Falling in love is finding someone who knows you back to front, all at once. Love is meeting that person who makes you feel like your best self – who loves you in all your gory, raw, semi-precious eagerness. The problem with that all-consuming, can’t-live-without-you love is that some grow to depend on it rather than let it better their lives. You could say that those who teeter on the in-between of reliance and functionality in romantic relationships are, (let’s be frank), 90% of the population, but there is a significant difference in defining what it means to be a love addict.
Enter Love, the satirical, coarse black comedy currently making waves on Netflix. So totally wrong for each other they are right, the adorkable writer falls head over heels for the allusive addict, taking the audience on a journey that uncovers the lewd irreverence in the romantic insanity of falling in love. This satirized courtship is played out by our Romeo – Paul Rust as Gus Cruikshank, and our Juliet – Gillian Jacobs as Mickey Dobbs.
Creators Lesley Arfin and Paul Rust himself, have collaborated with Arfin’s former Girls boss, Judd Apatow, to mimic the smug vulgarities of the modern L.A. dating landscape, from tracking a young woman struggling with the erratic rhythm of addiction to the bleary absurdity of a young man rejected for being “too nice.” Love acts as the potty-mouthed satire of modern romance, authentically shoving it in the face of the viewer. The ultimate goal is to track Mickey, a young woman struggling with love and sex addiction on top of drug and alcohol dependency.
Addiction is an element of Mickey’s character that doesn’t come to light until the fifth episode of the series. Why? Because she is a functioning addict. She is the seemingly stable junkie with a 9 – 5 job who pays her rent but her addiction is ruining her life, but very slowly and deceptively. The somewhat over-used idea that ‘an addict is the only person that can change their circumstance’ is one that plays throughout the series. Love, itself, holds Micky accountable for how she is behaving. No random epiphany, turn of fate, or caring friend will help her deal with her demons, even as each turn of events occurs. From here, her struggle with love addiction hits home to the viewer.
What the fuck is love addiction? Shauna Springer, psychologist and Ph.D. graduate from the University of Florida, compares falling in love to the rush of smoking crack cocaine, in which passionate love’s effect on brain chemistry is similar to that of an actual drug rush. We all know that feeling – you can’t get that special someone out of your head, you are 100% love high.
“The cocaine-rush phase is an initial period of intense, highly pleasurable bonding based on the mutual fantasy that you and the other person are ideally matched and perfectly suited for each other,” Springer writes in Psychology Today. “Ultimately, the explosion of pleasurable chemicals released during the cocaine-rush phase of new love relationships leads to some monstrously short-sighted decision making in the cocaine-rush stage of relationships.”
Chemicals? That would be your dopamine levels that rise when you are happy. I don’t know about you, but when I am in love I am uber happy, and that joy can be addictive. When your dopamine levels are higher than usual, you begin to damage receptors in your brain in which you start to lose the ability to produce enough dopamine naturally. Attaining the same euphoria becomes tied to that substance – or in this case, person. When you are head over heels in love, you literally can’t be apart. True intimacy is the conscious epiphany that your life can better in someone else’s company, not be made whole by it. That Jay-Z, Beyonce crazy-in-love high we all know well – but that recognition of true love is what’s worth waiting for. Without it, you become lovesick, fast.
“I’ve been asking and asking and I haven’t gotten fucking anything,” Mickey recites to a support group in Love. “Hoping and waiting and wishing and wanting love… Hoping for love has fucking ruined my life.”
According to Sherry Gaba, LCSW and author of The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery, love addiction is a ‘process addiction’, in which mood-altering action and behaviors are prevalent. Most don’t understand the seriousness of it: “It is confirmed scientifically that process addictions such as love addiction affect the same brain reward system as chemical addictions, and in fact can be equally debilitating as drug or alcohol addictions,” says Gaba. “Love addiction is an illusion where the love addict makes up who they want their partner to be rather than who their partner really is,” often resulting in a diminished capacity for healthy, happy relationships with their partner or themselves.
The roots of love addiction depend on individual circumstance. Sadly, they can often be traced back to childhood, in which someone has experienced abuse emotionally or physically. This leads to raw insecurity in personal relationships, identity and sense of self. The illusion of love fulfills these insecurities, which is why addicts compensate for their typically destructive romantic relationships.
How to fall out of love addiction? Don’t obsess in the fantasy. Try to build healthy relationships, set appropriate boundaries, achieve genuine intimacy. Embrace the realities of mature, authentic love. Observe your behavior. Is there a similarity between childhood experiences and your choices as an adult? This isn’t an accident. Fall back in love with yourself. Time alone is key – you need to better yourself before you enter into a relationship with anyone else. Ask yourself how your life would look if you were responsible for your own happiness, successes and failures. Love yourself the way you want to be loved.
To go back to Love, and Mickey’s struggle: “We didn’t want it to be that thing where a woman just needs to find the love of a nice guy and she’ll be okay and it’ll fix her. That’s just an incorrect way of thinking,” Rust told Rolling Stone. At the end of the day the distinction is simple: love isn’t about defining yourself by another, it is recognizing yourself in another. You are, and always will be, enough.
This article was originally published on Nerve.com.