When It Hurts to Let Go!
Despite it’s name, romantic obsession is pretty much the opposite of love. With its roots in the darker side of human behavior, it is much more like an addiction than anything else.
When we obsess over a romantic partner, we essentially put that person on a pedestal and won’t let them come down. We make them more important than us, while also setting that important person up to let us down in the long run.
We tell ourselves that this person is our ‘everything’. But don’t be fooled by how romantic this might sound at first — this is a self-destructive trap.
Helene Philipsen is a Life Transformation Specialist based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She works with women worldwide who are passionate about nourishing their body, mind and soul — but are struggling to find the right path. As a recovered emotional eater, Helene knows all about addiction, obsession, and self-destructive behaviour.
So I interviewed Helene about romantic obsession to get her insights on why obsessions manifest, and most importantly, how to break out of this trap.
Q: Let’s begin at the beginning… What does this situation look like from the outside? And how does it feel to be in an obsessive relationship?
Helene: To look at this kind of relationship from the outside in, as an observer, you would immediately notice an imbalance.
The person who is “in love” will have a very weak sense of self, which may manifest as neediness, clinginess, or a lack of opinion. They may agree with everything their partner says, even without knowing their partner very well.
They may appear to be very dedicated and will almost as a rule use “we” instead of “I” when speaking of their opinions, activities and especially their decisions.
When you look at the person who is the object of the obsession, they may seem happy in the early stages of the relationship. Hell, it may look like a fairy tale romance. They may even seem to have their cake and eat it — even if their cake is a little ‘smothery’!
However, the obsessive partner will feel terribly insecure all the time. Whether she actually has his attention or not, she will not feel satisfied and will over analyze everything that happens. She will likely read incorrect meanings into things and attribute qualities and character traits to the man of her choice, which he probably doesn’t have. And yes, she will most likely exhaust herself trying to please her partner.
Q: Where does romantic obsession start?
Helene: Just like many self-destructive behaviors, I’m sure this will come as no surprise to hear that it all begins in childhood.
Having a weak sense of self is a known culprit. Also, a tendency to fantasize or deflect attention onto others is associated with this behavior.
You may have heard the term ‘attachment style’ from the psychology world. And in particular, unhealthy or insecure attachment is relevant here. In a nutshell, this is about the way we form relationships, and is heavily influenced by the experiences we had with our primary caregivers as young children.
A romantic obsession is often borne out of a very unhealthy attachment style acquired in childhood.
Q: So how does romantic attachment begin to manifest?
Helene: These relationships tend to become very intense and committed very quickly. Just like with any addiction, the partner of the obsessive person essentially eases or numbs a pain for that person, but they cannot cure it. An obsessive, whirlwind romance is essentially a big distraction from personal pain.
Q: So then of course it starts to go bad pretty quickly?
Helene: Very! Romantic obsession is based in FEAR. An insecurely or unhealthily attached relationship style is all about insecurity and the fear of being alone, rejected or abandoned.
I mentioned earlier that this is an addiction-like behavior. So let’s take a look at it through that lens for a moment. A drug addict fears running out of their drug of choice. When they can no longer pay for that drug, they often turn to crime, going to any lengths, even hurting people, to make sure they get their next fix.
Fear trumps common sense, morals, and even human compassion.
So, keeping in mind how powerful fear and addiction are — what might be going through the mind of a romantic obsessive when the object of his or her affection triggers their fear?
“What if they leave me?”
“What if they stop loving me?”
“What if that other person steals them away?”
Comparison, paranoia, jealousy… then abject terror at the thought of being left alone. This is when the romantic obsessive person’s’s behavior changes, and for the object of that person’s obsession, their world can start to crumble around them.
Q: Okay, so how can we break out of this situation? Are there steps, or particular help that we can seek out?
Helene: There sure is. Breaking out of an obsessive pattern and learning how to become emotionally free is the key to recovery from this one. So here are a few steps to take.
1. Firstly, we need to get really honest about our emotional state. It sounds like a cliché, but you really do need to own your issues.
2. It takes a bit of time, but we need to work on believing that we deserve our emotional freedom.
3. Start engaging in activities that you have abandoned to solely focus on your “love” object. Reconnect with the world through stuff YOU enjoy doing. Call good people in your life who are doing well and are emotionally healthy. And if you are feeling very depressed or practising self-harm go to a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) meeting. You will find them online.
4. To help with step number two, which is about reclaiming our right to be emotionally free, the fourth step is about practising vulnerability and self-care. I’m sorry, but you are going to need to ‘feel’ your feelings, as tough as that might be. And you have to start caring for yourself in every sense of the word. Rest well, nourish yourself, move your body every day, and stop the self-destructive stuff.
5. A change in the company you keep can be a HUGE help. Welcoming healthy people who do not wallow in our misery with us is also a choice that will help us break free.
“Surround yourself with people who have your back, not who hold you back.”
Finally, don’t be afraid to focus on yourself more. When we take back the focus to ourselves, our self-worth worth no longer depends on the outcome of our relationship with another person. We are worthy no matter what. We are loved no matter what.
Do you want to learn more about breaking out of romantic obsession and other self-destructive behaviors?
Helene and I are getting together again online to continue this discussion, and to pool our knowledge on breaking destructive patterns.
If you are ready to leave some old, unhelpful behaviors behind you then sign up here to join our Talk: http://bit.ly/2u42LnK
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on August 13, 2017.