Addicted to love
Dear Annie: I am depressed and deeply heartbroken over the final breakup with a man whom I have loved for eight years. I went to endless therapy and even went to a wellness center in Germany to help me get over him. Nothing has worked. Here’s the backstory.
“Steve” has hurt me deeply many times, and after a few weeks or months of my begging him to come back, he always did. He’s broken up with me so many times, ruined my birthdays and holidays, and he’s excluded me from family functions when his ex-wife and adult kids would attend.
I met “Steve” while he was separated from his wife. He said that he was essentially divorced, though they hadn’t gone through the formal process yet. A year in, I learned that he didn’t even have a lawyer. It took him five years to get divorced. I was promised that once he was divorced, I’ll be allowed to attend family functions. We even got engaged. However, after he told his four older sisters about the engagement and they were angry, he broke it off.
We got back together again after that, only for him to break up with me the day after we got back from my birthday trip on which he told me he loved me and promised no more breakups.
This year, I had no contact with him from February until the end of May, when his dad died.
We got back together for three weeks. But at the end of June, he told me that he’d made a mistake. He is almost 62 years old; I am 54.
When I told him that he’d used me and treated me as a friend with benefits, his reply was, “I thought our feelings were mutual.” I told him that he knew I loved him, but he insisted he thought we could just hang out. He said that he’s not in love with me. I feel so used and dirty; it almost feels like I was violated. The thought of our intimacy during those three weeks nauseates me. I feel unloved, and I miss how he used to love me.
How can a human being act so kind, caring and loving, and then say, “I’m not in love with you”?
This has been a pattern, and I cannot get over it. My head knows; my heart, however, is bleeding. How do I stop hurting and missing him? — Depressed, Heartbroken and Missing Him
Dear Depressed: You can get hooked on a person in a way that is not dissimilar from getting hooked on a drug. That’s not just a figure of speech: A 2017 report published in the journal “Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology” explains that “so numerous are the superficial similarities between addictive substance use and love- and sex-based interpersonal attachments, from exhilaration, ecstasy, and craving, to irregular physiological responses and obsessive patterns of thought, that a number of scientific theorists have begun to argue that both sorts of phenomena may rely upon similar or even identical psychological, chemical, and neuroanatomical” substances. In toxic or tumultuous relationships such as yours, these addictive effects could be even more pronounced.
Just as the vast majority of people cannot simply will themselves out of addiction, you’re going to need more than just logic to get over Steve. You’re going to need time and support. Cut off all contact. Block his number and email address, and block him on social media. Join a support group such as Co-Dependents Anonymous (https://coda.org), and return to therapy. It won’t be quick or easy, but it will be so worth it. And remember, you are worth it.