Have you ever felt compelled to jump into a new relationship a little too quickly? Is it possible that you’re actually addicted to love and relationships? How would you know? This week, our guest is Sherry Gaba, best-selling author of The Marriage and Relationship Junkie and The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery. Sherry is a Psychotherapist, Life Coach, and Certified Recovery Coach specializing in individual, couples, family, and group psychotherapy – and she is also the editor of Recovery Today magazine. In this episode, you’ll learn what it means to be addicted to love and relationships and where it comes from. We’ll also dive into how you can tell if you’re addicted to love and relationships and what you can do to start on your path toward healthier relationships and connection.
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Neil Sattin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We’re here to talk about relationships and yet what brings us into a relationship? Why are we there in the first place? So many of us enter relationships for awesome reasons, sometimes it’s less than awesome reasons, and sometimes it’s a combination of the two. You feel some magnetic spark with a person, but at the same time, maybe they support you in ways that aren’t necessarily healthy for you, or you get trapped in some dynamic that doesn’t really make for the best relationship possible. And then you might feel like, “Oh, okay, this relationship ended,” and you’re ready to go into another relationship, maybe even a little too quickly. And it wouldn’t be that uncommon for you to wonder, “Is there something about this? Am I actually addicted to being in relationships? Am I addicted to love? Is there something… What is it that’s compelling me to do this?” And I think it’s interesting to tease apart what it is that might compel us in an unhealthy way, to enter into a relationship with others, and what’s healthy about it? ‘Cause when we’re talking about addiction, there are positive addictions, as well as negative addictions. So how do you find the balance, and how do you figure out you where you land in terms of your approach to the relationship?
Neil Sattin: So we’re going to tackle this question about whether or not you might possibly be addicted to love and relationship, how to know and what to do about it. And in order to have that conversation, I have with me today, yet another esteemed guest, her name is Sherry Gaba, and she’s a therapist who is also the author of “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie.” A book that is available on Amazon, and talks all about this question of how do you find your own path to health in terms of how you relate to others? And of course, that’s a conversation we’re having all the time here on Relationship Alive because hey, I’m just… I recognize that just like you, there’s work to be done. And so, we’re going to dive deep into this question around addiction and obsession around love and see if we can come out the other side with some answers. As always, we will have a detailed transcript of today’s episode and to download that, all you have to do is visit neilsattin.com/gaba, and you spell that, G-A-B-A, as in Sherry Gaba, our guest for today. Or you can always text the word, “passion” to the number 33444, follow the instructions and I will send you a link where you can download the transcript for this episode. Alright, I think that’s all I have to cover today at this moment. Let’s dive in. Sherry Gaba, so great to have you here with us on Relationship Alive.
Sherry Gaba: What a fantastic introduction, thank you, Neil, that was amazing, and I love what you’re doing in the world and loving just getting to know you, I love your energy and I’m just grateful to have this platform today to talk about this really important subject.
Neil Sattin: Great, well we’re off to a good start then.
Sherry Gaba: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: So it is a complicated question whether we’re drawn into relating with another person for the right reasons or the wrong reasons. Maybe you can help us start to tease that apart, how do we know if the reason that we’re seeking out someone else is something that ultimately is going to support our health and growth, and thriving in the world?
Sherry Gaba: Well, let’s look at addiction in general, if you look at the broader sense of addiction, and love addiction and relationship romance addiction is our subject today. If you look at the broader definition of addiction is when your life is out of control and it’s becoming unmanageable and underneath that, you’re making choices based on emptiness a feeling of lack, a feeling of not wanting to be alone, that would be a love addiction, feeling like the world is just a really scary place almost terror that, “If I’m not in a relationship, if I’m not connected or hooked up to somebody, then I’m going to “dies,” literally. And so, love addiction is really under the umbrella of addiction.
Sherry Gaba: It’s a process addiction, it’s a lifestyle addiction, so think about binge eating, or sex addiction, or being addicted to exercise or internet addiction or gaming, or shopping or spending, those are all lifestyle addictions. So, you’re becoming addicted to a mood-altering activity, in other words, your brain really lights up when you’re hooking up with whatever it is that you’re needing to hook up with, whether it’s the food or the love, or the sex or whatever your addiction is. So the relationship for a love addict is the only person’s identity. And then if a breakup occurs, the addictive lover is longing for the attachment and the pleasurable feelings of that lost relationship. So just like the drug addict may be withdrawing from his or her drug needing that “fix,” the love addict is needing that fix of attachment.
