love relationships sex men women gender marriage sexuality emotions intimacy, romance, Sexuality

Is It Love Or Obsession?

Obsession or love? We often can't tell by just looking.

With so many chick-flicks, and love-songs battering our subconscious on every side, I’ve come to the conclusion that many of us may have become addicts or junkies. What is it that consumes us? An idea about an all-encompassing, all-consuming, larger-than-life love, for which we will climb any mountain or delve into any valley; this occupies many of our waking (and sleeping) moments. Lest you think I’m some jaded, jilted, pessimist, nothing could be farther from the truth. I, in fact, count myself as one of those true-blooded romantics, baptised in the fires of traditional Mills and Boons and Harlequin Romance novels which fed us girls a steady diet of romantic expectations. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

In fact, I can say without the shadow of a doubt, that, I do so believe in love. I also think that there is a fine line between the type of love that springs form a healthy sense of self, and the obsession or infatuation which characterises many of our modern romances. Yes, as human beings designed for deep connection and intimacy, we all have this driving need to find that special someone. This I believe is instinctive and entirely necessary for the survival of the human family. Such love can be huge, all-encompassing and even self-sacrificing; and this is all well and good when such proceeds from a place of wholeness.

Our individual stories however, can greatly impact how we are able to process this need. Failure to deal with experiences of parental abandonment, rejection, low self-esteem, childish romanticised expectations, independence and identity issues, can all result in a misconstruction of this thing called love. What often results is a series of “false-love” behaviours which are more characteristic of an obsessive infatuation, than of a healthy love. Whether or not these infantile emotional responses can mature into a real adult love; will be contingent upon things like, introspection, reflection, openness to counselling and healing of painful emotional memories.

While the following lists are not exhaustive or prescriptive, they are intended to shake up our thinking in this area called love and romance. Perhaps this will lead us towards redefining certain elements of our intimate relationships as we seek to emerge a greater sense of balance in the way we choose to “live out” our love lives as we move into a new year.

  • Your personality becomes subsumed in your “love-interest” to the extent that you lose your sense of identity and individuality
  • You fear angering/displeasing your partner so much that you will not voice your personal opinions or convictions
  • Thoughts of your girlfriend/boyfriend ONLY, occupy your every waking moment
  • On a daily basis, you are unable to function unless you have heard your partner’s voice or seen him or her
  • You are disinterested in events/activities if your love-interest is not there or involved in such events
  • Your love’s interests/hobbies must become your interests and vice-versa
  • Your love’s personal beliefs and convictions become your own
  • You feel insecure if your partner makes new friends, especially of the opposite sex
  • You develop “show and tell” rituals like kissing or saying “I love you” in public, to stake your claim on your partner as opposed to these things being real, spontaneous demonstrations of love
  • You are deeply dependent on your partner for a sense of fulfilment or wholeness; without him/her, you feel like nothing
  • You have a deep-seated, often unspoken fear, that your partner will desert you for someone else and this influences several of the above mentioned behaviours

  • You can appreciate your lover’s unique personality but treasure dearly your own
  • You are sensitive to your partner’s feelings but can still hold to your personal beliefs even when they differ from your partner’s
  • Your love is more often in your thoughts but so are thoughts of other friends and family to whom you are also committed
  • You do appreciate the assurance of hearing from your boyfriend/girlfriend but can remain focussed on work or personal tasks even if you have not
  • If your partner has a special interest or hobby you don’t feel obligated to try it but can pursue your own interests independently
  • You probably share core values and beliefs but there is no compulsion to adopt your love’s every personal belief or conviction if they are not currently your own
  • You feel free to mingle with other friends or even to hang with friends from work/school periodically even if your partner is not there, (while preserving appropriate boundaries of course)
  • Demonstrations of love, whether public or private, are meaningful and innocently done to display love to your loved one and not to “show off” to friends and family
  • While you love your partner dearly, you know who you are and do not “need” them to feel whole or complete
  • You are secure in the fact that you are special, you believe you deserve to be loved and you trust your partner to lov


When all is said and done, there is admittedly, a fine line between love and obsession. From Jordan Sparks’ “No Air” to Beyonce’s “Halo”, popular music has been masquerading obsessive, dependent emotions as true love. When we marry these notions with the reality of our dysfunctional pasts, is it any wonder that we have jaded ideas about what love really means?  Whatever the case, I am in no way suggesting that those of us with a pre-dominance of column 1 traits, are entirely hopeless. Even in the midst of “infatuation” the tiny seeds which CAN LEAD to a more mature love have hopefully been planted. When this has not been the case, however, there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting go a purely obsessive relationship. Sometimes a relationship is wrong because emotionally and spiritually, we are just not ready.

Individuals who are caught in the throes of ‘losing themselves’ need therefore to carefully reassess why they may feel, act or think the way they do. It may mean opening up to a trusted mature friend, counsellor or Pastor who can guide them towards self-discovery and spiritual healing. Sometimes this may also involve letting go of childhood pain, past relationship disappointments or may even include forgiving a parent or past partner for their rejection. Yes, emotional baggage is the stuff obsession is made of! We therefore need to be bold enough to confront unhealthy behaviour which we recognise in ourselves or our partners. Ultimately, the true love for a lifetime which we all crave, is a well, thought-out decision, which should proceed from a place of completeness.

1 thought on “Is It Love Or Obsession?”

  1. well done and blogged, i completely found a reference material for my audience. how nice of you to give the paraphrased version of the differences… a mean , its very easy to follow up on those examples and leads. great writing.


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