This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 14 table of contents.

Love and Addiction

Stanton Peele wrote Love and Addiction (1976) to explain why people stay in bad relationships despite misery. He describes a combination of tolerance and dependence. "Tolerance" is the mutual boredom and lack of excitement that occurs in so many relationships, after the initial thrill of love wears off. In an effort to recapture the intense early pleasures of addiction, the "honeymoon effect," dosages of the relationship are increased: the couple spends all their time together. They find each other's company increasingly unsatisfying, but they cannot quit. Their dependence has increased at the same time as they have lost the initial "thrill" of their addiction. They may start fighting all the time, but if they try to break up, they experience craving, "miss" each other, and get back together.

What did Peele argue, in Love and Addiction?

Luckily this destructive cycle is not inevitable. Better alternatives for love relationships are discussed in Chapter 16 (p.741).

What are some other things people do not usually think of as addictions, which might fit the same pattern?

The opponent-process theory also helps explain why people can learn to enjoy some very peculiar things. The appeal of monster movies and horror movies is an example. Horror movies are shocking at first, but after a while the shock is not so unpleasant and the aftereffect becomes more pleasant. Emergency Medical Service technicians can become addicted to the excitement of emergency runs, and some firemen admit to enjoying big fires.

The act of giving blood can be addicting. It is a classic example of opponent processes at work. Before giving blood, first-time donors described their feelings as "uptight, skeptical, suspicious, angry, and jittery." After the donation, they felt "relaxed, playful, carefree, kindly, and warmhearted." The more times a person gives blood, the less pronounced are the negative effects and the more pronounced are the positive aftereffects. "They unconsciously acquire a positive response to blood donation" (Brittain, 1983).


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