Sherry Gaba: And underneath all of us, all of us as human beings we all want to attach, we all want to bond, we all want to connect. But when it becomes unhealthy, and we start making really bad choices around that, then we’re stepping into love addiction. For instance, you step into a relationship ’cause you’re afraid of being alone like I mentioned earlier, or you’re afraid of the unknown, or you get into a relationship where you’re trying to change them or fix them and not accepting them for who they are. Needing someone to make you feel whole, because like I mentioned earlier, you feel empty if you’re not in a relationship. Looking for others for affirmation and self-worth and for validation rather than already having that within yourself. Being terrorized of abandonment, having those withdrawal symptoms that I mentioned earlier that if a relationship ends, you are in complete withdrawal. And then really giving up who we are out of the fear that we might lose someone or someone may not approve of us. So, if any of those things sound familiar, you may be dealing with love addiction.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I’m reminded of when Helen Fisher was on the show, she has this viewpoint that in some respects, all love is addiction and that’s why when we break up, we go through symptoms and pain that’s very similar to what any addict would go through when they are in withdrawal from their partner. But I like the distinction that you’re making around how… And this is I think, why love can be a positive or a negative addiction, because you could be addicted to love with someone who’s really good for you, and where you actually really support each other and there’s a lot that’s beneficial going on, or you can be addicted to love with someone where you’re just fueling the dopamine rush.
Sherry Gaba: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: And I think that is… Go ahead.
Sherry Gaba: Well, if you’re feeling the dopamine rush, it probably isn’t you’re addicted to a healthy relationship. Because yes, in the beginning, there’s that fantasy, there’s that attachment, there’s that goo-goo ga-ga feeling. Sure, that can happen, but healthy relationships really move into a more mature growing state of being. I’m not saying you can’t have that goo-goo ga-ga come up at times, but I think if you’re constantly in that state, I think then it becomes more obsessive and then it becomes more unhealthy. I can’t speak to all relationships, but I think healthier relationships change, they morph into other things, they morph into healthier love, they morph into other things like respect and nurturing, and it isn’t just fueled by that, “Oh my god,” goo-goo ga-ga feeling, you know what I’m saying?
Neil Sattin: Yeah, if we look at the addiction cycle, and we had Alex Katehakis on the show to talk a little bit also about sex addiction. That what we’re really doing, the reason we show up predictive behaviors, and you mentioned this a moment ago, is to help us with our own feelings of dysregulation and discomfort, we turn to the thing that gives us that pleasurable sensation for comfort. And I think you’re right, all relationships are going to do that at first to some extent. And as I was preparing for our conversations today, it just occurred to me like, Oh, right, so if you’re in a relationship, like most relationships where after a certain period of time, the dopamine energy starts to fade a little bit, and you haven’t necessarily figured out how to build health into your relationship, and those healthy bonding behaviors foster lots of oxytocin which is another, a pair bonding hormone, then you’re going to be missing the effects of the dopamine, not because there’s something wrong with your partnership necessarily, but because you tune back into what’s wrong with you, and those feelings of discomfort. And so then you have to chase the dopamine whether it’s escalating the drama or ditching someone for someone new so that you can get that because you’re not equipped at that moment to actually deal with your own dysregulation and discomfort.
Sherry Gaba: Right. Well, you’re addicted to the high, so to speak. You’re addicted to the romance, you’re addicted to the newness factor. I am a love addict, the best time for me is that first falling in love, that’s the part where I’m just… That’s where I’m most comfortable, that’s my go-to. The problem with that is, you’re picking from a place of need versus a place of healthful being. In other words, you’re picking from a place of emptiness, you’re picking a place of, “This person’s going to fill up this need that I have, that I don’t feel whole already, that I need somebody else to fill me up to feel good about myself.” And hopefully, we can lead into a conversation about early trauma because that is a huge piece to this subject.
Sherry Gaba: And often I’ll share my own story because I think people underestimate what early trauma does and why that is a huge piece in the love addict behavior or the need for that high, that initial high. We’re always chasing that early high, we often say with addicts, they’re chasing that first high, that first crack experience or that first alcoholic experience, whatever, heroin experience. Well, the love addict is chasing that first high of falling in love, that’s where everything… That is it, this is utopia, this is where it all is, and unfortunately, it isn’t sustaining and when it does change, hopefully, it’ll change into something healthy, but for the love addict, it generally does not turn into that something healthy. And usually, what they… The love addict picks people that aren’t healthy for them. That’s another piece to this, is that love addicts tend to be attracted to love avoidance, they’re attracted to people that are unavailable, they might be attracted to people that are abusive and they don’t care because they want that high no matter what, and they’re picking what they know rather than what’s good for them.
