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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeTQaStmsAs 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.