Addicted to Love

DESCRIPTIONPhoto: Alyson Hurt

When I asked my students for examples of diminishing marginal utility, one wiseguy freshman stated, “Time with my girlfriends after a relationship of five months-I drop them after that.” (I should have told him that it’s hard to distinguish quits from layoffs, but I wasn’t fast enough on my feet!)

His example got a good laugh, but it also allowed me to introduce the notion of addiction, my next lecture topic. How can we explain addiction, in his case the fact that he went out with another girlfriend, and probably even liked her more initially than the first girlfriend? I assume that he had become addicted to falling in love, not staying in love, so that he enjoyed the first few dates with the next girlfriend even more than those with the dumped girlfriend. After a while, however, the marginal utility of his time with her diminished, and their relationship ended too.



I have a theory that we are "addicted" to many things, but because those things are legal, affordable, easily obtainable, etc., we never realize our addiction until we have to do without. Perhaps the "rush of love" is an addiction every bit as powerful as the "rush of narcotics."

Consider what would happen if the USA outlawed coffee tomorrow. Millions of people who seemingly cannot function without a cup of coffee would start going through withdrawals, would seek coffee from the black market, would pay higher prices for it, etc.

Of course, we already have well-known addictions in the form of cigarettes and, to some degree, alcohol. But if you outlawed them, you'd have the same thing we have with narcotics today. The police would arrest those possessing our using cigarettes/alcohol, you'd have smugglers, crime, etc., due to the demand for these things. And you'd have people arguing that these things ought to be legalized.

In every addiction, there are abusers. There is just no way around this. While many people can enjoy a glass of whiskey each evening in moderation, there are those who have to have much, much more...and who are the ones largely responsible, I imagine, for DUIs.

Same with coffee or what have you. You have some folks that a cup of coffee (or two) in the morning is just wonderful. Then you have the people who drink (as I did one morning in 10th grade), eight cups of coffee before work (I seldom drink coffee, by the way).

I cannot fathom why our country doesn't think feelings of calm and well-being (euphoria) should be illegal. Oh, I understood it PERFECTLY before I had to take oxycodone and hydrocodone for severe surgical complications. Then I had to HONESTLY wonder why this is such an "evil" when it made me feel so deeply grateful and loving.

Will there be abusers? We've already established that. Even with it illegal there are millions of abusers. Would that number go up if it were legal...or would life change? No more dark neighborhood corners, no more crime to buy more (at the premium prices), no more fixating on finding one's next dose, etc.

Thankfully, I was never addicted to the stuff. But I think I understand why people--especially people in bad situations--do not strive mightily to obtain this little bit of "peace of mind" that comes in pill form.

Why is it illegal? I am convinced that if you follow the money, you will find out. Drug dealers WANT it illegal (they're out of business otherwise). The police WANT it illegal (why? job security).

Go to a crime-ridden neighborhood and spray it with oxycodone mist...and crime is going to go away as people start feeling differently. But we apparently don't want that.

I know that sounds all conspiratorial. And as a lifelong Republican/conservative, believe me, I once would have said the same thing. Until I realized that such feelings, if they can be obtained, ought to be legal, cheap, and safe.

Why do you think poor places have such problems with Meth? Do you think it's because these folks have it all together and are just playing around? No, they are under some tremendous burdens. Drugs offer some relief.



The fact that individual women show diminishing marginal returns over time does not have anything to do with whether someone is "addicted to love," any more than switching up the cereal you consume every time you get bored constitutes being "addicted to cereal."

The fundamental component of addiction seems to be broadly constant maginal returns and/or highly negative marginal returns to stopping. Drug addicts may enjoy drugs slightly less over time, but they still really, really love those drugs. They've fond something that they never stop enjoying. Video game addiction may follow this even better: for some people, video games do nit suffer noticeably diminishing marginal returns, allowing them to play twelve hours a day indefinitely.


hey, but if he keeps ditching girls, how about the money he spends on those dates?can we call it a loss?would that be a waste of money if he doesn't marry the girl he pays the bill for?