Neil Sattin: Right. Right, so if you’re in a relationship, what are some of the signs that you might see happening in your relationship if you’ve veered into addictive territory?
Sherry Gaba: Well, I think if you’re putting up with abuse, of course, you may be with a narcissist. I think we talked about this a little bit earlier, but over-adapting to what others want, losing yourself in the process, having no boundaries, always saying yes when really, “no” is not even in your vocabulary. This terror, this fear of letting go, fear of the unknown, so you stay because it’s better than what might be out there. At least you know what you’re getting here, even if it’s unhealthy. You’re always trying to fix and change your partner. That person is what makes you feel whole and complete, you’re absolutely empty, you’re in the ethers of emptiness without that person or in relationship, and then that person is all that you are in terms of, you’re seeking their affirmation, their validation, their acknowledgment, all your self-worth is based on being with that person. You’re petrified of abandonment. You might have some of those withdrawal symptoms when they’re not around, you only are comfortable when they’re in your space, but if they’re off to work or off with other… Doing other things, you feel completely lost, and you give up who you are out of fear that they may not want you. You give up who you are, you lose parts of yourself to be with this person.
Neil Sattin: Got it. So I’m feeling a pretty… I’m doing the diagnosis here on myself even and thinking about how even relationships in the past that have started out healthy, they can veer into this territory if you’re not careful.
Sherry Gaba: Sure. And then we’re talking maybe more about a codependent relationship. And I hate throwing out words like codependent or even a love addiction word, because people… It becomes very cliche, because what you said earlier in the call, and I really picked up on that was that some of these things you have with your relationship but they’re healthy. And in other words, you love that person, you respect that person, and sure, that person on some level maybe completes you on some level. But the question is if that relationship wasn’t there would you be okay? Sure, you might be sad and you would grieve, and you would miss that person terribly, but would you be completely lost? I think of my own mother, my father passed away and they had a 60-year romance. And when my father died, and again, this is part of grief as well, but it was a little more pathological than that. My mother picked up the first man that looked at her. And he’s a very bad man. She picked somebody that really is a predator per se, and he knew exactly what he was doing. And she’s in a relationship with… In a very unhealthy relationship with someone that’s completely taking advantage of her, because she is petrified of being without somebody. She just can’t even function. And so that’s when we’re really getting into territory that’s dangerous.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Sherry Gaba: Because you’re actually being taken advantage of. And that’s a whole other conversation, there is a whole world out there, there’s… Just in LA alone, there are probably 10,000 predators out there picking women that just will believe anything that they hear, just so they can couple up and partner up and bond with somebody.
Neil Sattin: Let’s…
Sherry Gaba: I use that example because you never know, you could have a listener right now, a call that’s in a situation like that.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, I’m glad that you brought it up. And yeah, what it makes me curious about, I picked up on the sense of not being okay if you were to be alone. And because I think that it’s so important to have that sense of okay-ness, that brings with it so much freedom to really see your relationship clearly, to see your part in the relationship clearly. So if we were to take a listener on a step or two down the road, toward… Like, if they’re looking at themselves right now and saying, “Wow, yeah, I’m not sure I would be okay if this fell apart.” There may be some practical considerations to that, maybe their livelihood is dependent on their partner or something like that. But I think you’re talking about, even more, the existential sense of like, “No, my life might fall apart if I weren’t with this person or… ” How does someone go about starting to restore that sense of inner safety, so that they can bring that to the relationship?
Sherry Gaba: Well, maybe that… This is a good time to talk about early trauma because if we grew up in a situation where our parents were really unavailable, maybe they were addicts, alcoholics themselves, maybe there was a divorce, maybe were raised by a single parent and they were busy working and you felt invisible because your needs weren’t being met, maybe you were in a situation where you were almost parenting your parent. Maybe you were abandoned by a parent. There’s this panic that sets in. And then what happens is, you’re looking for anything outside yourself to fill up that pain and that panic, and you’ll cling to anything and anyone. You’re craving for something else to make you feel whole. So the question is, if you’re already in a relationship, what draws you to this person? Is it because this person adds to your life? You feel like it brings joy to the joy that you already are as a person? Did you already feel whole as a person? Were you ever successfully single and just loving life as a single person? Or your whole basis was, “I need to attach to someone because without attaching to someone, I am lost. I’m like that child that didn’t have a parent that was available to me.”
Sherry Gaba: Do you feel like you’re not enough without that relationship? Do you feel enough anyway? Yeah, do you feel good enough even without a relationship? Are you unconsciously attempting to satisfy that developmental hungry, so that hungry ghost that people talk about, Buddhists talk about, are you trying to satisfy that? Or does that person, again, add to your sense of being, and sense of self, or are they just completing what you are not?
