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Addiction and Relationships: Egoic vs Authentic Love

Hopefully by this point you have noticed a common theme in my writing that points towards loving yourself and putting yourself first. That’s the first thing because it’s the most important in any situation, but especially in one like this, where addiction is involved in your relationship. 

But, I feel like this topic is one that is important, too, after you are comfortable with loving yourself, and that is the topic of authentic love in relation to your partner. 

When I met my partner, I was extremely codependent, I just didn’t know it yet. We started out as friends, where he told me about his addiction, but I noticed that I was incredibly attached and hated being without him as well. And while I tried to put that away as much as I could, I still noticed it on the days we weren’t hanging out together, or worse, when he went away to rehab. 

Rehab also brought many other feelings and issues to light that went beyond hanging out. I would go above and beyond to get things for him that he needed, I would give him money in case he needed it in the facility, I talked to him on the phone whenever he called and got incredibly upset if I missed a call, I wrote him letters everyday so he wouldn’t miss anything, and I got up at 4am every Saturday so that I could drive 2 hours away to visit him during the visiting hours. Oh, and I also got to know his family pretty well because I was always texting them with updates, even when I was drunk in Vegas for my 21st birthday. Fun times. 

And when he was finally able to come home from rehab, I expected things to go back to the way they were before he left, and if he decided to hang out with his brother and his friends instead, I would be incredibly hurt and upset. Or if he had to go to meetings, I would want to come too or be sad that we couldn’t hang out. 

I was clingyyyyyyyy. 

But in my defense, at the time I had no idea what codependency even was, and I thought that he wanted to hang out as much as I did since he didn’t seem to have a problem with it, so it was fine. Right?

And as I mentioned, we were friends during this time, and so there was always the threat of a girl coming into the picture and taking him away from me, which also terrified me. When he first went away to rehab I was already aware of the stories people would tell about finding someone in there that would start a relationship, and about halfway through his 30 day stay I received a letter describing just that.


She was apparently in there for the same reasons he was (as far as DOC is concerned), and they clicked the minute they met each other. 

This did not sit well with me. And it didn’t sit well with me the rest of the time he was in there (especially during my Saturday visits), and the entire month and a half after that. 

But after that fizzled out and things went back to the way they were before, I still expected us to hang out, and I now had hope and ideas that we would eventually be together (by this time I had accepted that I had feelings for him). And still, his addiction continued and I still stood by his side and maintained the friendship.

It wasn’t until a few months later at his brother’s birthday party at an EDM club in Los Angeles that things finally came to a conclusion. 

As we sat on the sidelines of the dancing and celebrations, he told me that while he appreciated my friendship and deeply cared about me, he didn’t want to be in a relationship with me, and that was that. 

But, the thing is, this event actually did a lot more than friendzone me (that was a joke to make this a little less depressing). This was the beginning of my clarity into authentic love.

You see, even though I was embarrassingly aware of my feelings for this guy, I was more unaware of the exact nature of those feelings, the authenticity of it. 

Because while I was also embarrassingly aware of the codependent symptoms (like I said, I didn’t know there was a term for it, but I could tell I was clingy at least), and how I felt I needed him around as much as possible, there was still a part of me that realized his independence, and that no matter what, I wanted him to be happy, even if that didn’t include me in the picture. 

And so I told him that. And I meant it. 

And sure I went home that night and cried myself to sleep because I felt that all relationship hope was gone as far as we were concerned, but I never went back on what I said or felt in my heart. Because it was true; I never really had an ulterior motive in helping him other than making sure he was ok and that he was around me. 

And that is what I think we should all realize, regardless of codependency and regardless of what happens in other aspects or situations. And this can apply regardless of the type of relationship. 

You have to determine where you are coming from in your love to your partner. 

Are you coming from the perspective of egoic love, or authentic love?

Now, if you look into it, egoic love has similarities to codependency, but due to my own personal experience, I think it’s possible to still keep them separate. 

Basically, egoic love is the type of love where you expect something from the other person. They need to meet your needs, they need to make you feel good and when they don’t you become upset, they bring up your insecurities and traumas, and you “keep score” and both parties feel like they can’t truly be themselves. 

Authentic love, on the other hand, is the opposite. They don’t need to act in any certain way for you to love and appreciate them, you are able to take responsibility and accountability for your triggers and hurts on your own, you both are able to be independent while still functioning together, and you both work towards being your best selves without dragging each other down. 

For me, I did all that I did to help him and keep him around me, but I also deeply cared about him as a person. And even though he told me he didn’t want to be together, and even though before that he had found someone in rehab (regardless of the fact it didn’t last), my feelings never wavered. So when he told me what he did, and even though it crushed me, I wasn’t upset in the way that I thought what I did was for nothing. I truly wanted him to be happy no matter the outcome. 

Now, looking back, I’m happy things worked out eventually, but I honestly wasn’t planning on it turning around so suddenly or sharply. 

And even looking back into the past few years of ups and downs and relapses and rehabs, my feelings still haven’t changed. Even when I was able to put the focus on myself and making boundaries and doing what was best for me, regardless of what he was doing or what he wanted, I still held that authentic love. I knew that no matter what, no matter what other people thought and were confused by, no matter how many times I got upset or felt resentful, and no matter what strange and hurtful things he did while in active addiction, I still loved him in the purest way possible. 

And I realized that even if I put myself first and did the work I had to do, even if it seemed like at the time I was doing the exact opposite of loving him, it was what was best for both of us, and everyone involved. 

I see a lot of posts on social media about this topic, although it’s not usually phrased this way directly. But I know a lot of us struggle with this: partner is struggling with addiction but finds someone new in rehab, is unfaithful, is hurtful and cruel, we just feel like the relationship is done and the feelings are gone, etc. And while I may not have personal experience with all topics we can go through as partners, I understand that we are all with our partners for a reason. You just have to work on finding out what that reason is, and whether or not the love you have is conditional. 

Because you should always be first, no matter what. But depending on the love you have and how you truly feel, only you can determine what to do moving forward. 

Maybe after working on yourself you decide to move on and start again on your own, and even though you are sad you realize that it wasn’t the love you thought it was. Maybe you decide to wait in the in-between, because you aren’t sure yet but are ok with waiting because you are comfortable on your own for now and enjoying getting to know yourself more. Or maybe you are still fully committed to keeping hope alive, holding space for them, and working on supporting them in a healthy way and working through it together as a team while also focusing on yourself.

There are no wrong answers. Even if you aren’t in a place yet where you are comfortable working on yourself fully and independently, and even if you aren’t sure what the future of your relationship looks like, it’s always ok to be where you are, now. 

Going forward when you are ready, though, it is helpful to identify the difference between these two types of love, as it will make things easier going forward in your inner work and your life as a whole.

And remember, we are all on a journey to better selves. You’re doing just fine no matter where you are. 

If you love yourself first and foremost, you'll be in a much better place to find out all the answers you need, including this one.

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