The Torchbearer – S/he will love me one day
It sounds silly for one to be addicted to unrequited love, but it can sometimes be the result of growing up in a household where love was either conditional or not consistent. As a child, the “torchbearer,” may have been always trying to win the love, praise or affection from a parent (or someone else influential) who was unavailable, abusive or failed to provide proper nurturing…. or the child could have witnessed one parent in a sort of unrequited love relationship with the other and could have taken that energy on. If it wasn’t an issue of childhood environment, then possibly some sort of other trauma occurred to upset the torchbearer’s self-esteem and their ability to feel safe receiving love. It can also result from a sudden and unexpected separation, betrayal, health, or appearance issue.
At an existential level, the torchbearer may have developed a belief that they are not worthy of love and they may find themselves attracted to love situations that seem to keep them stuck in this dynamic: loving someone, but not able to fully receive love back. Although the person feels unworthy of love on some level, often they know they are worthy on another level, which the torchbearer then may become confused as to why they stay addicted to an unavailable person. The relationship then becomes about fantasy, idealization, avoidance, or a love-hate relationship ensues where the addict both loves and disapproves of the object of their devotion.
According to love addiction expert Susan Peabody, the main categories of love addictions include:
- obsessed love addicts: obsess and can’t let go even if their partners are unavailable or abusive
- codependent love addiction: needy to please partner for sense of self
- narcissistic love addicts: take advantage of their partner and can act disinterested, selfish or abusive and yet still feel addicted to partner and can’t let go
- ambivalent love addicts: this category includes unrequited love addicts (also known as “torch-bearers”), saboteurs, seductive withholders, and romance addicts. The main goal through this kind of love addiction is the avoidance of true deep emotional intimacy and bonding. These addicts crave love and affection, but are afraid to get too close at the same time.
Unrequited love addicts are part of the category of Ambivalent Love Addicts. Susan Peabody was the first to create the term “Ambivalent Love Addiction”. Her book “Addiction to Love: Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships,” is an amazing book for anyone wishing to learn more about love addiction.
To be an ambivalent love addict, or torchbearer, means that one deeply craves love, intimacy, commitment, and unconditional love. However, at the same time, one has fears of relating deeply to another person. Such love addicts can end up pushing love away or holding it at a distance. Subconsciously, it can feel much safer for these individuals to love someone who isn’t fully there or who doesn’t want a full-on commitment. Picking an individual who is married, committed to another, distant, a player, a saboteur, or a sex addict may act to help the torchbearer avoid a true relationship. Some torchbearers end up addicted to friends or colleagues and hope the relationship will become something more.
With many of the torchbearers that I have read, I find there is usually an excuse to continue chasing the love interest. However, there is also always a counterproductive excuse for never letting the love interest know their real feelings. It is even possible that if the object of infatuation actually returned affection or expressed desire for commitment towards the love addict, the love addict might not crave the interest anymore. One popular excuse that I have heard reads something like: “getting what I wanted or asked for took too long, therefore I no longer trust the love interest anymore, so I no longer want a relationship.” Once the love interest gives up, separation anxiety sets in again. Why does this occur? An illusion has been broken and the person idolized has become more human and less of a challenge to the ego.
The torchbearer runs the risk that even if they obtain the object of their desire they may not achieve the closeness or intimacy they desire unless they change why they were addicted in the first place. Sometimes the addiction simply changes. An addict may transform from a torchbearer into a seductive withholder. They can even start becoming a codependent love addict if the once unrequited love relationship begins to become real.
So, how do you know if you are addicted to unrequited love?
What are the symptoms? The symptoms listed below are not comprehensive, but ones I typically see with clients (usually women):
- Do you obsess over or find yourself only attracted to love interests who are not available in some way or who are married, playing you, who are “just friends,” or have left you?
- Do you fear communication or to let the person know your interest in them, feelings, and other basic questions for fear of rejection or to keep the fantasy going? Or do you find yourself communicating but unable to accept a lack of response or a non-commital response without hoping if you wait long enough you will be wholly wanted?
- Do you suffer in silence while you hold adoration towards someone who doesn’t really know? Some unrequited love addicts pursue their interests opening and ardently, but others can hold torches for people who they will not let themselves get close to nor let themselves be revealed in any real way.
- Do you expect your love interest to be psychic/empathic and to just know and interpret your feelings and needs, even though there has been no grounded communication? Are you living out your relationship psychically or vicariously through “signs” or empathic feelings that the other person may be thinking about you, even if there is no contact?
- Do you find yourself always hoping and waiting for the other person to make an interest in you known?
- Can you never feel “close” in a real way to the person you are holding a torch for?
- Are you always living out the relationship in your head?
- Are you continually asking yourself many questions, wondering about the other person feelings and intentions (or potential future intentions) without ever grounding anything to test to see if any fantasies are real?