Sherry Gaba: And are you always looking outside yourself to fix yourself, your fear, your pain, your discomfort? Or do you have that safety within yourself to… That’s a great word, are you able to self-regulate yourself? Are you able to be alone at any time? I don’t know if that answers your question, Neil, I think it’s so great that we’re diving into the fact that if you’re already in a relationship, do you have these things? And I don’t want people to freak out and think, “Oh my God, I’m a love addict, and I’m in a relationship, I better get out because I gotta find myself.” No, no, no, no, it’s not about that. But I think there are ways to start creating… And see, do you have early trauma? Were you abandoned? And then if you were, how to start healing from that. For me, my trauma was so early, it’s unbelievable, I was in an incubator for two and a half months. So I started out in the world unregulated. I started out not having that early bonding with my mother, she didn’t hold me for two and a half months, and then even when I came home, she went to work right away, so she was unavailable. And I didn’t get what I needed, and so I was always looking for something outside of me to fill me up. I was always looking for that “breast,” so to speak.
Sherry Gaba: That’s kind of a metaphor, but it’s… I was always looking for something else to completely… ‘Cause I felt complete, I didn’t get that mirroring, I didn’t get that bonding, I didn’t get that security, that safety. So those are some things to think about, what was your early childhood like? Did you go through any of the things that I mentioned earlier? And if you did, how do you work on those issues? For me, I got into therapy with someone that does what’s called somatic experiencing, and now, I’m a practitioner of that, and it’s getting back into your body and being able to be okay within yourself, instead of always running away from yourself. Always thinking something else can complete you when everything you have is right there within you.
Neil Sattin: Great, and yes, we’ve had Peter Levine on the show actually, to talk about somatic experiencing.
Sherry Gaba: Oh fast, you’ve had some amazing guest.
Neil Sattin: Fortunately yeah, I’m so happy that he was willing to chat and I do believe that that, in particular, is such a powerful modality for healing early traumas. And what I love about it because it’s based on your sensation, you don’t necessarily have to know what it was. It goes by this theory that the trauma is just stored in there and so you’re giving your body a chance to process things that are stuck, that it should have processed through whenever the trauma, and it could be a “big-T” trauma or “little-T” trauma, whenever that occurred. So there’s nothing abnormal about you or anyone with having something that might be stuck within you that just needs to be healed.
Sherry Gaba: I love that. I want people to know that there is nothing wrong with you. There might have been something that happened to you as you said, a big trauma, or little trauma, and let’s discharge that energy that’s been built up so that we can get unblocked so that we can bring in health and wholeness. So that you can feel complete just within yourself, so you don’t have to seek outside yourself to feel good. The truth of the matter is just being on this call right now, is the first step because people are going to become aware like, “Oh, this is interesting, let’s get curious about this.” And then from there, make a decision to change, learning to stop looking for external solutions for problems that can be solved within.
Sherry Gaba: Really explore their personal fears, and really get out of the denial, that’s a huge piece with addiction. Addiction is the only disease that says, “I don’t have a problem.” So really, open yourself up to, “Yeah, there might be something here.” And really examine those early suppressed traumas that might have occurred early on in life that we just talked about. Maybe go ahead and listen to your Peter Levine interview, so you can understand trauma a little bit better. Start self-parenting yourself. Really look… I sometimes suggest to people, “Find a photo of you when you were a child and stick that photo right next to your bed, and just start loving that inner child that maybe didn’t get what they needed.” Become really a loving, forgiving and compassionate person to yourself.
Sherry Gaba: You didn’t just wake up one day and go, “Oh, I want to be a love addict. I want to feel pain all the time. I want to feel like I have to be… ” You have to completely or I feel like nothing. No, that isn’t what you… You didn’t cause anything, it’s just from your experiences in your history, this is what happened, that energy never got completed, as you said. And just use the pain to grow and prepare for a healthy relationship or the relationship that you’re already in, and just really begin to trust in yourself and to let go of what no longer is serving you and find a really great therapist, find a really great coach but somebody that really understands perhaps, trauma work. I don’t know if coaches really do trauma work, some may, but you want to make sure they understand the trauma piece. Maybe, find a sex and love addicts anonymous meeting. There’s so much support out there to begin working on these issues.
Neil Sattin: Right. And in your book, “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie” you do offer some great tools for people who are looking to rebuild, and you don’t have to be alone in order to go through them. So I’m glad that you qualified that earlier on, where you said, “If you’re in a relationship, you don’t have to panic and abandon just to find yourself.”
