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Working the Steps for Love Addicts

Working the Steps for Love AddictsFor love addicts, finding balance in life can be a struggle. Understanding and respecting their own boundaries requires that they have a knowledge of themselves and their limits and, as well, an honesty regarding the unmanageability that love addiction and toxic relationships can cause.

Entering a 12-step program such as Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) can be a very important part of the recovery work from love addiction. Modeled after the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 steps for recovery from love addiction look similar, with a few differences that address the addiction specifically.

Working the steps has many benefits; among them, developing new ways of relating to others and new choices of how to be in the world.

Prior to working a 12-step program, love addicts may have found themselves attracted only to other love addicts or other love avoidants. When they work the steps, they learn to love themselves, and in turn, select more functional partners for relationships.

Sometimes initially in SLAA, love addicts may be asked to refrain from being involved in a romantic relationship. This is to help them do important work on themselves without the distraction that a relationship can bring with it.

Working a solid program in SLAA can help love addicts become aware of the ways that acting out of love addiction only creates chaos and intensity, and how often they mistake these qualities for genuine intimacy. Having the time and space to begin learning how to be truly intimate can start with learning how to be authentically intimate with themselves.

Working on unrealistic expectations about others also can be an important part of recovery from love addiction.

While working the steps, love addicts might find themselves reviewing their past; that is, examining their family of origin and making the discovery that they did not get some crucial emotional needs met in childhood. This helps love addicts see how they bring those unresolved feelings into their adult relationships, reenacting painful childhood experiences, in the hopes of creating a different outcome from the one they experienced in the past.

One very important part of this work is coming to the realization that other adults cannot fulfill unresolved childhood needs, and cannot be expected to love unconditionally like a parent would. Unconditional love is a need that all love addicts can only fulfill for themselves.

While it can be a painful realization to acknowledge that romantic partners can’t be expected to heal past emotional wounds, new growth can be achieved through confronting such codependency and learning how to function interdependently in all relationships.

In recovery, love addicts come to have realistic expectations about others, and own their part in relational interactions.

Working the Steps for Love Addicts

Alexandra Katehakis, Ph.D., MFT, CST, CSAT

Alexandra Katehakis, PhD, MFT, CST, CSAT is the founder and Clinical Director of Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles, where she and her staff successfully treat a full spectrum of sexual disorders, ranging from issues of sexual desire and dysfunction to the treatment of sexual addiction. She is the author of Erotic Intelligence: Igniting Hot, Healthy Sex While in Recovery from Sex Addiction and co-author of Making Advances: A Comprehensive Guide for Treating Female Sex and Love Addicts. Her free Daily Meditations on healthy sex and love are open to the public. Since 2006, Ms. Katehakis has studied affective neuroscience with Allan N. Schore, incorporating regulation theory into her treatment of sexual addiction. Alex is the 2012 recipient of the Carnes Award, a prestigious acknowledgement for her contributions to the field of sex addiction.

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APA Reference
Katehakis, A. (2018). Working the Steps for Love Addicts. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 22 Feb 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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