As a woman once addicted to not only the chase but the newness of relationships I can attest that the "diminishing" aspect increases its rate of early onset with each additional person. Just like a drug addict must continually increase the dosage in order to achieve the same high so must a love/ relationship addict. It is not something that one simply outgrows or hits a limit to over time. The end of the addiction only comes as a choice to retrain oneself to do that specific behavior differently i.e. abstain from the source.

Baffled Observer

My take on "addictive" behaviors is that I am likely to behave in this way when something is partly, but not completely, gratifying. It's engaging enough to do, but does not involve enough achievement to make me feel satisfied when I've finished. So I do it again. Sudoku puzzles would be an example--I can waste a lot of time that way.

Aaron S., Huxley came up with something similar to your idea of drugging the population to make them passive in the face of their tremendous burdens. The novel is "Brave New World."


Yes, I know you asked for 21st century but can' get this lovely lyric out of my head:

Deep in a Dream
by Songwriters: De Lange, Eddie; Van Heusen, Jimmy;

I dim all the lights and I sink in my chair.
The smoke from my cigarette climbs through the air.
The walls of my room fade away in the blue,
And I'm deep in a dream of you.
The smoke makes a stairway for you to descend;
You come to my arms, may this bliss never end,
For we love anew just as we used to do
When I'm deep in a dream of you.
Then from the ceiling, sweet music comes stealing;
We glide through a lover's refrain, you're so appealing
That I'm soon revealing my love for you over again.
My cigarette burns me, I wake with a start;
My hand isn't hurt, but there's pain in my heart.
Awake or asleep, ev'ry mem'ry I'll keep
Deep in a dream of you.

Note: I only looked it up to credit its authors. That's memorable since you asked.


I would say that emotion changes by the time people are growing up. That also raised up a question about people's behavior.
I'm not sure; I can describe this guy emotion of love to his first girl friend, but I can say that for 1 to 5 month love will always be sweet. And after lovely period, people will change their view and behavior of emotion (love). So they would like to change new one they are more interested. People are growing. As we grow the behavior and emotion of love will change. So I think he likes his second girlfriend more than the first one is really normal, because that can show he is growing up and having more experience of falling love with other.


The problem is the law of diminishing return. what attracted in to the girl no longer available because he has reach his optimum level. Any continuity with the girl will not yield him any good. Ultimately he has to substitution for more durable goods., Daniel

The Nun's Priest's Dogsbody

What is the likelihood that an adolescent male who brags about his sexual conquests, is telling the truth?

I suspect that most of your student's "girlfriends" are rather two-dimensional, and speak Japanese. With subtitles.


@Lola #23 He's not paying for "the girl"; he is largely paying for "information about the girl".


For my future ex, 21 years of marriage.


Baffled Observer @ #25...

Your point is well-taken. But when compared to the shooting, killing, and crime that exists in such neighborhoods, we would be arrogant, I think, to believe that THAT is superior to a drug-induced calmness.

It would be akin, I believe, to thinking that a person wouldn't want to be "out" for surgery, but must experience it in all it's incredible pain in order to be--what?--authentic? real?

Certainly, we don't want to "under the influence" in all situations. But surely there are situations where the cure is better than the disease.

Further, it was recently noted in one study that knowing you have access to future "fixes" allowed one addict to stop fixating on the next fix...and actually think about his situation, his future, etc. MAYBE, in some of the hardest hit areas of our nation, that would at least give a little mental relief to people, might even allow them to think and plan for another sort of future.



Love will always be there for someone no matter what. When I saw love I found love. True love is someone you can look dead in the eye, tell her/him everything, someone you can trust. Love is not always going to be like you want it, but it's a gift that it's there. Their will be all kinds of emotions, but it's part of any relationship your in life. If you have a girlfriend/boyfriend show you care towards them. Don't use them for anything cause it will always come back at you. Date a friend you've been knowing for a very long time. That will change history in your life.