Addicted To Love ‘I Lost My Entire Twenties To Dating Bad Boys’

Addicted to love, bad men and dramatic bust-ups, here writer Daisy Buchanan explains the highs and lows

My husband calls me ‘puppy’ due to my excessive energy, enthusiasm and tendency to get distracted. I’m anxious, easily excitable, and giggle and weep with alacrity. However, he finds a stillness within me that I never knew existed. I can rest my head on his chest and be unconscious in minutes.

After years of dating bad, crazy, exciting men who kept me on an emotional rollercoaster, this one has shown me the simple joy of just being. We never run out of things to say to each other, and we rarely argue. And I’ve realised that this isn’t boring – it’s normal.

I’m aware I sound smug, but I still can’t get over how many years I wasted being anxious and sad – and how many women I meet who have done the same. Before I met my husband, arguing was my preferred means of communication. I thought that fighting showed true passion.

I spent more time analysing my boyfriends and obsessing over them with girlfriends than I actually spent with them. My love life was like a bad 80s exercise video – if it wasn’t hurting, it wasn’t working.

I actively looked for relationships that would hurt me emotionally, because I was so addicted to love and the sheer excitement of the highs and lows. Sound familiar?

Recent research by The Oxford Centre For Neuroethics shows that for some people in romantic relationships, the brain’s reward centres are stimulated in the same way as if reacting to addictive drugs. They experience euphoria, craving, dependence, withdrawal and relapse on a regular basis, and they’ve labelled them ‘love addicts’.

Like drug dependency, being addicted to love can impair judgement and cause those affected to put themselves in dangerous situations that impact their physical and emotional health. I never considered myself a love addict and yet I spent much of my life exhibiting that behaviour.

Early signs of being addicted to love

Looking back, the signs were there early. As the eldest of six girls, I felt a little lost within my own family at times. I longed for attention and, although I loved my sisters, sometimes it seemed like I was never listened to, and only looked at when I was being told off for doing something wrong.

I longed to be the cleverest or the prettiest or the best at something – and I thought I would never stand out.

As a child, I was also badly bullied at school and sexually abused by someone who lived in the area, which made me feel anxious and ashamed.

It was a lonely time and I longed to meet someone I could trust, who made me feel safe. At secondary school, after the bullying stopped, I still struggled to make friends and was excluded by my classmates.

When, aged 15, I met a boy at a disco, I promptly fell in love with him. It felt like the first time anyone had ever paid me any attention. In hindsight, I would have fallen for anyone who had taken the time to talk to me that night. I was simply grateful he wanted to spend time with me.

I kept being grateful, even when he shouted at me, sexually degraded me and pushed me to the ground. I remember crying because I wanted to end it, but I was convinced that no one would ever want me. I truly believed having him was better than no one at all.

Incredibly, the situation went on for six years before I got out towards the end of my degree, when it dawned on me that I might actually be able to have a life without him.

In my twenties, the pattern continued. I thought I just had a lot of bad luck with guys, but I was addicted to the punishing cycle of negative relationships. I’d fall for someone who seemed out of reach and spend all my energy trying to ‘win’ them. I really believed relationships had to be hard to be worthwhile.

There was the guy who told me I needed to lose at least a stone if I wanted him to take me seriously, and the one who would invite me out with his friends, then disappear with other women for hours on end. Meanwhile, my self-esteem was crumbling.

I started to think there was something fundamentally wrong with me, and obsessed over fixing my flaws in order to make myself ‘good enough’.

It was an awful way to live and yet I found the idea of being single frightening. I had terrible sex with men I can barely remember, just because I needed proof that someone wanted me. I was desperate for another boyfriend and longed to feel loved, and then the second I felt secure in a relationship, I’d cheat as an act of self-sabotage.