Toxic Relationship Patterns:
Love Addict/Love Avoidant Model
“So taunt me, and hurt me
Deceive me, desert me
I'm yours till I die
So in love, so in love
So in love with you, my love, am I”
~Lyrics from So In Love by Cole Porter~
These words ring eerily true for many of my clients and, sadly, they rarely realize how powerful their fear of losing their primary relationship drives many of their choices and behaviors. Pia Mellody, Author of Facing Love Addiction and Facing Codependency, found a toxic pattern between two partners so prevalent at her treatment center that she was able to chart it out in a predictable pattern. I often see this pattern of Love Addict/Love Avoidant in many of my couples, all at varied levels of symptomology and intensity. The most extreme symptoms of a love addiction/love avoidant relationship can include both people struggling with substance abuse addictions or acute mental health issues. They may also engage In serious forms of violent, threatening and controlling behaviors along with financial deception within the relationship. “Milder” versions of this cycle are couples with run-of-the-mill marital struggles, where one partner operates out of duty and obligation (but builds resentment for it) and another partner operates out of extreme fear of rejection and abandonment (so they make every attempt to manipulate the relationship but are also resentful and passive aggressive). The toxic relationship cycle is imperative to know when exploring your own relationship issues.
Parent raises child with love and support with boundaries and appropriate limits. Parent provides child with a sense of security but also encourages child to explore the world, develop his/her own interests, social life, and eventual independence. Securely attached children are given the tools and validation to face conflict and get through adversity. They learn healthy self-soothing along with co-regulation skills from safe loved ones.
Love Addict Attachment:
The child struggles with feelings of being not being given enough attention, value, or worth by a parent or both. This creates feelings of being abandoned and neglected by the child’s loved ones. The child becomes “preoccupied” figuring out ways to gain attention and receive validation from those around her. Therefore, the love addict has a generalized fear of abandonment with an underlining fear of intimacy. The LA also struggles with self-identity as the LA is often a “chameleon” to all to receive love and acceptance.
Love Avoidant Attachment:
The child is in an inappropriately enmeshed relationship with a parent. The parent treats the child like a partner telling the child adult-only information. The child feels important due to the closeness of the relationship with the parent but, at the same time, feels awkward and uncomfortable being needed so much by the parent. This leads the love avoidant to have a fear of intimacy with an underlining fear of abandonment and operates out of duty and obligation.
The toxic relationship cycle is imperative to know when exploring your own relationship issues. It is not a topic easily understandable via the written word. Hence, the following video. Enjoy.
Mellody, P. (2003). “Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love.” New York, New York: HarperCollins. P. 69