“I need a lover who won’t drive me crazy.” That was my watchword. That, and “novelty is the best aphrodisiac.” It didn’t take me long to figure out that confusing new with sexy is just a function of my warped love addict brain, hungry for the jolt of dopamine it gets from the new and exciting. “Surprise me” is better said to the chef than the new boyfriend, it turns out. And uncertainty is a terrible foundation for relationship.
It has taken longer for me to give up on Watchword #1, the John Cougar Mellencamp motto. It’s those crazy-ass men who are my problem. I’m not alone: How many times have you heard a love addict moan, “My picker is broken”? That’s got to be the root of the problem: bad judgment. Put me in a room full of men and I will invariably pick the most unavailable, the most narcissistic, the most dysfunctional… yup, he’s a mess, all right. And I head straight for him.
You see where I’m going with this? I’m pointing my finger at him and him and him – the abandoning man, the unloving man, the withholding man, the unfaithful man – and beating my chest at my bad taste and worse luck… and never once think to point the finger back at myself. Every time I say my picker is broken, I am essentially blaming him — whoever he is, and whatever he did.
Mind you, I have picked some doozies over the years. Did I ever tell you about the guy I was dating, who — after he had disappeared for a while, as guys I am dating frequently do — called at 3am to ask me to drive down to his crack motel and pay off the hookers. Oh, and he needed a ride home, too. When I hung up on him, he tried again by having one of the hookers call me.
I need a lover who won’t drive me crazy? Okay, yes. But how about I don’t bring crazy into the room with me in the first place? As in, “True, he’s only a few months clean and sober. But I’m sure he’ll be fine with me around.”
There’s a line from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous: “You cannot transmit something you haven’t got.” My lovelorn antenna was picking up the signals on its own wavelength, the sex and love addict wavelength, because that’s what it was transmitting. It’s no accident that we love junkies end up finding one another. Match-dot-com turns into match-dot-gasoline before you can say, “Why didn’t you answer my text?”
People in recovery talk a lot about learning to love themselves before they can find a relationship. I think that’s a load of crap. Addicts are altogether too much in love with themselves, as a rule. But I do think we have to heal ourselves before we can find a healthy relationship.
Because, let’s face it, there’s a lot more out of whack in there than a broken picker.
So, how’s the annual Minefield of Expectations been going for you? Christmas morning, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day… all these red-letter days so fraught with anticipation about the Special Person we should be spending them with. So much expectation, sadly, that even when there is a Person around, the reality is somehow a little disappointing. He or she might be a great partner for August 17, or May 9, but somehow on February 14 they come up short.
Like the AA old-timers say: An expectation is nothing but a resentment under construction.
As usual around this time of year, the in-box is busy. Here’s one detail-filled note (this is the edited version!) I’ve been wrestling with. Your thoughts?
I am a 32-year-old love addict in recovery and have been in a committed relationship with my boyfriend these past 1 1/2 years, after a disastrous love-affair with a married man ended. He is 9 years older than me, a dentist, and marihuana addict. We have been living together for the last year.
In our everyday lives we harmonize very well: He always takes my side when I feel that I am poorly treated at my job, is there for me when I am ill, makes me expensive presents and I just know that he will never cheat on me. In good times, he prepares a hot tub for me to slip in when I come home from work, or drives to the gas station late in the evening just to get me an ice cream. When we are in public, he often acts as if he totally adores me and when he’s drunk, he often tells me how much he loves me.
However, he gets angry very easily and then barely speaks to me for whole days. It always follows the same scheme: He gets into one of his “temper-tantrums” over (from my point of view) insignificant little details, like [insert lengthy fight over the speed of meal preparation.] He is always right and I am always wrong and he doesn’t care at all about my point of view or my feelings. When I try to point out to him how he makes me feel, he accuses me of “always putting myself forward and playing the victim”. When I say that I don’t want to talk to him any more in this way, I am “impertinent”, “rude” and “unloving”. And then, out of nowhere, he is nice and kind again and acts as if all this never has happened. However, when I try to talk it over with him, he gets again angry, it starts all over again and it gets clear that he hasn’t changed his mind about the matter at all.
