How to Spot a Romantic Intensity Addiction

Imagine a summer romance novel; a delicious story of romance and intrigue wherein our hero or heroine meets a potential partner so daring, dangerous, distant or complicated that their heart-breaking, intense and destructive pairing is the most fascinating and fun read ever.

But imagine if our heroine met  a broker with a stable job, a dog and a nice house, and they lived happily ever after instead? BORING!

Even though we live in a culture that pursues balance, prosperity and happiness, there’s a part of all of us that appreciates the dark, passionate, difficult entanglement of drama and intensity.

While passion and deep emotions are a natural part of our human nature and lend to the beauty of our lives, intensity and drama can also be addictive and, in extreme cases, this addiction can destroy relationships and lives.

Everyone likes intensity sometimes, but the relationship intensity-addict seeks out constant sources of excitement, seduction, and the giddy “highs” of sexual or emotional attraction but is never fulfilled or sated by these highs, so they seek them out over and over again in increasingly risky or limiting scenarios. They often see themselves simply  as poetic and hopeless romantics until they hit the same walls over and over.


Here’s how to spot a romantic intensity addiction:

1) Hyperbole!

The intensity addict gets high off the energy of intensity and often shares that “high” feeling enthusiastically with others.   An intensity addict doesn’t meet a nice man at a conference, she meets  “the most intense, sexy soul-mate experience of my life.”   They don’t typically have, “she seems very nice – we had a good night, and who knows, we’ll see how things go” nights either, they tend to form opinions (good or bad) of potential partners immediately and with great intensity. They speak in hyperbole, “We had coffee for 20 minutes, but this is the sexiest, most mysterious woman alive!”    They may even tell friends that they’re “in love” a short time after meeting someone new.

2) Where’s the passion?

Relationships fizzle and flop, in one form or another frequently and they often complain that lack of “passion” is the culprit.   They may say things like, “I keep getting into relationships and waiting for the other person to bring a sense of passion and excitement, only to be disappointed” or,  “it started out ok, but where is the excitement, where is the passion?”      The desire for passion in a relationship is, of course, totally normal – but the intensity addict may use this as an excuse to avoid looking for other qualities or seeking stable relationships. They may even take a passive approach and  wait around for partners to hand them excitement and passion on a platter  without participating in the kind of communication, vulnerability and reality that makes passion sing in the first place.

3) Thrill of the chase

Many intensity addicts absolutely love the art of seduction and the pursuit of a partner (don’t we all?).  But for them, the hours setting up a new conquest, the back and forth dance of initial connecting and “winning” is a bigger prize than connecting with  the real, human person they’re interested in.   In fact, many intensity addicts often leave one partner for a new one or might even cheat on a partner. They sometimes  have simultaneous sources of excitement or “highs” going at the same time.  For example:  the guy who waits until his girlfriend is asleep and then has flirty text bouts with a girl he doesn’t even particularly like, or the married woman who  carries on an intense  flirtations with a married co-worker via office messages during the day.     Feeling the power and attention that comes with seducing or falling in love with a new partner takes priority over developing a relationship with one person.  When they find themselves in a serious relationship, they quickly become bored or uncomfortable and the need to seek out a new “high” starts to return and gnaw within.

4)  Complications and drama

Difficulty, obstacles and drama are highly prized by the intensity junkie even if they claim to not like those things;  “I don’t like relationships to be too easy”  or  “My relationship is messed up, but at least it isn’t boring!”     — they may  thrive on epic, screaming fights and sexy  make-up cycles  or relationship complications for awhile.  In relationship dynamics,  the intensity addict may even CREATE drama or fights by stirring up trouble or by triangulating others into the relationship.  Eventually, though,  this drama becomes draining, difficult and destabilizing.    In dating an intensity addict, you will often see small signs of this “complication” attraction early on in the form of frequent  small disputes or multiple  day-to-day catastrophes seeded in mundane events, “The dog walker was 20 minutes late and I was so furious that I fell on my way out of my building and I had to get stitches.”

5)  Mr. and Ms. Impossible

“He’s married and he has nine kids, and ok… he has a cat who needs medicine every three hours and he has no job… but he’s great!”    — the intensity addict seems to gravitate towards relationships that are complicated or doomed from the beginning.  This fulfills two objectives:  it brings complexity and drama, but it also prevents the necessity to get close or “real” with one person.       Friends and outsiders are often bewildered by these attractions.  While anyone can have an attraction to an unavailable partner, the intensity addict has more than their fair share of love triangles and difficult obstacles under their belt.

6) The Comparison

If you’re dating a romantic intensity addict, one of the tell tale signs is that sooner or later they will feel unfulfilled or bored and will try to inject fire and intensity into the relationship in some artificial way.   One way the romantic intensity addict injects drama  is by comparing you to others or pitting you against others.  They will tell you about someone else who they are attracted to, or someone else they dated before in such a way to stir up jealousy or reactions from you. They may even tell you about others or compare you to others under the guise of you helping them get over their past, or they may be covert in this comparison,  “I had a great time at the yoga retreat. I met this wonderful, intense, brilliant man there. He was taller than you, and so strong. I’m sure you’d really like him if you met him.”    

If you are dating someone with the signs of being an intensity addict, be aware that this is a very complicated problem that they may not be able (or willing) to resolve when they are with you. There’s nothing you can do to change them, they must be ready to stop.

If they don’t choose to make different choices about how they use and approach relationships or get help, there’s a very good chance that your partner won’t see you for the rich, multi-faceted person you are and is instead attracted to the attention you provide, or the intensity that you bring to their lives and sees you for what they can GET from you, rather than as an interdependent partner.  They  will move on when the excitement cools.

If you notice these signs within yourself,  don’t despair.  As with other forms of addiction, there IS help available for you. Talk to a therapist or qualified counselor, or get spiritual guidance to learn about the patterns or forces that have lead you to this kind of unfulfilling system in your life.

You may have learned some of these patterns from an intensity-addicted parent or caretaker.  The desire for intensity and attention comes from the need to be loved and cared for that all people have, and you are able to learn new ways to connect with others!  It’s absolutely possible to see yourself others not as  objects of attraction, affection or conquest, but as living, breathing people with feelings who are worthy of love, vulnerability and compassion.

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