Category Archives: sex addiction

A Response to the Joanne Russell’s “Open Letter to Patrick Carnes, Stefanie Carnes and Robert Weiss… (and CSATs).”

A Response to the “Open Letter to Patrick Carnes, Stefanie Carnes and Robert Weiss…and CSATs”

This is my response to the “An Open Letter to Patrick Carnes, Stefanie (misspelled in the article) Carnes and Rob Weiss…:  

With regard to the sex addict and their partner, there ALWAYS is some element of relational dysfunction before the sexual addiction is discovered.  Always.  Healthy people do not fall in love with sex addicts, or for that matter, narcissists. This is idea is explained in my Human Magnet Syndrome (HMS) work.

But let me be very clear, although the partner of the sex addict is never responsible for the sexual acting out, they willingly participate in a relationships that is marred by all sorts of open and hidden dysfunction.  Hidden dysfunction is best understood by what is secret  or what cannot be discovered.  It can also be hidden by the partner’s denial system, an unconscious process, that is beyond one’s awareness.

If you embrace my HMS and Continuum of Self theoretical constructs, you will agree that people come together in relationships because of how they psychologically match-up or the “chemistry” that powerfully directs their attraction patterns.  Although sex addicts are not necessarily codependents or narcissists, those who happen to be either of the two, are presumed to be in an intimate/close relationships with their opposite, like a negative polarized magnet is attracted to one that is positive.

All relationships come together like a dance partnership.    One partner’s “dance role” has to match the others, in order to make the “dance partnership” work.  Therefore,  the codependent sex addict is always attracted to a narcissist and the narcissistic sex addict is always attracted to a codependent.   This article is article and video clarifies my position on this relationship dynamic.

The reason I explain the above is because of audaciously negative and harmful article, “An Open Letter to Patrick Carnes, Stephanie (misspelled) Carnes, Rob Weiss…and CSATS,” written by Joann Russell.  It seems to me that her article is reflective of her own unconscious anger at sex addicts and her motivation to further her own personal, marketing, and business agenda.

Over the years, I have come to understand (as well as many of my colleagues) that there is a contingency of former partners of sex addicts who decide to become psychotherapists specializing in the treatment of partners of sex addicts.  Since this group of professionals are unaware of their own unresolved issues with the perpetrators of abuse in heir life, they project their unconsciously managed rage onto either sex addicts or those who treat them in an affirming and optimistic manner.  It seems to me that this unique subgroup of practitioners have a major chip on their shoulder against sex addicts.  Such plays out in the triangulation of their partner clients against the very important recovery, healing and restorative process, and of course, the sex addict.  These practitioners seem to be unable to take a balanced, objective and neutral point of view in their work with sex addicted clients or partners of them.  Moreover, they are oblivious that they are actually hurting their clients and the loved ones connected to them.

In my opinion, such treatment practitioners are often narcissistic, many of whom qualify for the diagnosis of Narcissistic or Borderline Personality Disorder.  Just like the narcissistic clients they treat, they are predictably enraged, humiliated, and horribly victimized by their discovery of the sex addiction and the end of the the interacting systems of deceit and denial.  The Personality Disorder creates a uni-dimensional blame-based understanding of their partner’s sex addiction that inhibits them from understanding how and why they participated in the dysfunctional elements of the relationship.  Although the sex addiction is never their fault, they are completely oblivious to any contributing element that may have lead their partner to seek comfort, connection, or a self-medicating shot of anesthesia via their sexual “drug of choice.

It is common knowledge, going back to classic research by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse in the 1970’s and those connected to Family Systems Theory, that it “takes two to tango.” In any dysfunctional system, people play out their roles.  There are no coincidences that unhealthy people come together in relationships. There is SO MUCH written about this clear and obvious psychological and sociological fact.  To repeat, psychologically healthy people are not attracted to sex addicts (or those who are destined to be a sex addict).  The chemistry, the “dance,  or Human Magnet Syndrome explanations account for this relational dynamic.