Lately, we almost always fight about sex. If we have sex five times on a weekend and I am tired Sunday evening, he feels rejected. When we have sex and something isn’t quite right (me moving in the wrong way) and his lust fades, he is angry with me and feels rejected. I could understand his feelings of rejection when I would refuse sleeping with him for weeks. But even when only one week goes by, he gets really furious with me, accusing me of being frigid, wanting to “know” why I am no longer turned on by him, sleeping on the couch and barely speaking to me for days.
I have already tried so much to make him open up: I tried to tell him how I feel and even cried, but that only made him threaten to leave the room. I tried to get furious myself, which resulted in nothing else than both of us fighting even harder. Now, I usually don’t do very much. I don’t apologize any more and simply wait for his mood to be normal again.
But I can’t stop wondering whether I am with the right kind of man. He has an ex-wife with whom he used to fight for hours until wine glasses were thrown and he once slapped her, so I understand partly that he might not know any better, but I wish he would want to try to fight differently with me. He complains that the relationship has been fun and easy in the beginning and now is not any more. I want to feel safe enough to reveal all my thoughts and feelings, to feel loved no matter what and to be allowed to criticise, be tired or move in the “wrong” way during sex.
But then I wonder, maybe this is just the love addict in me talking. Maybe I should quit looking for a soulmate who understands me deep down and with whom I can have heart-to-heart chats until midnight. Maybe he is a good man after all and I am just making a fuss over nothing.
I have read your book and you really spoke to me. I feel like I can’t see clearly any more. Maybe you could help me sort this out? - Ann Marie
Dear Ann-Marie - Where to begin…? Okay, first, it sounds like you are in a dizzying dance of death with another sex and love addict. (Likely an alcoholic as well, but that’s a different program.) We love junkies do manage to find one another, as I said in the book, blindfolded and in another language. Love addicts don’t really like relationships that are “fun and easy like in the beginning.” We like relationships that are new and exciting, like in the beginning. If there’s no excitement around, we’ll create some, usually with a dramatic fight. It’s really your addict brains (plural!) thirsting for dopamine and adrenaline, and has almost nothing to do with getting dinner on the table, or the angle of your leg during sex. PS: Passive aggressive sulking is not better than a glass-breaking screamfest, just quieter.
So, recognize that you’re attempting to coexist with another addict, accept that you can’t change him but can only change yourself, and treat appropriately. Alanon is suggested. Strongly suggested.
Second, remember that love addicts are as a whole good at falling in love — really, really good at falling in love — and bad at relationship. Really, really bad. We spend so much energy getting the ball into the metaphorical end zone that we look, baffled, at our empty hands once we’ve spiked the damn thing. Now what? If your expectation (there’s that word again) of a relationship is “having heart-to-heart chats until midnight,” try becoming a lesbian, because that’s not how men do relationship. Figure out what’s important to you in this relationship and, more than that, find out what’s important to him in this relationship. He has a point about that whole putting yourself first and playing the victim thing.
Third, are you looking for my opinion or my permission? If you want me to tell you that you’re only 32, that there are plenty of other men out there who will be interested in you (no matter what the gremlin at the base of your skull with the Low Self Esteem sign on its forehead tells you) then, yes, you have my permission to dump his sorry ass. On the other hand, my opinion is that every relationship equation you engage in will end up with the same result until you change the common denominator, and the common denominator is you.
And, on a brighter note:
I have been married to an emotionally healthy, respectful and loving spouse for a good number of years. He has provided well for us, his family (we have two children), has a strong moral compass, and stands by my side no matter what. Everybody who knows him tells me what a catch he is.
