Relationship partners most often obsess over an intimate partner when a relationship is new and at any time when they feel there is a threat to an existing relationship.
When it is continuous and intense, obsession can be an enslaving, self-absorption that can fill people’s minds and hearts, immobilizing their ability to endure what feels like certain loss. People who worry excessively about the future of their relationship often feel literally consumed by their anxiety.
Not every intense concern, even if temporarily obsessive, is harmful to a relationship.
All intimate partners are likely to obsess at some time, or over specific situations. If and when those disruptions are resolved, they easily return to normal watchfulness. Sadly, though, there are some people who are innate worriers. Those people may constantly focus on what might have gone wrong in the past, or what could be an upset in the future. They are typically anxious people who live more in the past and the future than they are able to stay in the present. They must maintain their hyper-vigilant “radar-blippers”, counting on the fact that their preoccupation with watchfulness will somehow keep bad things from happening.
Sometimes relationship obsessiveness is a legitimate reaction to the kind of partner who triggers it.
These kinds of partners can cause anxiety in anyone. They deliver double messages, aren’t traceable in their exploits, keep their phones turned off when they are with you, aren’t open about where they are when they’re not, and disappear from time to time without sufficient explanation. Sure, they could just be private people who need separateness to be able to bear intimacy, or, too often, genuinely non-trustable in the things they say or promise. If the partner on the other end is also a basically anxious worrier, there is a high probability of a potential disaster.
On the other hand, there are relatively authentic, honest, and open partners, who are, unfortunately, in relationships with obsessive mates.
They can try to repeatedly reassure their partners, but will eventually wear down. Deeply insecure people may tell their partners that they are the “only ones” who have understood and can make them feel safe. Sadly, over time, that is unlikely to happen. There can never be enough reassuring words or behaviors that can quell the depth of that level of fear.
Disillusionment most often comes from expecting something that is not likely to happen.
Many daters have started off trusting each of their new partners but, over time and experiencing too many losses, become untrusting, cynical, and pre-defeated. As a result, they are understandably afraid to ask crucial questions that might turn a new partner away. Yet, relationships that are not challenged early on too often mask crucial information about past partnerships that could possibly signal what is likely to happen again. Because so many people fail to learn from past encounters, they are doomed to repeat patterns in each sequential relationship.
Nagging, constant questioning, pleas for reassurance, paranoia, skepticism, anxiety, and general pushiness too often accompany obsessive worries.
Those behaviors keep relationships immobilized in repetitious interactions that do not foster deeper trust or growing love. They become self-fulfilling prophecies, rendering the people who live those terrifying predictions helpless and hopeless.
It is crucial that people learn to separate out legitimate concerns from obsessive worry. If you have found yourself obsessing in your intimate relationships, begin by courageously examining the roots of your plaguing concerns about losing love. Look to your childhood upbringing, traumas of loss in the past, whether or not you are realistic about what to expect in a partner, and what is keeping you from developing trust in another.
Ask yourself if you have been accurate in your past relationships when you have been suspicious of your partner’s behaviors, or if your concerns were not based on reality.
Whatever you can learn about your obsessive thoughts and behaviors will help you take the next step to quieting them down.
If you conclude that your anxiety is based on fears of loss, you will feel better if you do not make a practice of prioritizing your intimate relationships above all others. Focusing on only one relationship to fulfill all of your needs will not give you the fallback comfort of knowing that there are other people who care for you in times of self-doubt or actual loss. If you suffer from innate anxiety, know that emotional reactivity is very responsive to mindfulness techniques, and to professional help. Many of my patients who learn to quell anxious responses automatically are more confident and comfortable in their intimate relationships.
Obsessive thinking can actually be more painful to the person experiencing it that to the partner on the other end.
Calm and non-reactive people who deeply love an anxious person can often weather that person’s distress without feeling the need to fix it, or responsible for having caused it. It still wears on a relationship because it takes away from the joys that cannot co-exist with it. It is crucial to the success potential of any relationship, that it is recognized and healed.
Here are some of the other articles I’ve written on Psychology Today Internet Blogs that might further help:
The 10 Rules of Love
20 Questions That Can Bring You Closer Together
Should you Rush into a Relationship?
The Myth of Romantic Expectations
Is This True Love?
Ten Important Questions You Should Ask a Potential Partner
Emotional Reactivity – The Bane of Intimate Communication
What Keeps Me From Changing?
Are You Controlled by Love?
Nagging or Avoiding Won’t Help you Find Love Again
When Should I have Told You? – Negative Surprises that Hurt Relationships
My book, “Relationship Saboteurs,” in the chapter titled, “Fear of Intimacy.”
Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com
New relationships are so intoxicating that you’d have to made of stone to refrain from obsessing about him.
It’s fun to let the imagination run wild, and as long as you can remind yourself occasionally that you are obsessed with a fantasy, I say go for it!
In the beginning it is a fantasy.
You simply don’t know enough to rationally evaluate the relationship potential. You are basically running on hormones. Hormones are a good predictor of mating, but a bad predictor of relationship success. Your thinking brain has to be engaged for that one. So let your emotions take you on that passionate early lust experience; just don’t make any promises or commitments to him or to yourself.
Obsessing beyond lets say the first 6 months could be a red flag.
Ask yourself if obsessing is the extent of the relationship. Have you not gotten enough buy-in from him to take the relationship to the next level? By this time you should know him well enough to determine if there is real relationship potential. If you don’t know, you may be having this relationship alone in your own head.
Sit down with yourself and review your criteria for a serious relationship.
Ask yourself if he can meet most of those criteria. Be brutally honest about this. “No but…” is a red flag. Admit to yourself that while there is great chemistry, there isn’t enough more than that to proceed with any reasonable chance of creating a committed relationship. If he’s not the one, move on. You will be able to look back fondly over those sexy good times you had, and avoid the pain and regret that comes when you ignore your head and let yourself go with wrong guy.
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com