phoneTreating an addition is very different from treating a simple cold. It is more like managing a chronic health condition where it will require constant tending to yourself and your emotional state to avoid a relapse. In this way, a love addict has to continually manage their emotional environment just as an alcohol or drug addict has to manage their emotional health and their lifestyle choices.
Unfortunately, as I talk about in my book “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking Your Obsession” technology has created a world where reaching out to find a new partner is just a tap away. The need to be in a relationship is immediately satisfied with online conversations that are damaging in several ways.
To help understand the issues behind the use of dating apps for those with love and relationship addiction as well as for codependents, let’s take a closer look at some rather startling numbers and statistics.
According to Rob Weiss, LCSW and other authors in a 2012 study in Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, the sheer number of apps and dating sites allows for both single, in a relationship and married people to easily create online “hook-ups” and get gratification by having that first connection with another that is such a draw to a relationship for a love addict. Everything is perfect and, without actually meeting the person, the fantasy of the perfect partner seems to come to life on the tablet, computer or smartphone.
However, many people with love addiction issues enter a slippery slope scenario with these apps. What starts out as online flirting with anonymous people can quickly turn to meeting for sex, dating a person that is a fantasy rather than a reality, or even multiple affairs that quickly create another cycle of guilt, loss of self-worth and the potential to be emotionally hurt and let down once again.
The Online Persona Issue
It is not uncommon for a person with a history of codependency to attract a narcissist online. These people know how to send the message that triggers reactions in the codependent, and it is easy to come across as charming, giving and attentive when all you have to do is send a text.
Then, all of a sudden, the communication stops. The potential Mr. Right’s profile disappears, and the codependent is left reeling with another loss of what they have built up, at least in their minds, to be the next perfect relationship.
Ghosting, or simply disappearing online, is done by many people on dating sites. In a study by Elle Magazine, 50% of people who have been ghosted have also ghosted someone else. For younger groups, between 18 and 33, the number of people using online dating apps that have reported being ghosted at least once is an amazing 78% according to the dating site Plenty of Fish.
Additionally, the use of dating apps provides instant gratification that is simply not realistic in a real-time relationship. It is a fantasy world where people are whom they want to be and are able to treat others as they choose, all without consequences or reality.
The Online Addiction Component
As if the reality behind online personas isn’t difficult enough for a codependent or a love addict to traverse, there is also the issue of the online addiction component. Apps are designed to appeal to the user is a range of different ways, stimulating the bran with specific lights, colors, and images, creating a powerful change in brain chemistry when using the app.
For many people struggling with love addiction and codependency, the app itself becomes a source of guilt and stress. Just like an alcoholic will pour out all the alcohol in the house in an attempt to get sober, a love addict may find they constantly install an app, feel guilty and uninstall the app only to repeat the installation in a few minutes, hours or days.
Staying away from online dating apps when working with a therapist or a counselor for a love addiction or codependency issues is important. Don’t assume these are harmless ways to meet the right person and talk to your therapist before starting that app download.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Radio Host, Certified Transformation Coach and author of the award winning book The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery and Ecourse. You can take her quiz to find out if you are co-dependent or sign up for a 30 minute strategy session with Sherry. Check out Sherry’s new book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking Your Obsession. Sherry maintains a private practice in Westlake Village, and is a sought after online dating and relationship coach. For more information visit www.sherrygaba.com.