And what did I do? I almost left him for a love-avoidant, porn-addicted sex addict who can barely make ends meet and admits openly that he has almost no capacity for intimacy. Why? Because I thought I loved him. Why? Because I was letting my wounded adolescent run the show. I was using this man in a desperate (subconscious) attempt to fix a past that can’t be fixed. In many ways, I was no less ‘sick’ than he was. We made quite the toxic team.
For me, therapy saved my life and saved me from making a dreadful, dead-end decision. I am still attracted to him (go figure), but drug addicts are also ‘attracted’ to cocaine or heroin. Men like him are my ‘drug’ and it behooves me to stay away from them. Feel free to share my sordid tale of Love Addiction woe. Regular therapy, daily vigilance and your experience (knowing I am not alone!) are all part of my ongoing recovery and sobriety.
Dr. Margaret Cary, who wrote the foreword to LOVE ADDICT: SEX, ROMANCE AND OTHER DANGEROUS DRUGS, often sends me articles she thinks I’ll find interesting. Research papers on the genetics of addiction, usually, or lactose intolerance. This week, she sent a piece from THE WEEK about advances in epigenetics.
Epigenetics — literally “on top of genetics” — is the recently discovered process by which our DNA blueprint will express, or not express, itself as a genetic command. Our genes are malleable, not immutable; they adjust and alter throughout our lives, This explains why identical twins become less identical over time. Science has lately confirmed what many have long suspected: our environment and our behavior can literally change us to the core. It now appears that everything from childhood hugs to drinking from plastic bottles can turn our genes on and off.
One simple example: Two siblings inherit a genetic predisposition to lung cancer. The one who smokes… gets lung cancer. How many times have we heard about the hardy old sod who smoked until she was 93, healthy as a horse until she got run over by a truck? (Okay, maybe not that specifically….) You need both the gene and the catalyst to activate it to get the outcome.
So, how does that apply to love addiction? When I was researching my book, I encountered two distinct and seemingly mutually exclusive schools of thought on the causes and conditions for sex and love addiction. The neuroscientists say it’s all biology. They point to brain scans and statistical studies that clearly demonstrate addicts are wired differently from non-addicts. We have more white area in our gray matter. We produce different quantities of different neurotransmitters. We have specific, quantifiable genetic variations.
The psychologists, on the other hand, tell me it’s all caused by childhood trauma. You were sexually abused as a child? You grow up to be a sex addict. You were emotionally abandoned as a baby? You grow up to be a love addict. Addiction is the great psychic hole caused by parental abandonment, a hole the addict seeks to fill with food or love or alcohol or cigarette smoke… whatever you got, baby.
Nature or nurture? It’s hardly a new argument, but maybe there is a new solution. The answer is C: All of the above. For example, according to a 2009 study reported by the University of Utah, “Child abuse leaves an epigenetic mark on the brain. In a comparison of suicide victims who were abused or not, only the abused victims had an epigenetic tag on the GR [glucocorticoid receptor] gene. Interestingly, the GR gene receives a similar epigenetic tag in rat pups who receive low quality care from their mothers.”
In other words, hit your kid or forget to feed your furry rat baby, and you leave permanent changes on its double helix. Changes which may lead to self-destructive behavior. Changes which can be inherited by the next generation, by the way.
So go ahead, blame childhood trauma if you want. Or blame neurochemistry. But epigenetics tells us that you need both the gasoline and the match to start the fire. It’s a concept those crusty old alcoholics who started the 12-step programs came up with back in the 1930s: Addiction is an allergy of the body, an obsession of the mind, and a malady of the spirit.
recoveringloveaddictmaybe asked: What programs have you found most useful in living with ADD? I have been dry from a number of addictive substances for lots of days and even have a 28 yr Alanon chip but none of the programs I have gone to seem to adress ADD very well. Right now ACOA seems to come closest. Whats your experience strength and hope?
