Lately, I’ve been thinking about how prevalent is love addiction in our culture. We collectively celebrate love addiction in songs and movies, having created a jargon for it with buzzwords words like “soulmate” and “the One”. The general idea is that if someone doesn’t sweep you off your feet it is not true love, right?
I personally think that many popular pop songs play a major part in triggering love addicts. Just think Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain” and Avicii’s “Addicted to you”. It’s not just that our culture doesn’t acknowledge how destructive love addiction is, but it elevates it to a noble emotional state, instead of a serious attachment problem.
There’s just so much confusion and misinterpretation of this subject. A small disclaimer here, I am not a psychologist or a relationship expert by any means, but as someone who has suffered in dysfunctional relationships, this is my own personal insight on the matter.
So as an example for this I want to use one oldie but goodie, which is Britney Spears’ well-known song Everytime. Complete with its music video, this is a song that to me depicts the emotional state of love addiction. It is a truly beautiful song, written by a very talented songwriter. But everything in the song and its music video, from the singer’s utter vulnerability to images of violent intensity unraveled in the tune of a regressive lullaby just reeks of co-dependency.
I am not saying that the song was written by a love addict, or that Everytime has anything to do with raising awareness. (And honestly, I really don’t care if Britney cheated on Justin either)
All I am saying is that, to me, the end product is a powerful trigger. Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics:
Notice me, take my hands
Why are we strangers when,
Our love is strong
Why carry on without me
The song opens with Britney calling for attention. “Notice me” she whispers seductively, while the guy refuses to even direct his gaze at her. Yet, she is convinced that their love “is strong”, despite basically admitting that they are strangers.
Sure, there’s a storyline in the video about a couple suffering from aggressive paparazzi stalking. They are both visibly overwhelmed by all the attention that superstar Britney gets. But since paparazzi stalking is a problem that concerns only a minuscule part of the population, the song is open to a completely different interpretation. As I said, it’s the end product.
Every time I try to fly I fall
Without my wings
I feel so small
I guess I need you baby
And every time I see
You in my dreams
I see your face
It’s haunting me
I guess I need you baby
Now it gets even deeper. In the video we see the couple arguing in a hotel room, with the guy lashing out and breaking stuff in the room. Damn, he looks angry! Yet, as the song chimes, he is not actually there, and the thought of him has haunted Britney. She needs him to come back to validate her and give her wings, even though he is clearly abusive and bad for her. It’s not his fault, right? She must have done something really bad for him to act out this way. This gets even clearer as the song proceeds:
That you are here
It’s the only way
That I see clear
What have I done
You seem to move on easy
Love addicts love to inhabit fantasy worlds, which help them escape from reality and the unbearable emotional pain that they have inside. Their addiction is basically the fantasy that one person will come along and take over their chaotic lives, give them identity and meaning. That person will give them unconditional emotional nourishment they were denied when they were babies by their primary caregivers.
In the song, the music box lullaby tune suggests just how deeply entrenched is one person’s need for emotional nourishment. This is supposed to be a song about romantic love. Yet references to infants, the need for unconditional love and deep emotional deprivation really make it a song about something else.
Moreover, taking the blame for everything in the relationship is something that sufferers of low self-esteem do. When you put the other person on a pedestal and hold onto the mental imagery of perfection, everything that goes wrong in the relationship surely must be your fault.
This persists later in the song where she apologizes more than once:
I may have made it rain
Please forgive me
My weakness caused you pain
And this song’s my sorry
Love addicts can wreak havoc in the lives of others because their own feelings of ‘true love’ aren’t real. They are in love with the idea of someone and not the real person. They demand that the other person fulfills this fantasy. What’s more, even if they appear weak and needy, they are ashamed to show their true vulnerability to the other person.
Meanwhile, in the video we see Britney undressing to take a bath to calm down her nerves. She accidentally bumps her head in the bathtub and loses consciousness in the water in what looks like an edited suicide scene. The guy then jumps in the water to rescue her.
As addiction specialist Alexandra Katehakis has said, nearly all love addicts have some kind of rescue fantasy. It is the ultimate high for a love addict, to be utterly helpless until Prince Charming arrives and magically ends their problems.
And besides that, what better way to punish your qualifier than a suicide attempt? There is a need for drama and intensity to justify true love.
Finally, the big finale in this beautiful song.
At night I pray
That soon your face will fade away
People affected by love addiction are often so tortured by obsessive thoughts that they are advised to pray. Prayer and meditation help them think less about their qualifier.
Obviously, if we had a magic wand and could wipe out love addiction, more than half of love songs on the planet would also cease to exist. Buy where there’s talent, exquisite pain makes exquisite art. Would the words “romantic” or “sexy” have the same meaning if we could just ban love addiction? I honestly have no idea.
But even the most beautiful soul-wrenching songs in the world won’t make love addiction or any addiction bearable, desirable or a remotely normal situation.