
I chose to make peace with my life because it was all I had left. Because I would rather be happy than miserable. Because being alone was better than being disrespected, avoided, mistreated and devalued. Anything decent that came my way was a plus, but it wasn’t something I longed for anymore. It is at this breaking point, at this moment of SURRENDER when life becomes worth living. I never understood that until last year. And quite frankly, I am trying to hold on that feeling for dear life, because I never want to lose it.
Please! Read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl if you haven’t already. The man was a psychologist. He had a beautiful family, love, a great job; he had it all. And then he was captured by the Nazis and held in a concentration camp for years. Did he suffer? Yes, he did. He suffered and lost many family members including his wife and some of his children, I believe. AND YET, he was able to accept the meaning of his life and remain alive and vital in spite of his situation. He had to give up the fantasy and the LONGING of being released and set free and had to make peace with the reality of his circumstances no matter what they were. He had to accept the reality that he may not have been let go. That he may have been sent to the incinerators at any moment. How does a human find meaning in that? How does a human make peace with that? Read the book; learn from his suffering.
You are in your own concentration camp right now. But unlike Frankl who was captured, YOU put yourself there. Now that you’re there, you need to make peace with it, or you need to learn how to get out. That’s your job. That’s your life. Happiness is not a right; it’s a privilege that must be earned. I hope, for your sake, you have the strength to understand the difference.