In my experience, Alanon is a great help if you find yourself obsessing on your significant other’s poor driving habits. It doesn’t do as much if you find yourself obsessing on driving your car through your married lover’s living room window.
It’s quite common to suddenly find ourselves face-to-face with our Affection Deficit Disorder only after stripping away all the mind-altering substances we were using to cover up the existential pain of it all. Amend that: Mind-altering substances and behaviors; overeating, gambling and smoking work perfectly well on that front, thank you.
Sex and love addiction are codependency on crack. That’s why the S programs — SAA, SCA and SLAA — are currently the fastest growing of the 12-step programs. Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA or ACOA) couldn’t hurt, and I’m glad it’s serving you, but I have always found that the deep identification of fellow sufferers that formed the basis of AA back in 1935 is the best route to healing. Hence, SLAA.
Here’s what the old farts who wrote the Big Book (I always think of them as old farts; they were, of course, quite young at the time) figured out, based on their own experience and observation: Addiction is an allergy of the body, an obsession of the mind, and a malady of the spirit. This has since confirmed by modern science. To heal, we need to treat mind, body and soul.
You can work the triangle with therapy, yoga and volunteerism. Or church, charity and medication. For me, the 12-step model of recovery, unity and service addresses all three damaged areas in one neat package. It’s available all over the planet, it’s open every day, and it’s free.
For someone who is in between health insurers, that looks darn good to me.
Full disclosure: I’m writing this oh-so-overdue blog mainly because I’m having writer’s block on a script. Until I break the third act (anyone want to come over and help me break a third act?), I might as well answer more reader questions about sex and love addiction.
A good friend of mine describes himself as a sex addict. He just got into a monogamous relationship about six weeks ago, and he’s already straying. He seems to want advice, but I don’t know what to say - other than that monogamous isn’t the only kind of relationship you can have. What would you say? - Klur
I would say it depends on whether he wants to be monogamous or not. Just as there’s a difference between a boozy fratboy and a real alcoholic, there’s a difference between a cheating boyfriend and a sexual compulsive. No fair calling yourself a sex addict just to give yourself an out, because you regret having made a commitment to exclusivity. It gives sex addicts a bad name.
If, however, your friend wants to be faithful yet is genuinely unable to control his impulses, you’re not doing him any favors by telling him he can apply for an open relationship. It’s kind of like telling a hope-to-die pothead that he can always move to Colorado.
As women, we’re flooded with stories about falling love being the most amazing and transformative thing ever — from Disney flicks to RomComs and the Vows section of the Times. What’s your take on that stuff? - Dodai Stewart
Sadly, men are also flooded with the mythology of being “saved by the love of a good woman.” In parts of the Old West, a convicted murderer could be actually pardoned if a woman agreed to marry him, under the assumption that he would inevitably straighten up and fly right under her tender mercies.
My take on this Love is All There Is/All You Need Is Love trope, when love equals romance, is that it’s misguided and occasionally dangerous. It’s the belief system that creates stalkers, suicides, and bad poetry. Realistically, though, trying to change it would be like trying to change gun control laws. Or the tides. People like magic, and Prince Charming’s Kiss is just that: magic. It’s all the Happily Ever After with none of the effort; it’s weight loss with no diet or exercise, or the secret to making five thousand dollars a month at home in your spare time. We fall for that crap, too.
Most of the time when I am intimate with someone I am totally alienated and feel not-present, but I have always sought out sexual attention anyway, even though I know it isn’t going to feel like anything. Do you think that’s a kind of addiction, since it has an element of self harm? - Too Many Times
Have you ever thought that maybe the attention was your gratification, not the sex? It’s pretty common for love addicts; the offer of sex is what sets off the delightful dopamine cascade in our bent little brains. The anticipation of reward is more important than the reward itself, like the way seeing the slot machine come up 7-7-7 is way more potent than the five extra bucks in your wallet.