When any partner learns about their sex addicted partners calculated lies, deceit and despicable treatment of them, they are rightly upset, as they should be.  Many of them cannot forgive their partners, and consequently end the relationship.  This is possible outcome is not disauaded or discouraged by CSAT’s or the work of Patrick and Stefanie Carnes and Rob Weiss.  But they do take a stand however.  They, as do well trained CSAT’s who appropriately apply what they learned, try to heal and empower partners of sex addicts so they can make an informed and empowered decision regarding the future of the relationship.

Thanks to the CSAT protocols, methods and training, which are all scientifically/research supported and validated, partners learn about their unique “co-addict” role, while also learning to be safe, empowered and self-loving.  CSATs facilitate, not direct, decisions about relationships, and are well-aware of the long-lasting impact they have on their client’s mental health.  Incidentally, co-addict merely translates to “partner of the addict”  not “complicitous partner of the addict.”

To write a completely dismissing article with the proactive intent to smear people’s reputation, who are huge contributors (internationally recognized and acclaimed) in the field of sex addiction recovery, whom I know and respect, is just wrong.   In my opinion, Ms. Russell’s use of a public forum that has the capacity to impact multitudes of people was a calculated move to destroy or diminish the very important movement of sexual addiction recovery.  Looking at her website, it is clear she is privy to the power of Intenet marketing and search engine optimization.  In other words, the article was meant to create the maximum harm to the people she openly disparages in her article.  Articles like this lose their validity, because it seems more like a character assassination than helpful information.

In addition, it seems that Ms. Russel, neither has an addiction background or understanding of the very complicated matter of sex addiction and a partners experience of it.  In addition, she doesn’t seem to have a working knowledge about the seminal work of Patrick and Stefanie Carnes and Rob Weiss.  Such is evidenced by her highly opinionated and apparently activated opinions regarding sex addiction, the 12-Step Programs, CSAT training and methods, and more. One example is the CSAT methods are not 12-Step based; just influenced.  It is so very much beyond just one method, mode or theory.  It is includes an accumulation of research based methods that have been vetted and approve  by thousands of therapists.

Ms. Russell’s cavalier and fact-less article has the potential to hurt a field that has created huge advancements to mental health and addiction recovery field.  Moreover, she has the capacity to galvanize partners of sex addicts against a healing, empowering, self-loving, and possibly restorative process.

Using one’s business website as a bully pulpit to promote unsubstantiated judgments about hard working, dedicated and brilliant contributors to the field of sexual addiction is just wrong. Such judgments would have held more water if Ms. Russell’s education, training, and experience was somewhere in the area of the field that she was so quick to criticize.  In addition, it seems that Ms. Russell’s blog is more connected to personal gain and profit than helping others recover from the sex addiction, whether a partner or  an addict.

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT

Introduction: The Codependency Cure: Reversing the Human Magnet Syndrome (Submitted with Book Proposal)

INTRODUCTION TO ROSS ROSENBERG’S THE “HUMAN MAGNET SYNDROME” (HMS)

One would think that after the sweat and toil of writing my first book, the second one would flow freely and easily.  After all, I have been ruminating about it since 1988 – the beginning of my psychotherapy career.  Actually, to be completely honest, I began thinking about it in 1978, when at age 17, I began to piece together my curious habit of self-destruction.

As early as I can remember, I needed to know how and why the world around me works.  Like a compulsion, I have never been able to let go of a moment’s curiosity without first learning more about it.  This “information addiction” is interwoven into the very fabric of my being.  I am similarly compelled to know how and why I have become me – the good, bad and ugly.  A psychology education, therapy, a continuous study of psychology, and more therapy have gone a long way towards satisfying this need.  I am indebted to my “learning compulsion” as it has helped me detach from my predilection for dysfunctional relationships while setting the stage for healthier and more loving relationships – especially with myself.

