Relationships based on love addiction can be intoxicating. Over time, however, love-addicted relationships become more drama-filled, harder to sustain, and inflict increasing costs on both partners.

How can you tell whether you are creating authentic love with another person as opposed to falling in love with love?

Both love and love addiction can be exciting and life-changing. The beginning phase of romantic love, even in healthy relationships, can feel exhilarating and sometimes bring mood, cognitive, and neurobiological changes similar to those induced by drugs.

But if you know what to look for, there are clear signs that distinguish love addiction from authentic love.

The following table lists 30 differences between love addiction and authentic love. Not all of these characteristics are present in every relationship.

You may wish to think about a current or past relationship and note whether that relationship has more characteristics of love addiction or healthier love.

Characteristics of Love Addiction

Characteristics of Healthier Love

The relationship is based on need The relationship is based on desire
Your relationship is driven by feeling incomplete or flawed without a partner Your relationship is based on feeling sufficient and whole with or without a partner
Your relationship is based on who you want the other person to be Your relationship is based on who the other person is
Chemistry is the top priority in the beginningChemistryis one among several priorities
Your life becomes about the relationship The relationship enhances your goals and commitments for your life
You fall in love with love You fall in love with a person
You seek to rescue or be rescued You seek a relationship between equal, capable individuals
You fail to set healthy boundaries You insist on healthy boundaries
You look outward for another to fix, fill or complete you Your love flows from inside, based on feelings of sufficiency
You may have one or more people lined up in case the current relationship ends You focus on the relationship without needing a ready replacement should it end
You find emotionally unavailable or abusive partners You find emotionally available partners who treat you well
You idealize the other person but then devalue him or her when the idealizations wear thinYou have a balanced view of your partners strengths and weaknesses
You may use excessively seductive behavior to attract or keep a partner Your sex life is an expression of an authentic connection with your partner
You hide or ignore aspects of yourself or your partner that you fear could jeopardize the connection You accept parts of yourself and your partner that you don’t like, and strive for awareness and transparency
You have overwhelming fantasies or obsessive thinking about the relationship which help avoid feelings of emptiness within You experience an active presence of a loved one in daily thoughts that stem from a bond of connection
You use romance or sex like a drug to feel good and avoid feeling bad You see romance and sex as an expression of your love
You downplay your needs for fear of driving away your partnerYou attend to your needs as well as your partners, knowing that both must be met for a healthy relationship
You ignore, deny or tolerate dysfunctional behavior, loss of self esteem, and self-sabotaging behavior to avoid losing the relationship You know that healthy relationships can be difficult or painful and involve compromise but do not include self-sabotage or risky behaviors
You shower your partner with affection and attention to compensate for the lack of love you experienced in early life You offer and receive love not as compensation for what you didnt get earlier in life but as an expression of your healthiest self
You neglect life responsibilities to pursue relationship dreams You integrate your relationship with other responsibilities in a healthy balance
You have rapid and inappropriate self-disclosure in an attempt to feel extremely close Your self-disclosure deepens with time and trust
You look to your relationship or partner to make you feel whole, worthy, valuable and sufficient Your relationship is an expression of feeling whole, worthy, valuable and sufficient
You tolerate excessive dysfunction, chaos or pain in relationships for fear of being alone You do not tolerate excessive dysfunction, chaos or pain
You overlook warning signs and red flags for fear of being disappointed or leftYou address warning signs to determine whether the relationship can be made healthier
You often feel jealous, possessive or a life-or-death quality of maintaining the relationship You may feel envy or jealousy at times but these do not become matters of survival
You believe you can only be happy and have your life work if you find the right person You take responsibility for pursuing happiness regardless of whether you are in a relationship
You have a pattern of rarely being without a relationship You are able to tolerate being single if no appropriate partner is available
You frequently fall in love quickly and repeatedly Your love may develop quickly or slowly but not capriciously
You avoid assessing whether a partner is a healthy, long-term match for fear of losing chemistry You look deeply and think long term knowing that you deserve a healthy, lasting relationship
You feel your life would not be worth living without an intimate partner You know that many aspects of life combine to make life worth living

Copyright Dan Neuharth PhD MFT

Photo credits: Kissy couple by Antonio Guillem Heart with noose by BSK Broken heart by Walter Groesel