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with Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., MFT

30 Differences Between Love and Love Addiction

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 beginning Chemistry is 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 thin You have a balanced view of your partner’s 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 partner You attend to your needs as well as your partner’s, 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 didn’t 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 left You 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

30 Differences Between Love and Love Addiction

Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., MFT

Dan Neuharth, PhD, is a marriage and family therapist and best-selling author based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has more than 25 years’ experience providing individual, couples and family therapy. Dr. Neuharth is the author of If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Take Your Place in the World. He writes two blogs for PsychCentral: Love Matters and Narcissism Decoded. He is licensed as a marriage and family therapist in California, Florida, Texas and Virginia. His website:

Please note: Dr. Neuharth's posts are for information and educational purposes only. These posts are not intended to be therapy or professional psychotherapeutic advice, and are not a replacement for psychotherapy. I cannot give psychotherapeutic advice about your individual situation outside of a therapist-client relationship. The posting of these blogs and the information therein does not constitute the formation of a therapist-client relationship. Please consult your physician or mental health provider for individual advice or support for your health and well-being. If you are in crisis, please call your local 24-hour crisis or mental health hotline or dial 911.

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APA Reference
Neuharth, D. (2019). 30 Differences Between Love and Love Addiction. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jul 2019
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