Why Love Addiction Makes Us So Lonely

by Coach Ellie

What makes everything from grilled fish to fluffy omelets and fruit smoothies taste better? Avocado, of course. But you cannot really know that until you taste it.

And what is the root cause of loneliness for love addicts?

Emotional neglect, of course. But it takes personal healing or love addiction recovery to find that out.

Because how in the world are you supposed to know you grew-up lacking emotional nourishment, if you’ve never “tasted” it. If you were raised by workaholic, alcoholic, chronically ill or otherwise distracted parents, you likely never really experienced that deep level of caring so critical to becoming an emotionally mature adult.

Just like you cannot taste what isn’t there, you cannot feel what isn’t there.

Say you grew-up in a region with pathetic, over-priced avocados, that are only available two months out of the year. How likely are you to know how good steak tastes with guacamole?

Credit: Pexels

It’s a deficit of experience, not personal failure. 

Plump, plentiful Avocados and emotional neglect –both cases of not knowing what is missing because you didn’t know, you didn’t know.

How does childhood emotional neglect translate to loneliness for adult love addicts?

You may not be aware of how, as a love addict, you are highly skilled at denying and repressing your needs. Because you grew-up without your emotional needs being properly addressed, you disconnected from them. To keep begging your parents to express care for you, when they evidently would not, was too painful. You made the rational calculation to jettison the whole expression of needs thing. You learned to dissociate from your true feelings and soldier on.

Here’s the rub –those needs are still there. The problem is you have masked the pain of your unmet needs with the coping strategies of isolating, fearing, judging and shaming –all of which keeps you apart from others, which leads to (you guessed it) loneliness.

If you, yourself, are a parent (or are protective of one) and sense a guilt trip coming, please stay with me. Every parent has and will, on occasion, emotionally fail their kids. One would have to be superhuman not to. Abuse exists on a spectrum, and this is not the blame game. 

Disappointing hard truth: we are all doing the best we can.

Recognizing outdated coping strategies formed during childhood is key

If you identify as a love addict, you suffered intense emotional pain as a kid. This is not because your parents are monsters (though some are) but because they too were not great at expressing warmth and compassion, as they probably did not receive much of it for themselves either. Blindness to, and the covering-up of deep emotional needs, gets passed on generation to generation.

Emotional neglect is a more subtle, ambient form of abuse

You may be used to thinking of abuse in more concrete terms; such as physical violence and sexual trauma. Emotional withholding, however, is a silent but intense form of child abuse.

Examples of Childhood Emotional Abuse:

— Never or rarely being encouraged or supported in your actives

— No space given for self-expression

— Being shamed for having negative feelings

— Your crying being belittled or flat-out ignored

— Parents regularly requiring you, the kid, to comfort them the adults

— Being sent to your room for having inconvenient (for the adult) feelings

— Little to no appropriate physical affection (hugs, hand holding, snuggling etc.)

— Being raised by television

— Your very real kid fears, mocked

— Your reality never or rarely reflected back to you as real and acceptable.

How your parents mishandled your deepest feelings impacts how you parent yourself today. Monkey see, monkey do. You cannot catch a break until you become conscious of the pattern.

Image by Blue Bird on Pexels.

Love addicts get tragically stuck trying to get others to fill the emotional void

When you do not know how to care for or encourage yourself, as few good examples were modeled, you enlist romantic partners for the role. In fact, you believe it is your love interest’s sworn duty to esteem you. And in return, it’s your job to do the same for him.


Each one of us must be in charge of our own happiness. This job cannot be outsourced. But love addicts get it all twisted.

Getting into a romantic relationship can numb the emotional pain…for a while

Looking to romantic partners to meet your deepest desires inevitably fails. Sure, it is thrilling in the beginning. The pain subsides. You feel like it must be love. What a relief. What a thrill!

But pause and look closer, you will see that you are projecting your fantasies onto them. You do not even know them because to really get to know someone requires vulnerability and openness. Something you have little to no experience with. You were raised on a plain pico-de-gallo –minus the avocado.

Love addicts unknowingly use people as blank screens to project unexpressed dreams. No wonder then that relationships only seem to “work” for about 6 months to a year. That is when enough time has passed to challenge hard delusions.

When the delusion crumbles, you get a sharper view of the addiction

You thought they were nice. I mean, they dress well. Or they are funny. Or they have a cool job. That’s half the battle, right? And, at first anyway, they seemed really into being together. You have already envisioned sharing a place, taking stellar vacations and posting enviable Instagram updates. Isn’t that the essence of a happy couple?

But now they are slow to text you back and phone calls are rare. Turns out they don’t want a commitment. They just want to “keep things casual” or “see how it goes” etc. And when you corner them on the phone to ask their whereabouts, and they say the are dating other people, you lose it.

 That’s not how you designed this relationship! They have gone off script. You’ve lost control (of your delusional fantasy).