That’s the physical part of it. On an emotional level, the offer is a validation of our desirability. As a rule, sex and love addicts are a quart low on self-esteem, and often come to the party with what therapists call “attachment disorder” — hence, your sense of alienation and not being present. In this short note, I would say you’ve self-diagnosed a complex and multilayered addiction. Well done!
Since you’ve not only experienced the addiction to love and sex but also studied the pathology of it, what would you say is the most common sort of “breaking point” or moment of realization that helps addicts not only acknowledge and understand their addiction, but also spur them into making a serious change for themselves? - Baldylocks
In Cocaine Anonymous, they used to welcome people who were “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Oldtimers in AA talk about “when what it’s doing to you is more than what it’s doing for you.” It’s the same in sex and love addiction. Like any drug, the love drug works great… right up until it stops working. That’s why we like it in the first place. And when it stops working, we tend to deny that for a while. “Someone cut this coke all to hell.” “All the good men are married.” “I have to stop drinking tequila; it gives me headaches.” “Maybe she’s crazy, but it’s so hot in bed.” And always, “This time will be different….”
Until one day you just can’t fool yourself any longer, your head pops out of your ass, and you have what’s commonly called a moment of clarity. And then you change.
Developing the willingess to change can take a long, long time. Change itself… is instant.
Dr. Margaret Cary, who wrote the Foreword to LOVE ADDICT: SEX, ROMANCE AND OTHER DANGEROUS DRUGS, passed along a couple of interesting articles, and I pass them along to you.
First, the New York Times published a piece by Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical College, called I Heart Unpredictable Love, about how some people (guess who?) are neurochemically drawn to inconstant lovers. Dr. Cary smiley-faced, “You could have told them this years ago.”
Then, from the same source — both Dr. Cary and the Times — is a piece by Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. New Love: A Short Shelf Life again connects the dots between surprise, lust and dopamine. The professor also offers advice on how to keep a long-term relationship fresh — in case any of you are in long-term relationships, and somehow I suspect that’s not too many of you.
Check ‘em out.
recoveringloveaddictmaybe asked: I have a 50 yr history of getting involved with addicts, only one of who was in any kind of recovery! I am currently getting my affection needs met with an active gambler who ganbled away the rent so I moved out. At age 74, do I try to change or just try to enjoy the conseqences of my love addiction ?. I loved your book. You have been reading my mail. Last night I did an Internet Stalk on a 40 yr younger beauty on information gained from a 12-step phone list :). Help John M
Be honest, readers. How many of you thought this was from a woman, right up until you got to the signature? There’s a cultural presupposition that codependent love addicts are female, and men are the emotionally unavailable sex addicts. The only problem with that conventional wisdom is that it is wrong.
John, I feel you. Age is no barrier to love addiction; my mother was 82 when she died, cruising JDate for Prince Charming, Version 5.0. I also don’t think age is any barrier to recovery.
If the consequences of your addiction are eviction and a restraining order, I think it’s already passed the point of enjoyment, don’t you? Sounds like what it’s doing to you is already more bad than what it’s doing for you is good.
How do we change? Generally, where the ass goes the mind will follow. In other words, if you spend your time cyberstalking or chasing tail in 12-step meetings, you’re feeding the disease. If you spend your time going to men’s stags, meditating, being of service, talking to a counselor, etc., you’re feeding your recovery. We take the actions, and the recovery happens.
One gal I worked with said, so succinctly: “I sat with fellow addict at a Subway sandwich shop once a week and read from a book, and my life got better. Go figure.”
There are a couple of things love addicts do that baffle observers. Okay, there are a hundred things love addicts do that baffle observers, but this conversation is about two of them, a pair that seem to be diametrically opposed. And yet, I believe, they stem from the same mental quirk.
Tell me if you relate to either of these behaviors: When approaching a new relationship (or, for that matter, applying for a job) we tell ourselves “Oh, it’s not that important. I don’t really want it. I don’t mind that much if it doesn’t happen.” It’s a preemptive strike, an attempt to assuage our disappointment if/when the romance/job/tax refund/new puppy doesn’t materialize. It doesn’t work, but that’s beside the point.
