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Love or Obsession? On Understanding the Massive Difference Between Them

Submitted by on November 2, 2017 – 6:29 PM

1494827007-obsesiLove is a pure feeling of affection towards someone. It could be for your parents, siblings, friends or any other person who is important to you. On the other hand, obsession is the idealization of a person in your own thoughts rather than acceptance of their weaknesses and flaws. There is a fine line between a love and unhealthy obsession; when you truly love a person, you accept them the way they are, but obsession only allows you to accept them when they follow the pre-written script of behavior as you were expecting from them.


We are often unable to differentiate between selfless love and unhealthy obsession; however, certain signs can help us to identify whether what we feel is true love, or an obsession.


According to Elizabeth Arthur, there are 12 signs of true love:


  1. Give love wholeheartedly and do not expect or desire anything in return.
  2. Seeing them happy and laughing makes your day, no matter how hard it was before.
  3. You may be hurt due to your partner but you cannot stay mad at them for a very long period of time.
  4. You make sacrifices to make them happy.
  5. You make an effort to improve your relationship and make him/her feel special.
  6. You cannot imagine hurting your partner or cannot abuse them in any way.
  7. When you make a promise, you always stick by your words. If a person is important to you, you will fulfill your promise.
  8. No matter how you may grow as individuals, you both envision each other by your side whenever you talk about the future. So, rather than using “I” or “me”, you use “we”.
  9. You always provide a helping hand to your partner whenever needed rather than focusing on your own problems.
  10. You beam with pride whenever they achieve something. Even if it makes them more successful, jealousy is not part-and-parcel of your relationship.
  11. You are ready to suffer just to make them happy.
  12. Whenever you are making a decision, you always keep them and their perspective in mind.


When obsession controls or directs us, it steals our self-control and pleasure of life. We become emotionless towards individuals, things and events, while our mind repeats the same conversations, pictures or words. In any discussion, we express minimal interest in what others are saying and mainly stay focused on what we have to say, convinced that our point-of-view will have a greater impact on the listener.


Obsession comprises of various types. It is either an inherited behavior or learned from the surroundings. According to Darlene Lancer, obsession is derived from unrealistic portrayal in TV, movies or songs which direct an individual to idealize their partner, at which point the actual problem arises.


In the initial stages of obsession, you retain control of yourself and are able to distract yourself, whereas in intense stages, it possesses your mind. And to achieve that obsession, the individual acts accordingly. This is called compulsion; compulsive behavior includes repeated checking of messages, emails or scouting of your loved one. These types of acts have the potential to ruin our lives such that we waste countless hours, lose sleep, and bypass moments of joy.


According to Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, a person suffering from obsessive disorder tends to stop his/her activities and may cut off other social relationships and become incapacitated with being unable to work. They will become addicted to the object of their obsession and spend inordinately more time with it. This unhealthy obsession may lead to harmful behaviors, such as controlling money, food, stalking or even violence. It is difficult to set limits and boundaries to such obsessive behaviors.


In a new, loving relationship, it’s normal to think about your loved one to a certain degree, but becoming obsessed with partner creates jealousy and damages the relationship. According to Eric Charles, sometimes our obsession gives us a pleasurable feeling in the form of romance, sex or power, but an expression of desperate need to bond and reduce personal loneliness and inner desolation results in weakening of the relationship and causes the other person to walk away. Conversely, real love includes accepting the person the way they are and not expecting them to change.


True love is hard to find — that is why people mistake unhealthy obsession for love without realizing that it could also ruin their lives and detach them from reality. To treat obsession, it is necessary to highlight the core issues which lead to obsessive love. A quote states: “These people are obsessive, they go overboard interpreting verbal and behavioral cues that make them way beyond reality.” This obsessive love is most common in teenagers; as they are more curious about their love life, they lack the maturity and patience to differentiate between true love and unhealthy obsession.


We can decrease the chances of obsession or manage it through efforts to keeping ourselves busy in activities such as listening to music, watching movies, reading books, and sports. Parents should be communicative enough to talk to their children about what is going on in their lives, and partners should give each other personal time and personal space rather than trying to control each other.




Arthur, E. 12 Real Signs of True Love in a Relationship – Lovepanky. LovePanky – Your Guide to Better Love and Relationships.


Casimong, S. Obsession Vs. Love in a Relationship. Our Everyday Life.


Charles, E. The Difference Between True Love and Unhealthy Obsession.


Gunther, R., Brown, K., McDonald, B., Marshall, S., Patterson, A., & Cicippio, B. et al. (2014). How To Differentiate Healthy Love From Obsession – How To Win a Man’s Heart. How To Win a Man’s Heart.


Is It Love or Obsession?. (2016). PairedLife.


Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, M. (2016). Obsessive Love Disorder: Behavior, Symptoms & Treatment – Page 2. MedicineNet



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