Hell hath no internal fury like a love addict scorned

The despair love addicts experience during break-ups is emotional Chernobyl. It doesn’t matter if you have been dating 3 years or 3 weeks, the addict mind goes berserk.

You are humiliated. It feels like the end of the world; the final judgment. Here it is, the evidence that you are, in fact, unlovable, unworthy of love, everyone’s an asshole and you are doomed to be alone forever and ever.  No romantic, couples vacation pics on your social media, just selfies of you and your Italian Greyhuahua (google it, they’re cute!).

The truth? It was ill-fated “love” all along

You were never in love with them, rather, you were addicted to them. You were using them to plug up the emptiness. Furthermore, you were in a hurry to quell the internal sorrow. You probably had sex too fast, but, that is not even the point. The crux of the issue is, you tried to have a relationship before ACTUALLY establishing a real relationship based on shared values, reciprocity and asking for what you truly want. Because, honestly, you had no idea what YOU really wanted.

Image by Alena Darmel on Pexels.

Disconnection from self leads to tragic attempts at romance

Un-recovered love addiction is about struggling behind a false-self. It is an identity you formed in childhood based on what you thought your parents, teachers, and the kids at school wanted. Today it keeps you safe, socially acceptable and deeply lonely.

That constant lonely ache fuels the addiction. It manifests slightly differently for everyone. Some people go from relationship to relationship, also known as “dolphining.” Some cannot get into a relationship at all, while others cannot get out of a relationship, no matter how tumultuous or spirit crushing.

What they each share is profound loneliness, which is actually just one long emotional flashback from unresolved childhood trauma. During a split, as a love addict, you are convinced you are being crushed by yet another failed relationship. But there was no real relationship, just a few good moments and a bunch of wishful thinking. The agony a love addict feels when a relationship, marriage, fling, or dalliance ends is actually all those confusing, unwelcome emotions you were pressured to push down in your early years.

You assign meaning to the pain it doesn’t deserve

Everyone hurts at the end of a relationship. It is completely normal to be sad and grieve. But as a love addict, you are well served to monitor your extreme thoughts. What story are you telling yourself about the end? Typical love addict thinking is that now that “so-and-so” is gone, life has no purpose. You are a defeated victim destined to roam alone forever. When really it is just pain. Garden variety, run-of-the-mill emotional pain and not a grand excuse to manipulate others to come back. Nor is it a reason to violate their boundaries by stalking in real life or online.

It is time to grow-up. Time to heal those deep emotional wounds! Woo-hoo!

You need real connection, but you are too afraid to admit it (because it seems impossible).

For love addicts, loneliness is not about pinning for the days of yore or getting frustrated because you cannot find people you click with. It is that, deep down, you feel that you are unworthy and being social is not worth the effort. It feels like you cannot possibly endure rejection or heartbreak, so you retreat into loneliness.

Loneliness becomes an unconscious choice

Love addict loneliness is a calcified thought pattern. It’s an automated dull ache. If you suffer from loneliness, you may not realize how you are isolating yourself from others with your thoughts. Your core sadness gets more intense with alienating thoughts like, “I’m less than this or that person,” or “I’m better than this or that person,” “I do not belong,” “I am a fraud,” “there is no hope for me” etc. Straight up suicidal thoughts are common as well.

You are not crazy, you are emotionally constipated

You feel misunderstood and alienated as an adult because as a kid, you were more than just misunderstood. Not only that, but you and your feelings were denied. Your whole person was treated as an annoyance at best, or worse straight-up ignored. You had no way of knowing that this was an emotional crime scene. It was just the way things were.

The path out of loneliness is emotional literacy

You must get honest about how you really feel and learn how to label your emotions. Until you slow down the instant replays of your life, really diagram the sentences, and deconstruct your thoughts, you will keep playing out these painful dramas. You need to be aware and reconnect to your needs by reflecting on your motivations for your behaviors. And you must do it without shaming or blaming yourself.

Cultivating self-compassion is key and it takes time

In my recovery and in my coaching, I came up with the term “self-compassion blow torch.”

Sometimes when recalling a memory or in detailing the full truth of your less-than generous motivations for behaviors, you will see darker aspects of yourself. You will see where you have been selfish, manipulative, hateful, vengeful, small-minded and so on. It hurts. And that’s when you need to point a self-compassion blow torch on yourself. Not more shame.

If you skip the self-compassion, you are likely to go back into shame and blame. It’s in these moments of accepting reality where the magic happens –or doesn’t. If you shut back down, you will stay in this addictive cycle. Hopefully, you have experienced enough pain to see it is not worth it to stay closed off to your authentic self.

To overcome loneliness, stop neglecting yourself (right the wrongs of your childhood)

Dive into life’s avocado flesh and discover a non-embarrassing abundance of emotional riches. Look at your own patterns and feel all the uncomfortable feels, minus the drama and self-pity. You will see that dealing with childhood trauma is important and that it is not about blaming anybody. Now you know what you didn’t know and can find the path forward out of loneliness.

Next Step:

Struggling with deep loneliness? Let’s talk about it!

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