Mutual adoration is a beautiful thing. When you’re both on the same page, it’s fun to be jaded by love! However, love is like most fun things: It’s unhealthy to desperately rely on it.
Unfortunately, the human brain is wired to develop that kind of dependency: “When you [first] fall in love, you can feel ecstatic like with initial drug or alcohol use,” says Dr. Femke Buisman-Pijlman, Ph.D., an addiction researcher and senior lecturer at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Adelaide in Australia. But when the thrill of new love subsides, you could be left with a psychological dependence where you think you need the other person, she adds.
“We can get addicted to people just as we can to alcohol or food,” says Margaret Paul, Ph.D., a relationship expert who has been counseling couples for more than 40 years. “It’s a form of self-abandonment where you use another person to avoid responsibility for your feelings.” You kind of lose your sense of self, which can mess with your mental health, career, and non-romantic relationships.
Look out for these signs from Paul, Dr. Buisman-Pijlman, and a classic questionnaire that experts use to assess love and sex addiction. (And if all this sounds too familiar? Consider seeking out professional help.)
1. You seek your partner out compulsively — and it ultimately makes you miserable. You beg him to come over when you really should be prepping for an interview, or you drag him to a girl’s night even though it pisses off your friends. “Addiction is not about really enjoying something, but being unable to stop something that gives some pleasures but many problems,” says Dr. Buisman-Pijlman.
2. You have sex with your partner at inappropriate times and in appropriate places — on the regular. Everyone can appreciate a spontaneous sex session. But when it morphs into daily, two-hour lunch breaks that anger your boss and interfere with meetings, it could be problematic.
3. You make rules about seeing your partner and compulsively break them. “Longing to be together is normal in a healthy relationship,” Dr. Buisman-Pijlman says. But if you swear off weeknight sleepovers or drunk texting, and regularly do them anyway, you may be in over your head.
4. You spend your last pennies on your partner to keep him around. If you want to buy him gifts or help him pay his bills? Great. But cover him one too many times, or put yourself into debt on his behalf, and this could be a sign that you’re completely dependent on him.
5. You find it hard to be happy without your partner. When your partner is your only source of joy, you become especially susceptible to addiction, Paul says.
6. You’re scared to be alone. If you seriously can’t sleep alone anymore, you might be more dependent than you think.
7. You feel all empty inside when you’re apart. In a healthy relationship, you spend a night out with your girls while he grabs drinks with his friends. You might text each other once or twice, but this doesn’t interfere with your ability to have an amazing time outside of his company.
8. You thrive off your partner’s approval. And when he doesn’t quite “get” your statement necklace, it actually ruins your day.
9. You outwardly panic at the thought of losing your partner. When you guys randomly run into his ex, you lose your shit as if he’s still interested in her. You’re not just worried — the prospect haunts your dreams.
10. You pick fights for attention. “You didn’t even ask how my day was! You don’t even care about me!”
11. His love is your drug. You literally feel high around him. It’s like an out-of-body experience that’s completely intoxicating — except you’re sober. And when you go back to work Monday after a long weekend spent together? It’s completely intolerable.
12. You’re more concerned with getting love than giving it. You use his gifts, date plans, and little gestures to gauge his love for you, and freak out if he falls short — even if his efforts surpass your own.
13. When he travels for work, you seriously feel depressed. You don’t want to see your friends and find it hard to get out of bed. What’s the point? He’s not around.
14. He goes on a guys’ trip, and you think it’s all your fault. Nevermind that it’s a bachelor party he was obliged to attend. You feel unworthy and ashamed that he’d rather celebrate his friend’s last single days than cuddle all day in bed with you.
15. You have sex with him to make him love you more — even when you’re not in the mood. While some people use sex to gauge the quality of their relationships, and many people think frequent sex is important, sex isn’t currency. Even if sex did buy his love, you shouldn’t feel the need to pay up, or worry that you’ll lose him if you don’t.
16. Your don’t have time to pay your bills or do your laundry, let alone see your friends or call your mom because your relationship requires so much of your time. You don’t come up for air because you can’t. And you ignore the negative consequences.
17. You only feel alive when you’re around him. Grabbing dinner with your friends used to make your week. Now plans with anyone but him feel like a total chore.
18. You get nothing done at work because he’s constantly on your mind. You can’t type while you compulsively check your phone to see whether he’s texted.
19. You feel like your life has no meaning without him. Now that’s just silly.