- Do you have other addictions, such as to sex, psychics, alcohol etc?
- Do you feel you cannot let go of the love interest even though it is not making you feel loved? Do feel powerless to stop at will.
- Is the preoccupation with this interest having a more negative affect on you spiritually, financially and other ways than positive? In the end, are you losing more than you gain?
- Do you have a history of being hurt or obsessing on lack of love, attention or approval by a parent or someone else influential in your earlier life?
- For those with less intense expressions of this addiction: are you confused why you only seem to attract or are attracted to unavailable people or people who are not 100% wanting a relationship? And with this, do you feel bored with people who are into you or once a relationship starts to develop? Does it seem that all the people who would be right and loving towards you, you cannot “fall in love” with?
If you have an “interest” that you crave but are afraid to reach out to in any real and genuine way for fear of rejection, then you might be addicted to unrequited love. You may also be addicted if there is an underlying knowledge that expressing your wants and needs would not be appropriate. I’ve talked to many clients who are totally engaged with these types of interests, sometimes even sexually. But, usually they know on some level there are certain things they cannot ask/dare put forward cause the relationship is casual though they want something more. Though the “craving” is not always required, this article is mostly written for the hard core unrequited love addict.
Here is an example of one kind of non-communicative unrequited love addict who does have some relationship and interaction with her love interest:
A woman starts to like an attractive man. They meet and there is some flirting — the man seems interested to the woman. Information is exchanged followed by mixed signals that mark the relationship. The woman starts obsessing and fantasizing about having a relationship with the man. However, the man won’t make a clear move and the woman ends up doing most of the contacting to keep interaction ongoing. The woman acts casual because she wants the man to make his interest known first. She is getting some cues of affection and indication of interest, but it’s kept superficial and she is always unsure. This goes on for some time, sometimes months, and she starts thinking “Does this guy really want a relationship or am I just casual or a friend?” Despite feeling a sense of unknowing and distress, the woman will never risk asking to find out. She starts asking advice from other friends who tell her to forget about the man, but she hangs on in hope he will ask for a real date or commitment or show he cares.
The man is simply not putting out vibe of wanting a full-on relationship. However, she starts to fantasize that maybe he is just scared, can’t communicate or is insecure. She fantasizes that he will start to be more demonstrative or want something more if she can just hang in or never upset the status quo. She even wonders, “should I say something or make a move”, but something inside is telling her it’s not safe to tell this person how she feels because they are not on the same page, so she withholds keeps holding a torch for this person. She finds out the man has started to pursue someone else and she feels upset and feels betrayed. But, still, she has never had clear indication they are in a “relationship.”
In the worst cases of unrequited love addiction I have seen, the client is addicted to psychics, using spell casters to cast spells to make their love more available, or are even asking for healing sessions on the person they are addicted to hoping healing something in their love interest will change the reality of what is going on.
What Can You Do If This Sounds Like You?
Often, I see two main themes running in these relationships: fear of true communication (or fear of accepting a communication or lack there of), and fear of vulnerability & rejection. Many times I also recommend torchbearers learn how to set boundaries and how to respect others boundaries. If the torchbearer is holding on waiting for a “sign” or demonstration from the love object, afraid of giving up, learning communication would help with getting out of fantasizing a relationship and making it more real. In the least, the torchbearer can get closure, if the love addict’s desires are not reciprocated.
Getting closure isn’t always an easy thing for a love addict. It is often considered to be a harsh rejection. Many frightened unrequited love addicts wish to avoid being hurt at all costs. However, with this cost, these love addicts avoid true intimacy and relationships.
Most unrequited love clients I work with have a shut down throat chakra. They may have been raised or learned through some experience that expressing feelings or needs is a burden on others, a sign of weakness, inferiority or something to be afraid of. Codependent types are afraid to cause any sort of confrontation or rejection for themselves. However, the only way out is through. The crux is that this dynamic is used to avoid another hurt or rejection and this continues the cycle of avoiding true commitment, intimacy and bonding.
Step 1: Communication With Yourself
The first step is for the torchbearers to ask themselves what they truly want from a relationship. What is their vision of how they want to be loved and committed to? This step may be one of the hardest. The unrequited love addict may be so used to avoiding confrontation that asking them to figure out what they want and need seems strange. Torchbearers ask themselves “How do I get someone who doesn’t care to do so? How can I be better? More lovable?” Simply leaving an unrequited love may not solve the problem either. It may just transfer the love addiction from one of pursuing the unrequited love interest to holding a torch and suffering in silence while pining after the loss. They may remain stuck, wondering if maybe this person is still missing them or thinking of them and it gives them hope for reconciliation.
