There have always been people who were addicted to dating, but since the proliferation of online dating sites this problem has really taken off.
Originally, online dating sites helped you meet someone to settle down with. But now, for many people, they are a chance to get high off the euphoria of dating.
What makes dating exciting? Well it is the projection and expectation. We all carry around a secret fantasy about meeting the right person and living happily ever after. Even avoidants who don’t follow through. Dating is the first step in that direction, so one gets excited just getting on the internet and beginning the search. The moment you click on a dating site you start projecting your secret fantasy onto the computer and then your potential date.
This is the first stage of a dating addiction. The next step is to exchange emails where you say all the right things and put your best foot forward. I call this image management. This can go on for as long as you like. The experience releases chemicals in your brain that make you high: the chemistry of romance.
Stage three is to actually meet. This is where the high begins to ebb because the reality is never as good as the projection. You had someone in mind and this person is not him or her. Healthy people, looking for a relationship, do not go through this. Whoever they meet is fine because they have not even gotten to know them yet. Dating addicts immediately begin to withdraw if the person does not match their fantasy person. At first because of how they look. If they match your fantasy they get a few dates.. If not they get rejected right away.
If you are a dating addict, now is the time you back off and start the process all over again. You go back to the computer. You contact several people and look forward to a lot of emails pouring in so you can get high. You are not really looking for a partner. You are dating addict.
Recovery for dating addicts is to slow down the process of dating; selecting one person to get to know and giving them time to grow on you. You must also get control of what you project when you get online. This is difficult for a dating addict but not impossible.
Here are some tips . . .
- Stay away from certain dating sites that are known to become addictive.
- Whatever site you choose select only one person to get to know at a time.
- Change your values about relationships. If your are ambivalent about settling down then deal with this before you start taking people hostage.
- When you are ready to change and give settling down a try, then get to know one person. Do not just flirt, begin to reveal the real person that you are slowly.
- Be clear that you are not just looking for fun and romance but for somebody to settle down with.
- If you have to have your fantasy person come to life, then be clear about what you want before you meet. I suggest being more flexible, however. Fantasy people really don’t exist.
- Do not spend more than one hour a day on the computer with someone you have met.
- Stay focused on this meeting and avoid getting on other sites and hooking up with other people.
- Look into some of your other issues like an underlying fear of emotional intimacy and commitment. You can do this with a Life Coach or Psychotherapist.
Overcoming any kind of addiction is a process. Admit that you have a problem. Reach out for help. Change how you think and behave and what is important about relationships. This may require some maturity if you are young. Most of all, you may have to do a complete overhaul of your life, but it will be worth it. Long-term relationships are really more fulfilling and they are not addictive.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach
Author of Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love
And Wake Up Recovery for Toxic Relationships, Codependency and Love Addiction