My need to seek answers from the world around me prompted me to write “The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us” (HMS).  The book reveals why codependents and narcissists repeatedly come together in lasting but dysfunctional relationships.  The book dissects and attempts to answer this codependent/narcissist relationship dilemma.  Or, in the words of my father, it explains why so many who pursue soulmates end up with “cellmates.”

In almost every one of my over 60 Human Magnet Syndrome seminars, one or more participants would ask a form of this question, “…this is great, but how do I change the outcome?”  Instead of being drawn away from the seminar’s focus, I would typically respond with “In order to solve the Human Magnet Syndrome, it is absolutely necessary to first know what it is, its origins and what perpetuates it.  Neither a person’s intelligence, education, degrees, certifications or self-proclamations of expertise brings them closer to solving a ubiquitous psychological problem without first understanding it.”

This answer was never satisfying enough, as it was invariably followed up with an inquiry about a companion instructional training and book.  Well, I can finally say that now is that time!  My beloved “why” book now has a “how to” sibling.  I am proud to introduce “The Codependency Cure: Reversing the Human Magnet Syndrome.”  It is specifically written to guide readers toward the resolution of their own personal craziness: their repetitive merry-go-round experiences with harmful narcissists.

Since “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” this book will help the reader resolve their own codependency insanity.  It will do so by explaining how to heal those deeply embedded and unconscious emotional wounds that keep many tied to harmful narcissistic loved ones.  It will also bring the reader closer to your long dreamed about soulmates and further away from all the looming cellmates.

GROUND ZERO FOR “THE CODEPENDENCY CURE”

After graduate school at Boston University 28 years ago, I moved to Boone, Iowa, to work in a small community counseling center.  Central Iowa and its non-stop landscape of corn and soybeans, with the intermittent smattering of pig farms, wasn’t my number one choice for my first post-graduate job, but a first job often takes you to where a job offer exists.  I would serve a hardworking blue collar and moderately rural community of about 15,000 people.  As the only counseling center in town, I was required to do a little bit of everything.  Like most graduate school students who eventually become psychotherapists, I experienced a “baptism by fire.”  It would be an understatement to say that there was a sharp and swift learning curve!

With about 18 months under my belt, I was assigned a client by the name of Becky[1].  She was a 45-year old woman with two children who was married to a physically and verbally abusive narcissist and alcoholic.  Unbeknownst to me, she was going to introduce me to codependency and its connection to unresolved repressed trauma.  Yes, my very first codependent client!

Becky and I would ultimately join forces to take up arms against those real and imagined combatants who compelled her to remain with abusive narcissists, especially her husband.  We would learn together that she really wasn’t imprisoned by her husband, but more by the unconscious part of herself that was frozen at the time of her childhood trauma.  Through her diligence and courage, she would face her inner demons – her unresolved trauma – and free herself from the life-long harm it caused her.

During our work together, Becky demonstrated great strength and courage as the work was very difficult and, at times, fraught with danger.  She would eventually vanquish the enemy part of herself that kept her connected to her narcissistic captors.  Ultimately, she would usher in a new era of her life in which her childhood trauma would be resolved (healed) and her compulsion to remain with abusive men would cease.  More than that, she would learn about the necessity for self-love and practice it regularly.  Before I proceed with the rest of the story, let me first digress back for a moment to Boston, Massachusetts.

In the 1980’s, Boston was a hotbed of psychoanalytical and psychodynamic thought.  It was also the time that Family System Theory was all the rage in counseling/psychology graduate programs throughout the country.

Most of my BU professors were heavily influenced by the psychoanalytic and psychodynamic works of Freud, Erikson, Jung, Adler and others, who all espoused that most psychological problems could be traced back to a person’s early childhood relationship with their parents.  This long-term treatment proposition involves a circuitous path in and out of a client’s conscious and unconscious mind.  According to these theories, the resolution of the problems or issues for which psychotherapy is often sought requires a deep probing into the client’s conscious and unconscious memories of their childhood experience with their parents.