Sherry Gaba: Right.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Sherry Gaba: Exactly. And you know what you said too earlier, it’s such a great feeling, and I think you said it, I think you used the word, extreme. I divorced my… I’ve had multiple marriages, multi-relationships, I divorced my ex-husband, he was an alcoholic and he couldn’t get sober, and I really gave it my best. And I was lost when that relationship ended because it was a very codependent, obsessive relationship, but once I healed and I started doing things for myself, I joined a great 12-Step Program, I took up canoeing. I started really finding myself, I was able to then hopefully pick somebody else that was much better for me because I knew that no matter what, I could be on my own. And I have to be honest, I never felt that way before. I had never been able to really be alone successfully and be happy, and I truly was happy and single. And that brings me to another topic which would be as changing your verbiage around it, instead of saying to yourself, “Oh, I can’t be alone. Oh my God, I can’t be alone.” It’s like, “I can be single.” Doesn’t that sound a lot better? “I can be single” rather than, “I can’t be alone”?
Neil Sattin: Yeah, so much better and it just makes me think of how very few of us truly are alone, ever. I suppose that is true for some people but if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re here with me, at this moment. And odds are that there are other people in your life who care about you and who want to support you, and not see you in pain and not see you suffering.
Sherry Gaba: Right, exactly. We all want to bond, we all want to connect. The opposite of addiction is connection, but the point of this call is really healthy connection. That’s the point of your podcast, healthy relationships. And so that’s… But it’s not about stigmatizing you if you are in a codependent relationship. How great that you’re on this call and now you can start changing things up a little bit and loosen up that codependent relationship, find other things in your life that help you feel good about yourself. And if you have that trauma, really start working on that trauma ’cause that’s really where it all begins. I do some coaching, I’m a psychotherapist, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ll have a coaching client and they’re just stuck. And that stuck-ness… They paid for every class, they listened to all of the podcasts, they bought all the books, but there’s something inside of them that’s stuck. And so to me, it really begins with moving that trauma out of your body, so that you can have a purposeful life and a meaningful relationship.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. So a couple of things, first, let’s just regroup, and I want to mention to you listening, I’ve mentioned a couple of other episodes, if you want to check out the Peter Levine episode, he’s been on a couple times, but you definitely want to hear episode 29, which was the first one that he was on, to talk specifically about trauma and healing trauma. The other episode he was on, he was talking more about building resilience which is also important, but not as relevant to what we’re talking about here. Also, the episode with Alex Katehakis, talking about addiction and what’s involved in our neurobiology of addiction and how to heal that. That is episode 116. So I just wanted you to have those so you can listen to them later. And Sherry, I’m really curious because so many of the tools that you offer in “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie” are very practical, and I hear you as a strong voice of support for someone getting help, and I’m always talking about that here on the show. That there are some things where it’s just easier if you’re not trying to do it by yourself or trying to wing it, or reading a book and trying to put it into practice. That being said, I would love to offer our listeners something really powerful here that they could do or they could try on their own, that would give them a taste of the kind of healing that we’re talking about, a taste of the personal empowerment and freedom that we’re talking about.
Neil Sattin: And so I’m wondering if just speaking those words, if there’s anything that comes to mind for you that we could offer our listeners as a way to get started, to jump-start the process, whether they’re single or in relationship or if you have a different idea for both, then that’s good too ’cause there are plenty of single people who are also listening to the show. I hear from you, but all the time to learn so that when you’re in your next relationship, you’re prepared, and I so appreciate that. I wish I had had a show like this, honestly to listen to way back when…
Sherry Gaba: Well, I think in the beginning, is just to see if you have this issue, is to maybe take my quiz, if you go to sherrygaba.com, I have a love addiction quiz. And that’s just a first step in seeing if you are a love addict. I also have a quiz at sherrygaba.com on whether or not you’re codependent. Because you can be codependent and not be a love addict. A codependent may be someone who’s always trying to fix, control everything outside themselves, addicted to controlling people, places, and things. But a love addict is a little bit more specific, and that is that you are addicted to love, relationship, romance and feel empty if you’re not in a relationship or with somebody. So that’s a great place to start, is to take those quizzes, and see if it applies. I have some free ebooks that go along with those quizzes. My book is almost like a workbook, every chapter has questions for you to answer, to journal on. It’s really… It’s years and years of personal and professional experience in a book.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, I found that it was really a great synthesis of lots of different modalities, and you talk about inner child work which you mentioned a few moments ago, you talk about healing trauma, you talk about taking proactive steps in your own life so that you’re building your own strength and presence in the world.
