We’ve all experienced a version of the story. It might have happened years ago when you were a teenager, or it might be happening right now.
There’s a particular person who makes you feel weak at the knees when they say ‘hello’. You may work with them or know them from your social networks and you know that you can’t live without them. You want love, intimacy and physical closeness with this person. You have very strong feelings about wanting this. Instead of your heart going pitter-patter , it pounds when this certain someone walks into the room. Your experience is extreme. You’re not infatuated, you’re addicted to the idea of a relationship with the person. That’s obsession.
Are you obsessed?
Many people have flirted with the line between love and obsession, but few ever truly cross it. If you have recurrent and persistent thoughts about the person and these cause you anxiety and distress then obsession can take over and change your entire existence. This change can contort your experiences and is not positive to your present or future life.
It’s when your feelings of infatuation become extreme that you find yourself obsessed by the person you love. If you literally can’t imagine your life without this person, if you can’t take ‘no’ for an answer and if your work and other relationships with friends and family fall by the wayside you know you are obsessed.
You know you’re obsessed if you:
When to watch out
Sometimes obsession sets in at the beginning of a relationship, where it can masquerade as infatuation. But a healthy infatuation is relatively short-lived and will soon move on to something deeper and longer-lasting.
As Simone points out about her obsession with an ex-boyfriend, her fear of losing him was what drove her to the obsessive behaviour that ensured she did lose him eventually.
Simone says, ‘I had this constant fear of losing him and the relationship ending. I used to get wildly jealous if he spoke to another woman or spent time in mixed company without me. I just had to know – all the time – where he was and what he was up to. And in the end he just walked out, saying he couldn’t live with me. So, then I began calling him – and sending him texts – lots of them! I even used to drive to where he lived and camp outside, sometimes all night, just watching. I had a good friend who took me aside one day and said,’ Simone, you’ve got a real problem here. I think you need help’. I was really angry at first and fought the idea, but sometime later, while I was keeping watch at his place after making calls and sending texts, he just came out and talked to me. He was kind and he said, ‘You know you’ve got a problem, don’t make me make it worse for you by calling the cops and complaining. It’s over. Just get on with your life.’ It was a shock, him talking like that and I guess, I sort of knew I did have a problem but two people close to me telling me kind of brought it home. I went into therapy…it wasn’t easy, and I felt very tortured and grieved for months. I must have cried an ocean of tears. But I did get over it.’
Some love is obsessive and one-sided, like the office-worker who goes weak at the knees when they see a colleague and begin walking past that colleague’s desk at every available chance, fantasising about a relationship and even calling, emailing and texting for spurious reasons, just to hear their voice and to be in touch. Just because the feelings and behaviour are not reciprocated doesn’t mean that the person who is obsessed doesn’t believe that they are made for one another.
If you find yourself calling the object of your love every hour or more often and following their every move, it’s time to take stock of your behaviour. If you receive feedback from trusted friends or family members about the obsessive nature of your behaviour, stop and reflect on it. When a person feels as strongly as a person caught up in obsession with another does, it’s hard to create the emotional distance needed to re-assess the behaviour and make changes. With the help of others, in particular, professional help, the person caught in the grip of obsessive love can begin to evaluate their behaviour and move on with their lives.
To learn more about love and relationships see The Rules of Love