BU’s Family Systems course had a profound impact on my understanding of individual and relational psychopathology (issues and problems).  It would teach me that family relationships, nuclear and extended, create and perpetuate positive or negative mental health, or somewhere in between.

According to Family Systems Theory, when implicitly or explicitly adopted rules are changed, forgotten or challenged, relationship systems experience instability and acute discomfort.  Because instability is uncomfortable and, therefore, undesirable, the renegade member of the relationship system has to either return to their dysfunctional role – acquiesce to the system’s rules and expectations – or push the system to adapt to their changes.  This process either promotes greater relational health or causes a deterioration of the relationship.  Creating new and healthier rules – a new equilibrium – is a difficult proposition, as it is always much more difficult to change than to maintain the status quo.

Returning back to Becky, my first codependency client in Boone, Iowa: although the term “codependency” was not addressed in graduate school, I quickly devoured books and sought out professional trainings on the subject.  Books such as Melody Beattie’s “Codependent No More” (1986), John and Linda Friel’s “Adult Children Secrets of Dysfunctional Families” (1990), and Terry Kellogg’s “Broken Toys Broken Dreams: Understanding and Healing Codependency” (1990) fed my burgeoning interest on the subject.  These brilliant writers and treatment specialists inspired and guided me toward a better understanding of Becky’s peculiar personal and relational struggles.  Notwithstanding, I still had no explanation for the forces that compelled her to remain married to her abusive and narcissistic husband.

Thanks to my Family Systems background, I felt prepared to help Becky understand how both her nuclear and extended families kept her mired in a powerless victim role.  My understanding of psychodynamic theory helped me to comprehend how and why her inability to leave her abusive husband was intricately connected to her unresolved childhood trauma associated with her abusive and narcissistic father and codependent mother.

After six months of therapy, Becky was no closer to having insight into her codependent compulsion to remain with her husband.  The bubble of optimism that had motivated me up to that point seemed like it was going to pop at any moment.  Determined not to give up, I shifted my therapeutic strategy.  I began engaging her in discussions about her childhood abuse about which she had, up until that time, only shared vague and non-emotional details.  Although difficult for her, she courageously shared several vivid accounts of her horrifically abusive and neglectful childhood.

Such recollections were rife with disturbing accounts of abuse, neglect and deprivation – all at the hands of her parents.  It will suffice to say that she lived in constant fear of her father’s unpredictable abuse, while feeling unprotected and abandoned by her mother.  Becky protected herself in the only way she could, which was to mold herself into what her father most wanted: “daddy’s good and compliant little girl.”  This required her to detach from and deeply submerge her childhood desires and dreams for being unconditionally cared for and loved.  She learned that, as long as she maintained her role as daddy’s trophy child, she would experience some semblance of safety.

On Becky’s 18th birthday, she hurriedly married her boyfriend, the young man who would eventually replicate the abuse of her father.

I found it peculiar that, while sharing memories of her tragic childhood, which was brimming with horrid details of verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, she maintained a stoic and detached appearance.  As she would recount these incidents, she seemed to automatically sanitize them of any emotional content.  Even with prodding, she would only describe the “photograph” version of the events, not the full “motion picture.”  Little did I know that her affective experience of the abuse and neglect was buried deep by the forces of repression – beneath the concrete defensive walls of her mind.

My gentle but persistent prodding for emotions, which I refer to as affective memories, would eventually pay off.  At about the nine-month mark in our therapy, I asked her to imagine how the little eight-year old girl she used to be felt during the abuse.  Her eyes suddenly turned red and welled up with tears, she began to tremble and her face turned white.  In the flash of a moment, she transformed into a frightened little girl.  Her voice, her facial expression and posture exposed the eight-year old abused child that had been neatly compartmentalized and forgotten for over 37 years!  I was sitting face to face with “little Becky,” the physical embodiment of her long-repressed trauma memories.