Sherry Gaba: And even talking about the law of attraction, on how to attract somebody in a healthy way. Because energetically, we attract what we are. I’m sure you’ve had conversations with people related to positive psychology or law of attraction, and the truth of the matter is energetically, we’re going to attract exactly where we are in our life. When you’re in a healthy place, you’re going to attract healthy, when you’re not, you’re going to attract not healthy.
Neil Sattin: Right. I would love it, and I’m putting you on the spot here, so I’m admitting, freely admitting that there’s maybe a little bit of pressure here, but I’m curious, yeah, if I’ve listened to this conversation and thought, “Yep, that’s me. Like I don’t need to take the quiz, I know it’s me, and oh my God, with what Sherry just said about attracting what is within, is what we attract without, now I’m really screwed.” What can we do to help someone experience a shift even around that? How do you experience that shift in who you are, let’s say… What’s coming to me is like who you are energetically and what you want to be in the world, in such a way that you can feel what it’s like to see the world with different glasses on?
Sherry Gaba: That’s a very broad question. I don’t even know how to answer that because I think it’s a process, I don’t think there’s an instant fix.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, of course not.
Sherry Gaba: I think the only thing I can say is the fact that they’re on this call and they’re hearing things that feel like that could be me when they’re actually moving out of denial and that’s the first step. I suppose, what I would say is, the first step is waking up to the truth. Waking up to the truth and “Oh my God, this… I realize that I am not complete unless I’m coupled up.” And just knowing that is the first step. And then the next step is to… As you said, you can read a book that doesn’t always do the magic. I’d love for people to pick up my book and dive deeper into even my story to see if they can relate and all the exercises. But hiring somebody like yourself who does relationship coaching or maybe working with someone like me who dives more into love addiction piece, I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking. You definitely put me on the spot.
Neil Sattin: Okay. Well, I feel like this will take form, this will take shape, so I’m not worried.
Sherry Gaba: Yeah, one thing I could do with everybody right now, which might be a way to metaphorically move to the other side in the moment, is I can do some positive affirmations right now on the call. And then, we know that positive affirmations change the wiring within your brain, and if you keep doing it it’s going to keep changing the wiring in your brain of how you see things from negative to positive. So I’m going to say some affirmations maybe Neil you can repeat after me and everybody listening, and this might answer your question of, what would that feel like if we were in the middle of that transition from emptiness to wholeness? Does that… What do you think? Okay. Okay. So repeat after me, I’m a lovable and valuable person.
Neil Sattin: I am a lovable and valuable person.
Sherry Gaba: I am deserving of a healthy partner.
Neil Sattin: I am deserving of a healthy partner.
Sherry Gaba: Who is capable of loving, respecting and honoring me as a person.
Neil Sattin: A healthy partner who is capable of loving, honoring and respecting me as a person.
Sherry Gaba: Withdrawal will not last forever.
Neil Sattin: Withdrawal will not last forever.
Sherry Gaba: My needs and wants are important.
Neil Sattin: My needs and wants are important.
Sherry Gaba: All my experiences contribute to my growth.
Neil Sattin: All my experiences contribute to my growth.
Sherry Gaba: I am learning to let go of dependencies on others.
Neil Sattin: I’m learning to let go of dependencies on others.
Sherry Gaba: And relying on myself for happiness.
Neil Sattin: And relying on myself for happiness.
Sherry Gaba: I walk away from toxic people.
Neil Sattin: I walk away from toxic People.
Sherry Gaba: I create my own truth in love.
Neil Sattin: I create my own truth in love.
Sherry Gaba: And that’s that. And so maybe there is a little energetic shift that people might be experiencing right now. Again, I’m not about instant fixes but this is a beginning point, this is a starting point, and that’s really all we have is a starting point and then we transit, we grow from there.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, one thing that I really love about that exercise and the practice of positive affirmation, yes, there’s the way that it reinforces a different neuro pathway within us and a different energetic pathway in terms of what we project into the world around us.
Sherry Gaba: Yes.
Neil Sattin: On top of that, I feel like I got to recognize, “Oh these are the places where there’s a little bit of dissonance within me, like when I say it, I can’t say it with 100% conviction. And so if that’s true, that I’m not able to say it with 100% conviction, then to me that indicates a place where there’s some work to be done.
Sherry Gaba: Yeah, that’s so true, because for the law of attraction to work or to attract what it is that you desire, you have to be congruent with what you’re saying and believing and what you’re actually doing on the outside. So, that’s exactly true. There is a dissonance, if you’re feeling any kind of like, “Oh, that’s not completely true,” then there’s a really good chance that how you’re acting in the world, how you’re behaving in the world or being in the world is not a match to how you really feel. You need to work on that a little bit because the congruency is what allows you to attract either the healthy relationship that you desire or the one that you’re in.
