It’s so sad that obsessiveness has been romanticized in literature for centuries, as well as by the media, once the media came into existence. From the correlative suicides of Romeo and Juliet to even many of the most recent romantic movies, being obsessed with the object of one’s love is often held up as something to aspire to rather than having the potentially devastating aftermath of the behaviors when the movies fade to black. A mom friend was discussing with me how much media and people have made some issues ‘norm’ around us. When we cogitate on these issues, we will see that we have just been cloaked into believing they are normal because these norms grew with us. The mania stage of romantic love usually occurs in the early months in a healthy love relationship. It can involve persistent thoughts of the love object and wanting to spend every moment with that person. A healthy love relationship usually evolves over time such that it no longer involves the near desperate intensity and fervor of obsession.
Healthy love tends to mature over the years to include commitment, friendship, and a solid respect for the other person as an individual and of their needs. It allows both people to feel loved, cared for, and respected and allow for each person’s individuality and pursuit of their own professional lives, recreational activities, and friendships outside of the love relationship. Most people that are accustomed to me will find it intriguing that I’m touching this subject matter with my writings. I couldn’t just disregard the effect of obsession out there.
The disparity between obsessive love and healthy love is that with the former, those feelings of infatuation become extreme, expanding to the point of becoming obsessions which often lead to jealousy. In the first component of this write up, I wrote about how much obsession can make one delusional. Individuals who suffer from delusional jealousy often interpret minor experiences like a colleague saying hello to their spouse or romantic partner looking at a passerby as positive proof that their loved one is being unfaithful. Females are more likely to develop obsessive love toward people they know rather than toward a stranger. The objects of love for women who love obsessively are often people who have been in the role of ‘helper’ in their lives. In the uncommon instances that obsessive love involves violence, men and women seem to be perpetrators of such violence at equal rates. The inability to tolerate painful emotions is a reason why codependents tend to obsess. Obsession serves the function of protecting us from painful feelings. Thus, it can be looked at as a defense to pain. Often certain feelings are shame-bound because they were shamed in childhood. When they arise in adulthood, we might obsess instead. If we believe we shouldn’t feel anger or express it, we might not be able to let go of resentment about someone rather than allow ourselves to feel angry. If sadness was shamed, we might obsess about a romantic interest to avoid feeling the pain of loneliness or rejection. For example, a perfectionist might obsess about a minor flaw in his or her appearance, but not acknowledge feelings of inferiority or unloveability. It more like we also obsess about a small problem to avoid facing a larger one. It’s quite unsettling that the object of obsessive love may have difficulty setting clear limits and boundaries on the obsessive behaviors.
Too often, they use their object of obsession to compensate for their own unmet goals or limitations. The love you feel you’re giving is, in truth, an emotional hunger that is draining the person at the receiving end. Love is not all of the draining activities. It is all about giving. Learn of God. Christ is the prototype God used in showing us what love really is.
- Admit the problem: Recognize that you’ve cross the line. It’s okay to care about your child, partner or any other loved one. But, admit that you need to take a step back. It will be difficult and will feel unnatural. Your mind is in overdrive, so it will be hard to pull it back into healthy gear. However, in order to do so, you have to first admit the need for a change.
- Embrace the love of God and continue in it: John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. Our relationship with God is a love story that begins with opening our hearts and receiving the love of God. Who can resist a toddler looking up at you with pleading eyes, upraised arms and wiggling fingers? God has loved us with an everlasting love and he is our father. A friend said this few years ago—When I embraced God’s love, my heart received peace. His word assures me of this unending, unconditional love. Like an anxious child soothed by the nearness of the parent, my heart rests even when my world is spinning. This love is not based on performance or taking, on my striving to do things right, but is purely based on the truth that God loves, no matter what. We can recognize His love in our life. Learn and continue in that regard. Knowing what to look for, we will discover love in the relationships we have with the people in our lives.
- Focus on things you’ve neglected: When you have an obsession, you don’t have time for anything else—like staying on top of your work, cultivating your relationships and pursuing interests outside the obsession. Once you start spending your time on other things in your life, you won’t have as much time to spend thinking about your obsession.
- Do not make them the centre of your life: If cares around our loved ones becomes the centre of our lives, then its trouble. Though you love your child very much, avoid making them the entire focus of your life. A child who grows up believing everything centres around themselves will have a lot of difficulties navigating real relationships and dealing with conflicts of any kind. Turn your focus from the past to the future. Push yourself to make plans and visualize how good you’ll feel when you’ve accomplished them.
- Pursue a hobby of your own: Make an effort to spend time with friends. Schedule date nights with other friends. Stop yourself from fixing your child’s or the loved one’s next problem. Ask your child how they want to handle it. It’s okay if they lose or fail sometimes. These boundaries will help establish a healthier relationship between you and your child. As you are involved in (but not obsessed with) their lives, you can better enjoy life – together.
- Learn the lesson: I often obsess about my mistakes. I know I messed up, and I’m beating myself over and over again for not doing it right the first time, especially when I have involved other people and hurt them unintentionally. If that’s the case, I will ask myself: What is the lesson here? What have I learned? Then I will describe the lesson that I have absorbed in one sentence or less.
- Build a strong support system: You really do not need a village to get help. You might count on a variety of other adults to help you with your child or the loved one– teachers, coaches, religious leaders and parents. However, oftentimes some helpers do not really activate the available resources. Leaning on the social support can help you fight stress and become an even better.
The most we can do for our loved ones especially our children is to provide for them, love them for who they truly are, and help them to develop into their own capable, unique person. Does your marriage or relationship take up your thoughts and energy? Don’t focus your thinking and behavior around someone or something you can’t control. Take a breather and restart. Remember, it will happen one step at a time.