Little Becky’s emotions erupted with an intensity that I had never before experienced.  The torrent of tears, hyper-ventilating and body spasms seemed to escape with the velocity of an over-inflated tire that has been expectantly punctured by an icepick.  I intuitively knew the importance of keeping her safe while gently probing the painful memories that she was exposing to the light of day.  With an understanding of psychodynamic theory, I knew I was facilitating the release of repressed memories that had been deeply embedded, and forgotten, in her unconscious.

For the next three months, the adult Becky and I would periodically return back to Little Becky’s emotively honest but raw world, sifting through both happy and distressing emotional experiences.  Together, we would release the claw-like grasp her unconscious mind had on her personal and relational health.  Over time, Becky understood the harmful nature of her codependency, her dysfunctional urges to remain with her husband, her fear of being alone and, most importantly, the lack of love and compassion that she had for herself.  As a result of our work together, Becky would resolve the trauma that compelled her to remain powerless in codependent relationships.

After year-and-a-half of our therapy, Becky had divorced her husband and relinquished most of her selfish and/or narcissistic friends and family relationships.  Like a flower finally given sufficient water and sunlight, she bloomed into a vibrant, strong and loving woman who could and would protect herself from exploitative narcissistic people.  Moreover, her new and improved “human magnetism” landed her in the arms of a mutually and reciprocally loving man.  With ease, she began to develop new friendships while enhancing existing relationships with family and friends.  Building a foundation of self-love released her from her life-long indentured servitude to narcissistic masters.

All in all, my work with Becky set the stage for all of my future work with codependents and trauma survivors.  I didn’t know it then, but my experiences with her would eventually compel me to create hypotheses and theories that would culminate in my cherished Human Magnet Syndrome work.  I can never thank Becky enough for her impact on my life.  Her courageous battle upward from the emotional abyss inspired me to write this book.  Moreover, it helped me understand the far-reaching and ever-present truth about codependency recovery:  self-love is the antidote to codependency.     

Now, let me tell you why and how someone can heal trauma and “cure” codependency.  Now let me show you how a person devoid of self-esteem, feelings of personal efficacy and debilitating shame can learn to love themselves and break free from their “cellmates.”  I hope you enjoy my book.

[1] Name changed to protect her identity.

                  

Ross Rosenberg,
3325 N. Arlington Heights Rd., Ste 400B
Arlington Heights, IL  60004

Articles Written by Author Ross Rosenberg

 Articles Written by Author Ross Rosenberg    

articles

Human Magnet Syndrome Blog

American Counseling Association’s Counseling Today Magazine:

Huffington Post:

PsychCentral

TheGoodMenProject. com

The Shakti Yogi Journal

YourTango.com

Moods Magazine

Academia.edu:  

Articlebase.com

Ezine Articles

Articles for Which I was Interviewed

Chicago Tribune by Jen Weigel:  Are You A Magnet for DisasterHelper, Don’t Forget to Help Yourself Too.        Letting Go Of Toxic Relationships,       Online Infidelity: Identifying, and Dealing with, Cyber Affairs

Huffington Post:  11 Signs You Might Be Dating A Sociopath      Why You Can’t Stand To Be Alone — And How To Learn To Love It     When Divorcing a Narcissist, Prepare for the Rage

PsychcentralWhy You Can’t Stand To Be Alone — And How To Learn To Love Yourself       Tips on Setting Boundaries in Enmeshed Relationships,       Coping With Loneliness During the Holidays  

Ozy.com: Is Your Facebook Creeping a Sign of Something Worse?  

Rewireme.com: Seasonal Survival Skills (Holiday Blues Survival Kit)

Everup.com: Self Love Deficit Disorder: Where Do You Fall on the Continuum of Self?              How the gray area between codependency and narcissism is defining your relationships.

