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