by JF

Most “self-help” popular psychology books are long on fluff and short on practical help. This is a rare exception. This book almost exactly described the dysfunctional relationship my wife and I found ourselves in. It was eerie to read; however, in demonstrating that there is an actual recognizable pattern, an observable cycle of destructive actions and reactions that my wife and I were acting out, and an explanation of why this was so–this knowledge revealed in this book goes a great way towards helping my wife and I begin to finally, at long last, heal ourselves and fix our relationship.

I am, or have been, what the author calls a “Love Addict”; my wife is what the author calls a “Love Avoidant.” In most relationships, the situation is reversed: the male is the Avoidant and the female is the Addict. Leave it to me to be different, I guess. Anyway, apparently, “Love Addicts” marry “Love Avoidants” quite often, and then comes the calamity–more calamity than the average dysfunctional relationship–having lived through it now for over a decade, I would personally attest to “much, much, MUCH more calamity” than the average dysfunctional relationship.

A little bit of psychology goes a long way with me; so much of it is defiantly godless and arbitrarily theoretical, bereft of empirical proofs. But from time to time, some psychological book does come along and make some sense. Years ago, the Meiers-Briggs Personality System, and even moreso the work on Temperament by David Keirsey which refined the MBTI, were a profound epiphany to me; years later, my wife and I benefited somewhat from Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. Basically, when it comes to psychology and self-help books, I have to see it to believe it, because what I have seen for the most part from such sources is a lot of commercialized balderdash and innate hatred of God’s rules.

This book doesn’t mention God, really, but it doesn’t foolishly try to undermine Him, either.

Apparently the author, Pia Mellody, suffered from being a “Love Addict” herself.

“Love Addicts,” in case you are wondering, are created when a young child is in some way abandoned by their parent(s) or caregiver(s) at an early age. The abandonment might be physical or it could be mental or some other form of abandonment. In my own case, I realize now from having read this book that when I was six there was a drastic and life-altering event in my life: My father’s work schedule had suddenly changed severely, and my mother’s personality had undergone a disastrous change for the worse; my loving father had become more and more physically absent out of financial necessity, and my loving mother had become extremely verbally abusive and schizophrenic. What this book showed me was that this event in my life set me up for failure later on in so very many areas; the biggest and most current failure being this marriage I have going on right now. This book explained what was happening, how my behavior was contributing to and exacerbating the problems between my wife and me. The “Love Addict” adult constantly fears abandonment, whether consciously or subconsciously.

And thankfully, unlike the last sugar-coated feminazi “Christian counselor” marriage therapist my wife and I were seeing for a few months, this book showed that it wasn’t all my fault, that my wife’s behavior was likely as much to blame. This book explained how some events in my wife’s childhood had rendered her a “Love Avoidant.” Have either my wife or myself been officially diagnosed by a licensed shrink? No. But when so very many extremely specific descriptions of patterns and histories line up verbatim, over and over, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, what’s a non-licensed, non-shrink layman got to do? I am reminded that the American Cancer Institute doesn’t care a wit if someone should market a cure for cancer, legitimate or not, as long as the inventor/discoverer/marketer does not use the trademart word “cancer.” Same thing here. All right. I won’t use “love avoidant.” How about if I describe my wife as an “emotionally and physically and sexually walled-off person.” There. That better? Anyway, the “emotionally and physically and sexually walled-off person” fears being “enmeshed” by their partner, even though they typically enticed their “abandonment-phobic” partner into the relationship in the first place by initially, and predictably, promising a form of intense intimacy to the “abandonment-phobe” (the reason for this is explained in the book) which in fact soon makes the “walled-off” person feel smothered once the relationship officially commences, and then the–aw, forget it, I’ll just use the trademark terms already; not like I am marketing anything, right?–and so then the “Love Avoidant” inevitably pulls away from the relationship in some noticeable manner, becoming more distant, staying busy busy BUSY doing other things, ANYthing but spending time with the spouse, which in turn triggers the fears of abandonment on the part of the “Love Addict,” and then the whole thing just revolves and repeats and cycles in and cycles out as the relationship/marriage spirals down into hellish dysfunctionality and all kinds of other insanity-inducing fun and games. It’s truly a vicious cycle, and it is described in much better detail in the book than I can do here.

Putting a “Love Avoidant” and a “Love Addict” together is a recipe for matchless disaster, but apparently these two types of people very, very frequently do marry each other (which may be why more people read this book review than any others I have done) precisely because of their respective, cruelly puzzle-piece-fitting corresponding dysfunctionalities. Pity the poor couples who go on like this all their lives without being able to identify the pattern, a pattern which is, again, predictable once someone as astute as this author points it out.

Just knowing this stuff, complete with visual aids–alarmingly accurate yet simple graphic diagrams provided by the author–this has already helped my wife and I be able to function better around each other. There is a very real difference in our marriage, and for the better. I just hope the healing carries on. I have work to do about that yet, of course. Pia Mellody has suggestions of exercises to help in the healing process, to help get over oneself, get beyond one’s unhealed childhood wounds, and get on more successfully with one’s adult relationships. Most of these exercises are journaling exercises. I can do that; I anticipate that many people would not, however. But even without doing the journaling exercises, just this knowledge alone should help most any reader who is suffering from this pattern of dysfunctionality which, in my own mind, and scripturally speaking, I suppose I would liken to discernible generational sin patterns in families.

Since the pattern of “Love Addicts” and “Love Avoidants” marrying one another is apparently so common, I would suggest that most anyone who is having marital strife should read this book and see if it doesn’t ring a bell. Hey, if one’s marriage is a living hell, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

(Addendum: There is only one very minor flaw which I did find with the book: On one page, the author, or rather the author’s husband {who chimes in for a couple pages of authorship} alludes to a certain well known short story from the late 1800s called “The Lady or the Tiger” by a writer named Frank Stockton. Unfortunately, in describing the elements to this story, an obvious mistake is made. Anyone reading this page from this book who then goes back and reads that famous short story from start to end will readily be able to recognize the mistake that occurs in this book regarding the storyline of that short work of literature. Like I said, in the context of the usefulness of this book, the mistake is very minor indeed.)

Rating: Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