                  

Ross Rosenberg,
3325 N. Arlington Heights Rd., Ste 400B
Arlington Heights, IL  60004
(847) 749-0514 ext 12
Rossr61@comcast.net

Can a Sex Addict Also be a Codependent? The Co-Occurrence of Sex Addiction and Codependency

Fiammiferi bruciano di passione

 

 

Can A Sex Addict Also Be A Codependent?  

The Co- Occurrence of Sex Addiction and Codependency

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT Candidate

In my 27 years working with addicts and codependents, I rarely have come across a completely healthy partner of an addict, who did not carry some responsibility for the state of their relationship.  Although the partners of the addict are unequivocally not to blame for the addiction, and most certainly the consequences of it, they certainly carry responsibility for the shared relationship problems that contributed to both the addiction.  The nature of shared relational responsibility is even more pronounced in the sex addict/co-addict (partner) relationship.

Addiction psychotherapist have all experienced how both the addict and his/her partner participate, either actively or passively, in their dysfunctional relationship.  This is not a new idea, as for over 40 years, the pioneers of Family Systems and Adult Child of Alcoholics (ACOA) theories have espoused the various relational systems at play in an addictive relationship (or family).

The sex addict/co-addict relationship is a closed system in which two people voluntarily participate.  Even if the co-addict partner denies culpability in the addiction, a detailed social history will ferret out his/her long history with narcissists or addicts.  It seems factual to me that healthy lovers rarely fall in love and commit themselves to an addict.  The two are brought together by the dynamic I refer to as the “Human Magnet Syndrome.”  Both participate in a relationship dance of sorts. Each person needs the other to feel complete in the shared dysfunctional relationship. More about this can be found in my essay, “Codependency, Don’t Dance.

According to my theories included in my book, “The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us,” codependents and narcissists predictably come together in a relationship. Conversely, narcissistic sex addicts are attracted to codependents.  If one accepts this statement as valid, then it is logical to assume that codependent sex addicts are attracted to narcissists.

According to the Human Magnet Syndrome theory, all people, healthy or not (or in between) are magnetically draws us to a personality type that fits their relational template– over and over again.  These dysfunctionally compatible partners “dance” together because their personalities fits like a hand in glove. The care needer needs a caregiver and the caregiver needs a careneeder. 

The concurrence of sex addiction and codependency can be traced back to a person’s childhood.  A codependent sex addict was once a child of a pathologically narcissistic parent.  This child, a prospective codependent, endured childhood trauma during which a form of detachment or self-medication was needed to cope.  The child who developed a compulsive self-soothing or detaching strategy to cope with their harmful childhood environment will likely develop sex addiction in his/her adulthood.  Further, if this child developed along the pathway of becoming a codependent (explained in The Human Magnet Syndrome and Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child), then the adult he or she will seek someone who matches up with their pleasing and self-sacrificing relationship orientation.

The codependent sex addict, or all codependents, naturally feel resentful, angry and unloved in their relationship with their narcissistic partner.  Hence, they will rely on drug of choice, sex, to self-medicate their experience of emotional isolation and deprivation and the power and control disparity experienced with their narcissist spouse.  When the sexual acting out progresses into an addiction, then we have the concurrent disorders of sex addiction and codependency.

With this type of sex addict, the codependency isn’t obvious because it is masked behind the narcissistic pursuit of the addict’s compulsive pursuit of their preferred sexual acting out.   As such, the addiction takes on the appearance of full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  However, as with any addiction, you cannot diagnose a concurrent disorder until a significant recovery period has elapsed.  It is during a recovery (sobriety) period that we see the sex addict as either a narcissistic sex addict or a codependent sex addict.

What throws off an accurate statistical representation of these two possibilities (codependent-sex addict versus narcissistic sex addict) is that most of the sex addicts who remain in treatment tend to be of the codependent variety.  As most clinicians are well aware, those with NPD or severe narcissistic traits tend to neither recognize that they need help nor are motivated to seek psychotherapy and/or treatment.  This is explains why at least 75% of all of my sexually addicted clientele have also been concurrently codependent.