At the same time, however, love addicts are magnetically drawn to the least available partner in the vicinity. You’re leaving the country? I love you. Married? We can work with that. The married Director of the CIA who is usually out of the country? Perfect! (I’m talking to you, Paula Broadwell…)
This second quirk, you would think, is a set-up for failure. And anyone so afraid of failure that they will delude themselves they didn’t want whatever it was in the first place would, you would also think, avoid these set-ups. And yet, these seemingly contradictory ideas coexist uncomfortably in the same heads. Like mine.
Here’s what I think is going on in our addict brains. We are managing our expectations — and addiction is all about expectation — in order to do what alcoholics call “control and enjoy” their drinking. Bear with me while I try to connect some dots.
Sex and love addicts — most addicts — live in the black and the white. Highs and lows, peaks and valleys, ecstasy and despair. This is all part of a brain reward system gone amok, the physiological component of addiction. (There’s also a psychological and a metaphysical element.) We love junkies, intoxicated by romance, thrive on anticipation and rarely feel satisfied. The gap between high expectations and low results is despair. The gap between low expectations and high results is ecstasy.
So if you prefer the ecstasy to the despair — and who doesn’t? — wouldn’t you rather have the rare and thrilling high of getting the ungettable than the frequent and thudding despair of losing anything else? The flood of dopamine accompanying nailing that rock star makes up for a hundred lost jobs, especially when we tell ourselves the job wasn’t that desirable in the first place. Managing our expectations. If I expect little, I will be less disappointed if it doesn’t happen and way more appointed (is that a word?) if it does.
The downside of this system is that it’s insane addict thinking. We are in fact every bit as disappointed when we don’t get the thing we pretended not to want in the first place. And if we actually land the object of our obsession, that unfaithful/married/gay/felonious/foreign stranger, we rarely get to keep them because, after all, they were never a very suitable match.
Of course, we never really wanted them anyway….
slamilf asked: At what age do you think it is appropriate to start discussing with your children the difference between healthy attractions and unhealthy attractions (assuming I can figure it out myself)? Check out "Paperman"- Disney's short film shown before the KID movie “Wreck-It-Ralph”- and you'll understand why I'm asking. Needless to say, I just about puked up my chocolate covered pretzels in the theater!
I actually saw Paperman — I have a soft spot for 3D animation — and I know what you mean. What is a charming meet-cute moment from one perspective is a scary stalker story from another. Most classic rom-coms, in fact, if lit differently, could be rebranded as slasher epics: “The flowers are coming from inside the house!”
Is this animated misguided missile a teaching moment? I don’t think so. Most children will naturally come to an intuitive understanding of the difference between fact and fiction as they mature. Little Tommy only needs to jump off the dresser in his Superman Underoos once to figure out that people cannot actually fly. If Tommy is still dropping anvils on the cat when he’s old enough to lift an anvil… well, then some parental intervention may be required.
The lovestruck Romeo in Paperman, while hardly a good example, was still a cartoon. Pepe le Pew may well be a date rapist, but I don’t think he’s a danger to our children. Shakespeare’s Romeo is of much greater concern to me, frankly. Just think of all the murder-suicides inspired by that timeless tale.
The best way to teach your kids about healthy relationships is to have a healthy relationship with your kid.
by Shabana Malone
Television has a rich tradition of making heroines out of love addicts. Teen girls had Angela Chase in ‘My So-Called Life’, Thirtysomethings have Carrie from ‘Sex and the City’, and college girls have ‘Felicity’. Webster’s defines the word felicity as,“the quality or state of being happy”; show creator JJ Abrams must have been using a pinch of irony when he named his protagonist Felicity, for she spent much of the 1998 series crying; crying over Ben, crying over Noel, crying over Ben and Noel.
