Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Stephen Arterburn's book, When You Love Too Much, (Regal Books, 2004).

Do you seek love through a fantasy world of infatuation? Does the idea of forbidden romance intoxicate you? Do you often find that an obsession with sex overtakes all other parts of your life? Do you crave intimacy, yet hide your true self from others?

If so, you may be addicted to romance, relationships, or sex. Such an addiction prevents you from obtaining what you need the most – true love. But, if you stop letting your emotions control you and surrender your life to God, you can break free of destructive patterns and discover the joy of healthy relationships.

Here’s how you can trade addictive relationships for true love:

Understand the differences between healthy and unhealthy love. Realize that healthy love: is reality-based, completes another, finds a friend, sacrifices, is patient, is kind, is forgiving, doesn’t hold grudges, is born out of security, is vulnerable, is allowed to develop, is gentle, is honest, and is satisfied. In contrast, unhealthy love: is fantasy-based, seeks to be completed, seeks a victim, demands sacrifice, is impatient, is rude, is resentful, seeks revenge, is born out of fear, is defensive, is pressed to perform, is combative, is deceitful, and is restless.

Shift your focus. Recognize that the source of your problems is self-obsession. Understand that, as much as you desire intimacy, you can’t achieve it if you continue to focus on your feelings and how to try to gratify yourself. Look to the biblical model of healthy love, where the focus is on giving rather than receiving. Ask God to help you shift your focus from your own desires, needs, and hurts to those of other people.

Stop pretending. Don’t hide behind an image anymore. Ask God to give you the courage to be open and honest with others about who you really are. Seek to discover who other people truly are rather than projecting an idealized image onto them to use them to try to meet your own needs.

Understand how your background has affected you. Think and pray about your childhood and other past experiences that may have contributed to you developing unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. Consider whether you learned poor communication patterns that encouraged you to keep secrets, whether your feelings were acknowledged or denied when you tried to express them, and whether you learned how to trust other people. Once you understand how your background has affected you, use that knowledge to equip you to do think and act better in the future. Never blame your current problems on your past or believe that there’s nothing you can do to change your situation. Instead, once you uncover the sources of your problems, decide to deal with them head-on, with God’s help.

Take responsibility for your choices. Resolve to live as a mature adult, taking responsibility for your choices and the consequences that result from them. Acknowledge that you need to replace unhealthy dependency on other people with healthy surrender to God’s will.

Consider the high cost of addiction. Think about what your addiction is costing you, and let that knowledge motivate you to pursue healing. Consider such consequences as: time lost from family, work, and other pursuits; a tarnished reputation; shattered self-respect; financial burdens (money spent on pornography, prostitution, new clothing, etc.); emotional strain; physical consequences (exhaustion, stress, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.); family dislocation (estrangement from spouse and children, separation, divorce, children growing up vulnerable to addiction); job loss, alienation of friends; and legal consequences.