In sexual addiction recovery, the sex addict’s codependency surfaces midway in their recovery process, usually in six months or longer.  When the recovering addict learns that the cycle of their sexual acting out is directly impacted by their feelings of being neglected, invisible, powerless and ignored, they start to assert themselves through direct communication and reasonable boundaries.  Therefore, simultaneous sex addiction and codependency recovery empowers the addict to be empathetic, while asserting basic and reasonable boundaries.  Consequently, the dysfunctional unconscious equilibrium of their relationship is threatened.

According to my Continuum of Self Theory and my Zero Sum Balance concept (Human Magnet Syndrome 2013), these relationships struggle to overcome the stress that the recovering codependent places on the relationship.   Because the narcissistic partner often is angrily reactive (narcissistic injury) about their contributions to the relationship problems, the relationship becomes naturally unstable.  These narcissistic injuries are especially evident in marital therapy.

Speaking their truth and setting boundaries is intolerable to the pathologically narcissistic partner.  This codependent/narcissistic dynamic is especially complicated by the trauma the partner experienced at the hands of their sexually addicted partner.  As the recovering codependent sex addict continues to empathically and fairly set boundaries, the relationship starts to implode; the codependent no longer backs down or extinguishes their reality in favor of their partner’s.

In conclusion, the sex addict is always completely to blame for the consequences/harm caused to others because of their sex addiction.  However, with the codependent sex addict, there is a myriad of factors to consider when treating their primary relationships.  My theories regarding dysfunctional attraction or the Human Magnet Syndrome, account for the shared responsibilities for the impaired relationship.

                  

Ross Rosenberg,
3325 N. Arlington Heights Rd., Ste 400B
Arlington Heights, IL  60004
(847) 749-0514 ext 12
Rossr61@comcast.net

 

LOVE ADDICTION, CODEPENDENCY AND INTERNET DATING

flamy symbolLOVE ADDICTION, CODEPENDENCY AND INTERNET DATING

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC

Author of the Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us

For the love addict and codependent, Internet dating sites are the crack cocaine of romantic exploration.  Although the love addict consciously wants true and everlasting love, they are drawn to the exhilarating rush of new love, like a moth is drawn to a flame.  Their dream of being forever in love with a fated soul mate is inexplicably foiled by reasons that never quite make sense to them.  Love addicts rarely make it past the 30-day mark in any new relationship.  It is as if they have a fuel tank that supplies the gasoline to a racecar engine…but it only has a one-gallon capacity!

Here is the story of a 37-year old love addict named Jake and a 35-year old codependent named Melissa.  Melissa and Jake, like so many codependent / love addict relationships, were oblivious to their psychological afflictions.  They felt like “regular” people who just wanted the all-American dream of true love.  They were blind to their revolving door dating pattern, which they simply dismissed as a phenomenon of the modern Internet age of romance.  To the Jake’s and Melissa’s of this world, Internet dating is like a virtual candy store with the most tantalizing choices of yummy treats.  With so many types of candy and so many opportunities to try them all, who could stop at just one?  Analogous to the fantasy candy store, the Internet dating sites – thousands of them – guaranteeing perfectly harmonious everlasting love, combined with steamy Hollywood romance.  Love addicts hungrily rely on them to actualize their made-for-TV dream of true love.

About three months ago, Melissa met Jake on PlentyofFish.com, one of the many free Internet dating sites.  Not only did their profiles match up perfectly, but the photos they shared with each other sparked deep waves of anticipation and excitement.  After exchanging a string of emails, each getting longer and more personally revealing than the last, Melissa and Jake moved “offline” and began speaking on the phone.  These were not just regular phone calls, but marathon calls that lasted for hours.  The more they talked, the more the waves of excitement and anticipation built.