Neil Sattin: Right. This reminds me a little bit of what might be the next step in this process. It’s not the next step necessarily, but a lot of times with my clients, there can be this moment where you realize like, “Oh.” For instance let’s say, this wasn’t true for me in this moment, but it has been true in the past, where I might say, “Oh, I’m worthy of being loved and I’m lovable.” And I think I’ve even shared with my audience in a past episode, a time when that actually didn’t really feel true for me. And so when that’s not entirely true for you, the choices that you make are totally different than if you are to… If you recognize, “Oh, there was a little bit of a hitch when I said that statement out loud,” or it could have been one of the other things that Sherry just offered you, then you can ask yourself, “Well, if I did think that I was lovable and worthy of love, how does that act? How would I act in the world from that perspective?” You get to try on that lens…
Sherry Gaba: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: Once you’ve identified where it’s missing, You can be like, “Well, if I were that what would the world look like?”
Sherry Gaba: And even more important is to make friends with that intuition that you know to be true. In other words, don’t run away from what you know to be true, because then you’re stepping into that denial lens again, is where, “Oh, I feel this, and I know it’s not right but I don’t care, I’m just going to close my eyes.” And my whole mission in life is to keep people awake to their truth. So not to be afraid of the truth, the truth doesn’t mean you have to break up with your partner this minute, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend the rest of your life soul searching, it doesn’t mean that you have to go get a divorce, it doesn’t mean that you have to get off that dating app, it just means you need to just become aware and to stay in truth. And as long as you do that, the transformation is possible.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, I take a really strong stand for the process that we go through as individuals and the effect that that can have on our partnerships. So lest do you think that if you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, the whole point of this show isn’t that it’s perfect, the point is, it probably isn’t perfect. And so you get to take steps that help you transform you and thus transform the whole dynamic.
Sherry Gaba: Yeah, and not be afraid, let go of that fear, just welcome up the chance to transform. Welcome up that the exactly that life is messy and as long as you stay away and you’re willing to grow… We’re all growing, we’re all changing, we’re all making better choices, hopefully, learning from our mistakes but it’s not about beating ourselves up, it’s about having the great compassion of humanity that we are, that we’re just humans doing the best that we can. That was one of the points of writing the book, “The marriage and Relationship Junkie” was that I really wanted to eradicate the stigma around someone like myself who’s been married multiple times, who’s had multiple relationships instead of walking around thinking “I’m a failure,” or those that read my book think that they’re a failure because they just couldn’t get it right, is to just have an understanding of where that began and how can I change that the trajectory of the future?
Sherry Gaba: So that I, maybe, do things in a different way and make different choices, ’cause life is filled with choices. And to own up to those choices, not to beat yourself up because of those choices, because there was a reason you made those choices. My choices were already paved for me when I was born two and a half months early, there was nothing I was going to be able to do about that. I had separation anxiety, I had abandonment issues, and that was going to be… Those feelings were going to be based on the decisions that I made in relationships.
Neil Sattin: Right, and they were nobody’s fault.
Sherry Gaba: Nobody’s fault. So we’re not victims, we’re just people that come from different histories, different experiences, and there’s a reason why we are. I did one podcast with a woman who’s been married six times, she had no idea, she started hysterically crying on the call. She was the host, because she goes, “Oh my God, you have labeled what I’ve always known, but didn’t know what to call it, that’s me.” And it’s like, “Okay, that’s me? Okay great. So let’s get curious about that.” Doesn’t mean we have to divorce our sixth husband, it just means, “Am I in a healthy relationship? Did I make a good choice and what can I do to heal all of that that brought me here today?”
Neil Sattin: Right. They say the sixth time is a charm for a reason, right?
Sherry Gaba: I think it’s the third one.
Neil Sattin: I’m just kidding.
Sherry Gaba: Oh, okay. [laughter] My attitude is, do until you do it right, I don’t think I ever… I won’t say never, I’m not really interested at this point in my life, getting married again, but I certainly… I’m enjoying a healthy relationship, and I think that anything’s possible. Anything’s possible.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, so one important thing that I’d like to chat about before we go, because I think one of the hesitations that people have around labeling and use that word a moment ago, labeling themselves as an addict, is the stigma that comes with it, the sense of, “Oh, this is inescapable, if I admit that I’m an addict then… ” You hear the talk about a cliche like, “Once an addict, always an addict.” And I’m curious for you, what’s the truth in that versus that there is a true path for healing and… ‘Cause I like that sense that the truth will set you free. If you’re willing to look at your patterns, then that gives you a whole lot of power to make different kinds of choices for yourself and to heal the dysfunctional ways that you’re looking for connection and regulation in your life and create positive ways of doing that.
