Love and obsession are two different things - here's how to tell them apart
- If you're falling in love, prepare for butterflies and excitement.
- However, if you're still distracted and completely wrapped up in someone after months have passed, it could be a sign of obsession.
- Obsessive passion isn't a healthy basis for a relationship.
- Here's how you can tell the difference.
Love is great. You've finally found someone who finds all your little quirks endearing, and who you can share your spit with.
Usually, if you're dating someone, you either have the feeling or you don't. If it doesn't work out, it tends to be because there's no spark, the chemistry is off, or you just don't have enough in common. When it is working, you'll have butterflies and want to see the person again and again.
But while it's easy to get wrapped up in the whirlwind of a new relationship, it's important to remember there's a difference between a healthy, growing love, and an unhealthy obsession.
When you first meet someone, your expectations might have been tainted by romantic films and books. You might expect to be swept off your feet, and told how your new lover "can't live without" you. In reality, this might not actually be what you should aim for.
If someone you are dating showers you with affection and gifts right at the start, it could be a sign of love bombing - where a manipulative person makes you believe you've found "the one," only to start being cruel and distant once they've hooked you.
It's a tactic abusive narcissists often use to control their partners, because the victim will do anything to get the attentive, kind person back who they thought they met at the beginning.
Being all-consumed by a relationship in its early stages could also be a sign of obsession. Being completely engrossed in someone isn't necessarily a red flag that your partner is abusive, but it isn't a good sign either.
In his book "The Psychology of Passion: A Dualistic Model," psychologist Robert Vallerand says obsessive passion is more of a threat to a relationship than no passion at all.
If someone is in love with you, they trust you. They want you to be the best version of yourself and only want good things for you. That includes giving you space when you need it.
On the other hand, someone who is obsessed with you will be jealous and possessive. They won't like the idea of you growing as a person, or having any independence, lest you meet someone else and leave them.
Obsessively passionate people are insecure and so preoccupied with losing their partner they actually end up neglecting them. They are defensive, controlling, and resentful, so it's no surprise women in relationships with obsessively passionate men report being less sexually satisfied.
One way to tell if you - or your partner - are smitten or obsessed is by looking at what's appropriate for where you are on your timeline.
The start of a good relationship is going to be exciting, and feeling butterflies is a normal, fun reaction to this. But if months go by and you still find yourself distracted at work, or you ignore your friends, family, and hobbies for your partner, that's not a sign of a healthy match.
Jonathan Marshall, a psychologist and relationship expert, told Business Insider that when people fall in love it's natural for everyone else to feel out of view for a while. But if you start noticing your primary focus is this other person to the point you're becoming isolated from things that were previously important, it's typically a sign something isn't right.
"When that other person becomes our raison d'être, it's too much," he said. "When the other person becomes your god, when your inner compass gets lost in the relationship and in the other person, then I think you're in trouble... Falling in love is a bit of a sickness because we go a bit insane, but if that insanity lasts for a long time, and you can't find your inner compass, then I think that's a sign it isn't in balance."
Butterflies, excitement, and daydreaming aren't red flags on their own. In fact, they are hints you're on the right path for something great. But if you feel you are being controlled by your passion, rather than the other way around, things can easily spin out of control.
Ultimately, if something is right, you'll feel it. If you think one of the two of you is obsessed, you'll probably feel that too.