Step 2: Communication With Your Love Interest
If communication is possible to ask for closure, this is the next step. I recommend asking in direct ways and not just looking for “signs.” State what you want out of love and a relationship, and ask the object of your affection if they feel they will ever be able to give it. Risk hearing the truth and risk rejection. This helps break the fantasy and though may be incredibly painful, it is the next step towards risking true intimacy and attracting the right relationship and breaking through all the fears that prevent it from coming. The whole idea of love addiction is the belief that without love one is nothing. If one can risk losing love and still see themselves as whole, then one can start going into relationships with sense of self as a sole identity which another can complement, rather than feeling another will complete them.
Fear of intimacy (getting to know someone deeply), commitment, communication, rejection, boundaries, and confrontation needs to be challenged. Love addicts can also seem like perpetual victims or trauma junkies. So healing the need to be a victim is key too.
Taking on the challenge of learning to set boundaries, risk confrontation and rejection, to communicate ones wants and needs (and listening to another’s – which this might be the real fear) may seem overwhelming. But, it is the only way out. All of this should be targeted, in addition to working on childhood issues, which implanted some of these fears and patterns.
Step 3: Accepting What Is Communicated Back or Any Lack Of A Response
Sometimes, the love addict at this stage may have been totally clear with their love interest what they want and they still feeling or receiving mixed signals. The person of their infatuation may be ambivalent, stringing them along, or afraid to just be honest and give them the closure they need. Sometimes there may be a lack of response — ie: an email is sent to the love object who appears to be avoiding sending a response back. In these cases, aim for setting a boundary for yourself on how long you will wait for what you need and stick to it. Be willing to recognize when you need to either end a relationship or at least bring it down to a more casual and detached level while you pursue other options.
For those who find they are always making clear what they want and are still waiting to receive it or feeling unheard, the lesson may be in knowing when its time to stop voicing your needs and wants realizing they will not be met or cared for. Just affirm to yourself as much as you can that you can and are willing to find someone who can meet your wants and needs.
Step 4: Changing and Challenging One’s Views on Love
I also recommend changing how one views love. There is something self-absorbed in all the withholding and holding on. It is focused on fear and self-protection instead of love or generosity and true interest in another person and their needs and feelings. Many love addicts actually fool themselves into thinking their co-dependence is proof that they are being more loving than anything else. However, love is about extending and exposing oneself in the face of rejection and providing a safe and open place for someone else to extend and expose themselves. Love is not manipulative, wanting to change people or situations or waiting for such situations or people to change.
Love is not about being a martyr either. If you can’t take a risk to know anyone else or have them tell you their wants and needs, or accept or listen when they are not on the same page, how can you expect someone to care and listen concerning your own wants and needs?
Not all unrequited love addicts are afraid to state their wants, needs, and boundaries. But, often what can happen is the torchbearer is always stating needs and boundaries and they are not listening to what is being conveyed back. They keep hoping the love object will change, mature, or outgrow his detached stance.
A Few Self-Help Healing Tools
While one can always benefit from professional therapies, coaching, and alternative healing sessions geared towards transmuting thought patterns, there are a few healing tools that can be used to assist recovery from love addictions (feel free to look for others as I only mention a few here).
If one has ever used “flower essences” before (a form of homeopathy), Australian Bush Flower Essences (www.abfeusa.com for more information) has a “Relationship Essence” which contains the following:
- Boab: helps bring change, helps clears negative core patterns that are rooted in family and which are inherited. Can also help clear negative lines of karma that exist between individuals and past life influence.
- Bluebell: is for those who cut themselves off from their feelings and helps to open the heart and to disolve greed and rigidity. Emotions are present but withheld and there is even fear of expressing positive emotions such as joy and love, etc through operation of fear that there is just not enough and they can’t survive if they let go of all they hold onto.
- Bottlebrush: helps one to resolve mother issues and helps one embrace major life changes. It brushes away the past allowing individuals to move on and go forward.
- Bush Gardenia: helps one to renew passion and interest in relationships. Helps with intimacy, and resolving where there is too much self-interest or lack of awareness in a partnership.
- Dagger Hakea: Is for helping on to release resentments, bitterness and grudges.
- Flannel Flower: is for those who fear emotional or physical intimacy, getting too close and who have a hard time maintaining personal boundaries. Helps one to garner trust to express ones innermost feelings.
- Red Helmet Orchid: Helps for resolving father issues, probelms with confrontation or authority.
- Red Suva Frangipani: Is for the rocky relationship that is challenged and is also for resolving deep sense of loss and sadness when a relationship is in trouble or has ended. Helps to heal that feeling of Wedding Bush: Is for issues with commitment to a relationship, job, goal etc. It can be used for individuals who tend to flit from one relationship to another, or for those who leave relationships when the crush phase or initial attraction has diminished.
A book I highly recommend is Addiction to Love: Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships by Susan Peabody (co-founder of LAA).
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is another tool that can help with love addictions. EFT can be easy to learn for free from demonstrations on YouTube or free downloads on various sites.