Sherry Gaba: Well, I think if you are a love addict per se, let’s say, I’m not going to address substance abuse ’cause that might be a different… That goes a different way. That’s a whole other topic, but if you feel that you might be a love addict, and you feel like you’ve had early trauma, I highly, highly recommend getting the support you need around that finding a really great somatic experiencing practitioner, reading up on Peter Levine’s work, maybe even getting EMDR, that’s another modality. I think that really healing that early trauma is important because, without that, I don’t think you can make choices that are going to be in your best interest ’cause you haven’t healed what is already inside of you that needs to be discharged in order to bring positivity back into your life. That work was the greatest work that I ever did in my life, join a sex and love addicts anonymous meeting, do that work, so you can bring healthy love into your life. I can’t emphasize that enough because once I did that work, my whole life changed. Am I still a love addict? I guess is what you’re asking, yes, I have to always be mindful for the rest of my life about love addict codependent behaviors. If I start getting obsessive, if I start just focusing on the person I’m with, start giving up my friendships, there’s a…
Sherry Gaba: I have to be continually vigilant at those things. And what I’m here to say is, once you do that work of trauma and self-regulation, you’re less apt to become codependent again or making someone else your whole life, because you don’t need to do that anymore because everything that you know and feel is within you, you feel whole already, so there’s no need to be attached to just that one person, but I still have to be vigilant about it. Does that make sense?
Neil Sattin: Absolutely, and the question, it’s kind of a rhetorical question that comes up, is like, “Why wouldn’t you want to be vigilant about those things?” I would want to know, first thing, if I’m starting to sacrifice my friendships and disappear into my relationship, I would want to know that, at any point in time, addict or not.
Sherry Gaba: A few are an example of raw and real. You actually have a boyfriend and he’s going to be going away for a couple of weeks, and that early piece of trauma comes up and goes. “This feels a little bit scary,” like, “Oh, am I being abandoned?” And then I just… But because I’ve done the work, I can sit with that and I can be with it, and notice it and feel it and discharge it instead of becoming needy and obsessive and go into fear, “He’s going to leave me,” all of those things that I would have done in the past. Instead, I can just be the curious observer of the feelings and the thoughts and I can let it go. And that’s a real example.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Sherry Gaba: That I’m still that baby that was born two and a half months early, but I have tools and ways to deal with those feelings that might come up rather than act out on them.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, that’s great, that’s great. And I’m reminded too that it clicked into place for me actually, when you were describing that, which is that I think probably, part of that, the dopamine rush that we were talking about earlier and that pleasure, it actually is creating the illusion of safety. And I think it’s been theorized, maybe John Gorman was even talking about this, that if we didn’t feel that temporary love blindness at the beginning, we might never get into a relationship anyway. You almost need that to jump-start you into connection. But that being said, there are so much healthier ways of developing safety, and you were just talking about that inner safety and then there are also, of course, the healthy ways of developing safety in your relationship so that when your partner goes away for two weeks, there’s true safety there. So you can counterbalance your inner safety with, “And we’ve created a container that actually I can rely on and I trust.”
Sherry Gaba: Exactly, a container within and maybe a container in the relationship. But certainly, that container within is vital, or you’re going to do behaviors that… You’re going to start doing all those obsessive behaviors, those needy behaviors that are not going to help the relationship.
Neil Sattin: Right, they’re crucial, crucial stuff. Well, Sherry Gaba, thank you so much for being here with us today, what a far-ranging conversation we’ve had. And of course, I feel like we could talk longer, but I want to respect your time. Your book, “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie” is a great read full of very practical stuff for you if you’re thinking that this is something you identify with on some level and there’s a path towards recovery in the book, so I highly recommend that. Sherry, you mentioned your website sherrygaba.com, and it’s S-H-E-R-R-Y. I guess we should clarify that. We’ll have links to all of this in the transcript for the show, which as a reminder, you can get if you visit neilsattin.com/gaba, G-A-B-A, or text the word “passion” to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. Sherry, I really appreciate your time today.
Sherry Gaba: Oh my God, I love… This is probably one of the best interviews I’ve had. You truly know your subject, and you’ve obviously done a lot of homework and work on yourself and your relationship and I’m really grateful for your platform and for giving me this opportunity today, thank you so, so much.
Neil Sattin: You are so welcome.
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