Saturday, July 5, 2008

How Love Addiction and Love Avoidance Develops and Affects Perception of Gender

From the writings of Pia Mellody on Love Addiction and Love Avoidance (The dynamics of non-sexual incest)

Note: The child who experiences this abnormal parenting will associate the issues with people of the same sex as the parent. If a child experiences neglect and abandonment with a female parent, they likely will develop love addiction in their relationships with women. If the child experiences enmeshment with a female parent, they will be live avoidant with women. It is the same with a male parent (or caregiver). The association need not relate to sex but it carries with it an association with gender.

You can also have a combination of the two issues. I had a parent varied greatly based upon the level of depression they felt and the degree of threat that they felt in the relationship with me. For the most part, I was enmeshed with this parent, but when they were in an emotional fugue and withdrawn, I was neglected. So I have both issues with my parent. The enmeshment was most disturbing, but now that I am older, the abandonment implications have presented themselves (for healing).

Neglect and Abandonment

  • Neglect or abandonment by a parent sets up a love addiction.

  • The abuse is about the parent failing to provide the love and support the child needs.

  • The parent is essentially "walled in" and distant.

  • The parent is giving priority to other people and other issues as opposed to making the child a priority.

  • The parent's behavior covertly shames the child causing the child to believe he/she is worthless and unimportant.

  • In adult relationships, the person will see himself/herself as “one down” and the

    other person “one up.”

  • Because the child's needs are neglected, the child experiences a lot of fear about being able to self-care and make it on his/her own.

What a child learns from neglect and abandonment:

  • As a result, in adult relationships, this person will believe that he/she cannot ma

    ke it alone and needs someone to care for them.

  • If this is triggered prior to three years of age, the child will be haunted with a sense of disaster.

  • Neglect also produces an internalized sense of worthlessness, a lack of learning about relationships and and lack of learning about self care because of a “shame-existence bind.”

  • Shame -existence bind: Their existence requires them to care for self but this requires the consumption of resources and they believe that they are not worthy of them and are ashamed of their God-given human need. The shame-existence bind is one of the more problematic issues to heal from after neglect and abandonment.

  • The child will spend a lot of time daydreaming, reading and being alone.


  • As a result, in adult relationships, this person will also associate any distancing on the part of the partner (or friend, etc.) as a threat to his/her survival.

  • All relationships become fear-based as well as shame-based.


  • Enmeshment established by the parent creates love avoidance in the child.

  • Enmeshment happens when a parent is without boundaries and without boundaries in the presence of the child.

  • The child will get “used” in some way.

  • He/she will learn that value comes from taking care of needy people and if he/she does not do that, he/she will feel guilty and believe that being relational is suffocating and abusive.

  • The person will base his/her sense of self-esteem on care-taking of needy people.

  • This will confuse love with duty.

  • This person will be “loving” to others to avoid guilt and will be allergic to being relational or being vulnerable.

  • Resentments will likely develop from being the caretaker

  • The love avoidant develops a capacity for aggression, if they served as a “scapegoat” for the parent with whom they were enmeshed.

What a child learns from enmeshment:

  • Relationships are all about duty and deadness.

  • Requires a shutting down of spontaneity.

  • Identity comes from focus on the needy instead of understanding self.

  • Identity and value come from focus on the needs/wants of others instead of own needs/wants.

  • Life's purpose is to do what makes others happy rather than on what satisfies self or provides self with happiness.

As an adult:

  • This person will need to create a lot of intensity outside of the relationship.

  • They do this by “risk-taking,” addictions, extreme sports, risky business style, professions involving heroic care-taking, etc.

  • They create intensity to feel alive as opposed to the deadness that they feel in relationships.

  • They can become antagonistic or aggressive both inside and outside of relationships, especially if they were “scapegoated.”

From Pia Mellody's writings and lectures,

and professional training with "The Meadows" treatment facility.

And from

Facing Love Addiction

by Mellody, Miller and Miller

HarperOne, 1992.