Why is romantic love addictive?

Have you ever craved romantic love so much to the point that you would lose your sense of self, peace and contentment?


I work with a lot of clients that have experienced painful attachments and yes, addictions to love. In the search for romantic love, we can forget the inner voice and red flags that are asking us to stop and review. Is this relationship healthy? Am I self-protecting and in a state of allowance, flow and non-judgement? Or is this romantic love turning into a living nightmare?

Romantic love can take you to heaven or hell; I don't mind sharing that I've been to both at the same time!

We cannot love others until we love the self.

As a relationship coach, I reassure my clients my greatest insights and learning came not from the living of perfect, harmonious relationships but more from my dysfunctional, painful, co-dependent relationships in which I loved others too much and self-loved too little.

My quest for romantic love was addictive, repetitive and painful. I took risks with my heart and wellbeing, looking for love in the wrong places until I was tired of playing out these patterns, so I took control and empowered myself to instead self-love and make healthy love choices (a work in progress, might I add!).

Romantic love, when good is amazing, and when bad is hell. Why? Have you ever craved an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, knowing they are bad for you? The rational part of your brain is silenced, but why?

Biology (changing levels of serotonin, dopamine, oestrogen and progesterone) brain circuitry and chemical addiction all play a powerful part in the drive and need for romantic, mating love. Romantic love can be likened to addiction and the stages of addiction: tolerance, withdrawal and relapse - sound familiar? 

I believe we cannot love others until we love the self.

In the case of romantic love, if loving from an empty place, you can fall prey to obsession, attachment, and all those chemical reactions that will leave you in a place of constant craving and need - the brain circuitry looking for its rewards. But if this love is misplaced, the craving will be unmet and pain inevitable.

Just to be clear, I am not a cynical, anti-love campaigner, in fact, I am a born romantic and matchmaker. I still allow myself the flush of fantasy, the giddy anticipation of the first date, the company of a handsome, intriguing person that is both respectful and sexy!

I'm a firm believer that love is wonderful. It can be fun, make you giddy with happiness, and everything seems better, more illuminated and joyous. But the older, more experienced me balances this with a knowing that romantic love can be a powerfully potent, addictive, chemically infused state. So my advice is yes, go forth in love, boldly but not carelessly, and love yourself foremost, no one will complete you (despite what the movies claim) it's an inside job!

The risk of falling in and out of love can be mitigated when we love ourselves, make good healthy choices, break patterns and stay whole, even when in the glorious throws of romantic love!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Belfast BT9 & Dungannon BT71
Written by Denise McNally, BSc Hons, GMBPsS, MAC
Belfast BT9 & Dungannon BT71

Denise McNally, BSc (hons), MAC, Mbpss

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