Melissa felt in her soul that Jake was the perfect man; the man she had been looking for her whole life.  Jake’s masculine and bold voice soothed her.  His edgy and commanding nature made her melt inside.   She imagined Jake to be a brave and confident man who could light up any room with his charisma and charm.  Jake seemed to know exactly what he wanted, and had a story about how he always got what he wanted – or, as he would say, “grab any bull by the horns and make his life happen.”  His apparent strength and dominant personality sent shivers up Melissa’s spine.

It didn’t take long before they exhausted the exquisitely detailed telling of their life stories.  Almost every topic took on a romantic and mildly sexual tone.  Although they never talked directly about sex, the roundabout seductive nature of their discussion opened a flood gate of wanton anticipation.  It was as if they were strongly charged magnets whose opposite compelling attraction was building up by the hour.  Although neither tried to fight this irresistible magnetic force, they knew if they tried, it would have been futile; no different than a guppy swimming up a raging river trying to mimic its salmon cousins.

Melissa and Jake met at a local Olive Garden.  When they met, the electric charge of their shared chemistry sent a palpable shock though them both.  Almost instantly, they lost control of their facial muscles.  Neither could stop smiling nor their deep soul-seeking gaze into each other’s eyes.  Both were blessed with beautiful faces upon which their eyes could feast.  When they would break eye contact, they found their eyes roving in the direction of the other’s much appreciated body contours.

The emotional excitement of the date ran so high that neither had much of an appetite. Their thirst for wine went unimpeded. After the last bite of dessert was finished, Jake reached for Melissa’s hand.  As soon as their fingers touched, a shock of sensual energy pulsed through their bodies.  Almost in unison, they summoned their waiter for the check.  As Jake was paying the waiter, Melissa reminded herself that she was a good girl and would not sleep with Jake on their first date – no matter how she felt about him.

Jake walked Melissa to her car, where he initiated a deep kiss that seemed to have no beginning or end.  This kiss was the natural precursor to an evening at Jake’s apartment filled with uncontrollable sexual abandon.   Afterwards, they fell asleep in each other’s arms, thanking God for delivering the soul mate of their dreams.

Melissa woke up first, looking at Jake and wondering how she got so lucky to find a man of such inner and outer strength and beauty.  She could have looked at him all morning!  Sensing that Melissa was staring at him, Jake woke up feeling startled by her deep and smothering gaze.  All of a sudden, he felt a pang of panic.  On the bed, where he lay naked, he felt exposed and vulnerable in a way that no sheet could cover.  He asked himself, who was this woman who looked at him with such intense love?  His chest got tight and his breathing became labored.  As Melissa wrapped her arms around him, Jake reflexively arched his back, as if she might hurt him.

Melissa sensed his anxiety and asked if he was ok.  Jake denied there was anything wrong, explaining he was just distracted about a personal obligation he needed to attend to.  He got out of bed, started dressing, all the time never looking in her direction. He gave her a light and almost perfunctory kiss on the mouth followed by a statement about how much he enjoyed the night they spent together.  But Melissa noticed that his words didn’t match his facial expression.  He looked scared and awkward.  This was when she knew this would be the last time she ever saw Jake.  And it was.  He quickly walked to the door, closing it without a backward glance.

For Melissa, the disconnection was palpable; like someone had violently pulled a cord out from an electrical socket.  She felt bewildered and utterly ashamed.  What had she done?  Why did she have sex with him?  She should have waited…been a “good girl?”  She was so sure that she had screwed up yet another relationship.

Both Melissa and Jake spent the rest of the day feeling ashamed of their reckless behavior – promising themselves that they would take their time – the next time.  But as a codependent and love addict, their perpetual flurry of infatuation, lust, regret and shame would ultimately repeat itself.

 

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC
Psychotherapist & National Seminar Trainer

Owner of Clinical Care Consultants
Co-Owner of Advanced Clinical Trainers
Author of the Human Magnet Syndrome

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