Felicity, I have no doubt, was a love addict. How do I know? It takes one to know one.
But another hint is the premise of the show: A girl scraps Stanford University and moves across the country to follow her high school crush. She does this because of something he wrote in her high school yearbook! If that’s not a love addict, I don’t know what is.
Played expertly by the gorgeous Keri Russell, surprisingly convincing as a brainy loner, Felicity idealized popular athlete Ben (played by Scott Speedman) for four years in high school, even though they never spoke. She later acknowledges that the fact that they never did speak was why she had those “intense feelings”. After she realizes “I came to New York because of Ben, but I’m staying for me,” she becomes receptive to the advances of her Mr. Nice Guy Resident Advisor, Noel (played by Scott Foley). Noel is almost as hot as Ben, but without the brooding, mysterious, aloof sexiness that Ben embodies. Alas, Noel has a girlfriend back home he hasn’t told Felicity about.
Too good-looking for her…. already taken… Felicity is covering all the unavailability bases.
The entire series is about Felicity’s constant struggle of “Ben or Noel? Noel or Ben? Ben or Noel?” interspersed with other guys she doesn’t care much about but who are only there to distract her from Ben and/or Noel. Felicity repeate4dly chooses Ben, even though he proves fickle time and again. Noel (the epitome of Captain Save-a-Ho) is always there to pick up the pieces.
An undercurrent of the show is that Felicity’s biggest reason for leaving Palo Alto for New York, we come to find out, is to get away from her overbearing parents. This is especially interesting because Pia Mellody (author of Facing Love Addiction) would argue that having overbearing parents would cause Felicity to fear “engulfment,” and likely become a love avoidant, not a love addict. By the same token, Ben — with his alcoholic, abandoning father and codependent mother — should be a love addict, and not the love avoidant he appears to be. Another hint that Ben is a love avoidant is the fact that he is all about the chase. He mostly shows interest in a girl when she is otherwise involved or ignoring his calls. Once she falls for him, he often loses interest.
Noel’s parental issues are shadowy, but he is certainly a love addict as well. Hence, he and Felicity found each other.
Felicity also has intimacy issues. You would think she would lose her virginity to either Ben or Noel, right? Wrong. She slept with an art student she barely knew, played by Simon Rex, who sent her flowers the next day. Incidentally, I slept with Simon in real life and I’m still waiting for my flowers! Damn you, reality!
But I digress. The second person she slept with was neither Noel NOR Ben, but some random grad student she was dating. She seems more comfortable sleeping with people she barely knows than with the men she professes to love. She didn’t sleep with Ben until well into the second season, and Noel until Season 4! Intimacy issues much? Underneath, Felicity does want to find herself. It’s slightly more fun and less stressful to think about “Ben or Noel” over “What am I going to do with my life?”
I have a therapy client who reminds me so much of Felicity. She also moved across the country (from New York to Los Angeles) for a boy. She is now on a journey to find herself, and I theorized that she was not only running away with her boyfriend but also running away from her controlling parents. She watched the show, and she agrees with my assessment. Love addicts do want to have a self, deep down. It’s just easier to hide behind a guy than to do what it takes to get one.
I’ll give writers JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves a break on these oversights. They’re not therapists, and I’m sure they didn’t research Love Addiction and Love Avoidance for the show. They had their hands full writing such a rich and complex character as Felicity. How two men wrote such an accurate female love addict is beyond me; especially considering they based the character on a girl they barely knew in high school. Art imitating life (sort of).
Some have said that Angela Chase was a high school version of Felicity Porter, who was a college version of Carrie Bradshaw. Love addiction is an ageless phenomenon. Felicity is a classic example of television’s romanticizing of love addiction. After all, she got her man. So did Angela Chase. So did Carrie Bradshaw (eventually!) After all, this is not real life. Damn you, reality!
Shabana Malone is a marriage and family therapist and television fan living in West Hollywood, California.