When I was younger, I believed that if I felt strong emotions for someone, those emotions equaled love.
I realize now that love is more than emotions or interest in another person. Most importantly, I know now that real love can only be experienced once we know its opposite.
I’ve been through destructive relationships (obsession) and productive relationships (healthy love). While healthy love can be intense, obsessive love is extreme.
But the truth is that real love can’t be anything but healthy.
We don’t have to be in a relationship to experience obsessive love. We might obsess over an ex, or someone we recently met and became interested in, or someone with whom we have a sexual bond.
To start off, we need to understand that obsessive behaviors in love don’t always exist from the beginning. Healthy love can often transform into an obsession. It might happen as a reaction to rejection or after loss of interest from our beloved. When faced with rejection or loss of interest, we either deal with it mindfully and let it go, or our love becomes obsessive.
So what is obsessive love and what is healthy love?
Having experienced both, I can say that obsessive love is grounded in selfishness, while healthy love is grounded in selflessness. In obsessive love, what matters is the “I.” We ask ourselves, “What makes me happy?” instead of asking, “What makes us happy?”
In other words, with obsessive love, the other person’s happiness is no longer a factor. We focus on our own gratification and crave the other person, not because of who they are, but because of how they make us feel.
Love then transforms from an experience of growth to an irrational desire to possess our lover.
Furthermore, obsessive love is addictive at its core—we want to spend all our time with our lover, withdraw from our personal activities and hobbies, try to control our lover, ask for more attention, get jealous, develop a constant need to know where our lover is and what they’re doing, and become mistrustful.
In obsessive love, we fear losing our partner since our happiness relies on their presence. Even when it becomes clear that the other person doesn’t love us back or that the relationship should end, we deny the truth and convince ourselves otherwise—there’s an inability to accept failure or endings.
In healthy love, we enjoy spending time with our partner, but more than anything, we are open to discussing any issues, mindfully and consciously. Both partners are able to function individually, but function even better with each other. Their happiness is not dependent on each other, but is instead an additional source of contentment.
In healthy love, couples work hard to stay together, however, if they need to separate, they accept failure and learn from it instead of holding on to the pain.
Obsessive love can be harmful to both the lover and the beloved. But leaving this vicious cycle is possible. Here’s how to let go of an obsessive love if you’re stuck in one:
Face the problem.
To get over an obsessive love, we must first recognize its presence. Once we understand what is happening, we can face the problem and learn to change our obsessive patterns.
Find the reason.
There might be a hidden psychological factor causing our obsession. It might stem from childhood experiences of abandonment, trauma as an adult, or lack of self-esteem. Work on discovering the reason or get a second opinion from someone who knows you well.
It’s important to keep some distance between you and the object of your obsession. It’s easier to forget and move on when you don’t have constant reminders of them around you.
Confide in a friend.
Oftentimes, in these situations, we live in our heads. Choose a friend you trust, who knows what you’re going through, and who’s willing to bring you back to your senses when you get stuck in a destructive pattern of thinking.
Learn what love is.
You might want to reflect on a past healthy experience or talk to a healthy couple you know. Let it remind you that what you’re experiencing is an unhealthy obsession, and not real love—which is free of ego.
Focus on the present moment.
We can access the present moment anytime we wish. Live every moment by immersing yourself in everything you do. This will keep you focused on what is and not obsessing over what is gone.
Focus on yourself.
Consider what you wanted from this other person. It could be attention, love, or approval. Whatever is lacking within you, strive to give it to yourself first.
Give love to others.
Look around you—there are far too many people who have been neglected and need the love and attention you’ve been giving to the object of your obsession. When we share that love with others, we lessen the pressure to keep our obsession going. At the same time, we get to experience the joy of making others happy and being of benefit.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis