What is love addiction? In this episode, Veronica interviews Sherry Gaba psychotherapist and relationship expert. We explore why relationships in sobriety are so hard, why we can become addicted to a relationship and how to create a healthy, authentic partnership.
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“Love addiction is definitely one of those addictions that will become a cross-addiction if your house is not in order.” – Sherry Gaba
One of the most common patterns I’ve seen with people getting sober is they focus solely on stopping drinking, don’t do much work on the root cause of their addiction, then they meet someone and all their triggers get switched on.
When we’re dealing with love addiction, we see life as a choice between living in a fantasy romance novel or being single – which for the love addict, is just sheer hell.
In healthy relationships, during the initial attraction, couples idealize each other, they’re excited and feelings and hormones are going nuts. But eventually, love matures and changes.
“It’s supposed to become a little less intense, more security, more safety. But for love addicts, they never get past that initial stage of falling in love.” – Sherry Gaba
So how does a relationship playout for the love addict? Both Sherry and I have been there ourselves.
For the love addict, you become dependent on your object of affection, hoping that the person that you’ve attached yourself to is going to complete you and help fill up your emptiness. That same emptiness is a very familiar feeling for those of us who’ve struggled with alcoholism or addiction.
The problem is, the expectations are unrealistic.
Inevitably, it ends in disappointment because the relationships are never really satisfying or meaningful. And yet, they’re obsessed with the idea of being in a relationship at any cost.
So relationships will pile up, they become increasingly tangled and messy. and become serial disasters, because they jump in again and again without really doing the work of dealing with the trauma.
“There are reasons that I have been off in my relationships. We like to say, “Oh, we have a bad picker.” But you know what, we’re not connected to ourselves. We have abandoned ourselves.” – Sherry Gaba
In my case, well through my drinking and when I first got sober, every relationship was like the holy grail for me. I thought that they would complete my life and save me and everything would be perfect. I thought it would be a fantasy romance and we would live happily ever.
But after three years sober, I was suicidal. I had a very brief relationship that didn’t work out and I went into a black hole of despair. It was all due to my unresolved childhood trauma. In reality, I’d only known this guy for six weeks, that wasn’t the source of the pain.
“It was 10% the pain of this relationship ending and 90% my history that had not been dealt with showing up.” – Veronica Valli
All of us could benefit from understanding our parental relationship. Growing up with abandonment, neglect, having parents are unavailable, being pressured to be a little adult – those are the things that show up. Maybe your parents weren’t capable of taking care of you, maybe they were unavailable, maybe they were alcoholics or addicts. Whatever the reason, that’s how love addiction is born.
“Your relationship with your primary caregivers as a child completely set up your romantic relationships, and it’s unavoidable.” – Veronica Valli
We may long for a partner to parent our inner child the way we were never parented but healthy relationships between adults are not about parenting. They’re partnerships between equals. The only way out is to become your own nurturing parent to your own inner child.
“The more you love your inner child, the less you’re going to need the validation of others to feel whole.” – Sherry Gaba
Parenting your inner child lets them know you’re lovable and you’re worthy. And it gives you permission to accept the totality of yourself even when you’ve hidden some of your parts.
Recovery is about getting back those last parts and loving all of you, rather than just parts of you.
Doing the work doesn’t mean the next day you’ll have the best romantic relationship ever. What will happen is you will be able to manage your relationships in a really healthy way, instead of the drama and pain and sabotage that usually happens.
What’s really healthy is being able to leave a relationship in a healthy way because you know, it’s not working. Being able to say, I want more, I want different and I want some time for myself and I want to be in a relationship with myself.
I’ve seen people do that and I’ve done it myself. That was my journey before I met my husband and I was able to behave differently. I was able to leave because I knew that they weren’t right for either of us. Although there is pain involved, it’s also incredibly powerful and liberating to be able to end a relationship because you love yourself enough.
The goal is to have a relationship with yourself, know yourself first, and know your patterns. It’s not about trying really hard to meet the right person. It’s about becoming the right person.
Connect with Sherry Gaba
- Website: SherryGaba.com
- Instagram: @codependencycurious
- Facebook: Co-dependents Recover
- Sherry Gaba’s Book | Love Smacked
- Soberful | Episode 29: How to Have Healthy Relationships with Sherry Gaba
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