Love is a powerful emotion that gives rise to feelings such as crush, infatuation, passion, and attachment. However, at times it could be perplexing to differentiate between obsession vs love.
According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, love can be defined as ‘a strong feeling of liking and caring for somebody or something, especially a member of your family or a friend (1) and obsession can be defined as ‘the state in which a person’s mind is completely filled with thoughts of one particular thing or person in a way that is not normal (2). These meanings indicate a clear difference between the two feelings, but most of the time, it doesn’t take long for love to turn into an obsession.
20 Differences Between Love And Obsession
If you feel your partner’s feelings for you are less of love and admiration and more of an obsession, look out for the following signs to be sure of their feelings.
1. They move fast in a relationship
When someone falls in love, they allow the relationship to bloom and flourish at its own pace. They will not rush to make it official, as they would want to see how the relationship develops. But someone obsessed with you will be afraid of losing you and insist on making your relationship official. Such behavior doesn’t constitute devotion and only shows their need to latch onto you.
2. They constantly do things for you
When in love, it is natural for your partner to pamper you and make you feel special occasionally. But when love becomes an obsession, your partner may constantly pamper you with gifts and surprises to keep you happy in a way that makes it difficult for you to abandon them. The supposed ‘acts of love’ are a bribe to keep you hooked in the relationship.
3. They seek frequent validation
It is normal for a partner to want to know what you feel about them. But if your partner often asks you what you think about them and seeks validation from you, it shows their obsessive-love tendency. It could be because they have been hurt in love before and see you as a prized possession that has to be protected at all cost. They seek frequent validation to ensure that their place in your life is secure.
4. They display extreme possessiveness
Initially, you might find it endearing to see your partner go green with envy whenever they see you with another person. A little possessiveness is a part of love. But if your partner starts snooping on you, checks your phone, and gets angry when you speak to another person, it shows their over-possessiveness. They are so afraid of losing you that they consider every other person a competition—that’s an obsession and not love.
5. They insist on keeping in contact almost all the time
It’s cute when your partner sticks with you at the beginning of a relationship. But what if your partner wants to maintain constant chat sessions even after months of dating? The constant need to be around or to text or call is an obsession because it shows that they think about you all day long. Such kind of attachment is unhealthy for both partners.
6. They control every aspect of your life
It is okay for a couple to seek each other’s opinions and advice on various matters. But if your partner is the sole decision-maker and decides everything for you, it indicates their obsessive behavior. That’s not love, and they want to control you and your life.
7. They demand to know your whereabouts
Call it love and care when you are working late, and your partner calls to check on you. But if they call you frequently, even when they know you are out with your friends, it is an obsession. They want to keep a tab on you and even feel upset when you fail to answer them. They check on you more out of addiction and less out of care.
8. They cannot stop thinking about you
It is normal for a partner to ask you how your day was and express their fondness for you and how much they miss you. But if they start thinking about you the whole day, wondering where you are and what you must be doing, it means they are obsessed with you.
This intense feeling and obsessive behavior is not unknown to Clara Bridges, a blogger who writes on wellness and shares her recovery journey of Borderline Personality Disorder in her blog. Narrating a personal experience, she says, “When I’m in this phase of an obsessive attachment, the other person becomes my entire world. They are my first thought upon waking and my last thought at night. They are a place (either in reality or in my head) that I escape to constantly and willingly, losing myself in every conceivable way (i).”
9. They stalk you online and even in real life
If your partner ever appears outside your office without informing you, it means they love you and like to surprise you. But if your partner often visits your office unannounced and even frequents the place to keep an eye on you, they are obsessed with you. They might even stalk you online and get angry when someone from the other sex likes or comments on your pictures or posts.
10. They may not share your happiness
Suppose you are asked to visit another city to give a speech and receive an award, a loving partner will be happy and encourage you to give your best speech ever. On the other hand, an obsessive partner will be less concerned about your speech and more worried, thinking you might meet someone and fall in love. They might even insist on accompanying you on your official trips.
11. They refrain from sharing genuine opinions
When in love, partners are not afraid of speaking their minds and sharing opinions. But a partner obsessed with you will only tell you things that will please you. They will even sugarcoat opinions to make you happy. Honesty is one of the foundation stones of a relationship. If that is missing, then your relationship is far from ideal.
12. They guilt-trip you for their benefit
It is normal for people to break up when they realize they are not compatible as a couple. But an obsessive lover does not know how to handle rejection. Tell them you want a break from them, and they will throw a fit. Ask them to break up with you, and they will threaten you, saying they’ll harm themselves if you ever decide to leave them. It is not easy to escape their obsessive love.
13. They promise to change their behavior
If you tell your obsessive partner you are tired of their behavior, they might probably promise to change themselves. They will swear to give up obsessing over you and might even keep their words for some time to keep you from leaving. But eventually, they might get back to their old ways.
14. They neglect their family and friends for you
When someone gets into a romantic relationship, it is natural for them to focus on it and temporarily ignore people who matter to them. Such a behavior lasts for some time and then gets back to normal. But it does not happen with an obsessive partner. They start ignoring people close to them to focus on you and never really get back to them. Slowly, they lose all their friends and even limit interaction with their family as their focus on you is what matters. Losing oneself for the partner is an obsession and not love.
15. They stop you from spending time with your loved ones
If your partner truly loves you, they will never refrain you from meeting your loved ones. They do not feel threatened if you choose to spend time with your friends and family over them. But the one who obsesses over you is suspicious and wants you to be with them all the time. They will forbid you from meeting your family and friends and instead make plans to spend time with them.
16. They abuse you physically and verbally
A true love relationship has no place for physical or verbal abuse. Even if both partners disagree over something, no one uses any force to have their way. But an obsessive lover cannot stand an objection. They will want you to conform to their wishes and exert pressure to make you yield. They will justify their actions by saying that either they were left with no choice or they did it for your good.
17. They do not trust you
In love, your partner trusts you whole-heartedly. They know that no matter how much time you spend away from them, you will always come back to them. Trust is absent in an obsessive relationship. No matter how much you assure them through words and actions, they will not have faith in you. They will always ask you for details of your whereabouts and might even want proof.
18. They are only concerned with their needs
Love is a two-way street where you and your partner ensure that your needs are fulfilled, and you both are happy. But an obsessive partner is only concerned with satisfying their needs. They do not care if the relationship makes you sick. All they want is control over you to have their way with you.
19. They put conditions on you
Love gives you freedom. A partner who loves you will never want to tie you down and will instead encourage you to chase your dreams and ambitions. A partner who is obsessed with you will shackle you with numerous conditions. They will hardly give you any choice and will bound you by time, place, and other elements.
20. They make you feel suffocated in the relationship
A couple in love always has respect for each other throughout their relationship. If your partner obsesses over you, your respect for them will erode gradually and might be replaced with anger and fear. Fear is especially prominent where there is any abuse involved. You start feeling trapped and wish to set free from them.
What Causes Obsessive Love?
Obsessive love is when someone feels an overwhelming, intense love that may come across as unhealthy. It often starts with a strong attraction and can grow into an excessive need for affection and attention from the loved one. This feeling can be caused by low self-esteem, where a person might feel they need someone else to feel complete or happy. Sometimes, past experiences, like feeling abandoned or having unstable relationships, can make someone more likely to develop obsessive love. In some cases, mental health issues like anxiety or personality disorders can also play a role. It’s important to remember that obsessive love is different from healthy love, as the former might lead to controlling behavior and emotional dependency.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can love be one-sided, or is that always an obsession?
Love becomes an obsession when a person cannot think beyond their object of affection. In one-sided love, a person may harbor affection for a person for years but still not be consumed by it in an unhealthy manner.
2. Can an obsession be healthy in a relationship?
Obsession of any kind is not healthy for a relationship. It can suffocate a person and erode the connection from within.
3. What are the dangers of confusing obsession with love?
When an obsession is confused with love, a person becomes susceptible to long-term abuse, loss of individualism, and lack of space and liberty. Yet, they mistake obsessive behavior for love and put up with it without complaints.
4. How does obsession impact the ability to have a healthy, long-term relationship?
Obsession causes a disbalance in a relationship as the reins of the relationship is in one person’s hands. The other person is left with no freedom, which eventually affects them mentally and physically, making it toxic for both partners.
5. Is it possible for an obsession to develop after years of being in a loving relationship?
Obsessive love is not identified as a medical condition. However, obsession could be an indicator of an underlying mental issue. It is possible that a sudden mental ailment could make the person obsessive about their partner years after being in a relationship.
6. Can obsession in a relationship ever be considered a positive thing?
No, obsession of any kind is not good, let alone obsession in love or a relationship.
Love is a powerful emotion that’s often confused with obsession. Although obsession isn’t always bad, it often makes a relationship suffocating and toxic. Thus, understanding this red flag is vital to identify if you are in a healthy relationship or not. Constantly seeking validation, always doing things for you, displaying extreme possessiveness, and putting conditions for the relationship are a few clear signs that your partner is obsessed with you. If you think your partner is obsessive, sit down with them and have a frank conversation. Do not hesitate to seek professional help if required.
Infographic: Ways To Avoid Obsession In A Relationship
Obsession is toxic for both partners. It blurs reasonable explanations and feeds into your insecurity, ultimately leading to hate for one another. So if the above signs are similar to what is happening in your relationship, learn how to deal with the obsession for a hopeful future with your partner.
- Love is a strong sense of fondness, whereas obsession is overflowing with thoughts only about the person.
- An obsessive person will rush you into things in a relationship, expect constant validation and are over-possessive.
- A person who’s in love with you will respect your boundaries and make an effort to keep you happy.
Discover the 5 key differences between love and obsession in this video! Learn how to tell if your feelings are real or if you’re just infatuated.