Obsession Vs. Love in a Relationship

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Love can sometimes be described as an obsession, especially in the beginning stages of a relationship. It can be challenging separating the two, but when the intensity of feelings starts to calm down, the difference between obsession and real love displays itself through partners' actions.

Blurry Line Between Love and Obsession

The early stages of love, which start as infatuation, can feel like an obsession: You can’t stop thinking about him and want to be with him all the time. That’s because love is like an addiction, according to biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher. What happens in your brain when you are in love looks similar to what happens in the brain of someone who is using cocaine. Because of the intensity of feelings you get while in love, the “addiction” to the feeling can be a bit of an obsession. However, the difference between the two is in how you deal with these emotions.

Obsessed With a Fantasy

An obsession can stem from an idealized version of someone you may not know well enough yet. The obsession is more with the idea of the person. You may spend most of your time fantasizing about how she may fit into your perfect life and end up projecting your ideal person onto her. A healthy, loving relationship is one in which you accept your partner’s weaknesses and still respect the person, according to Ann Smith’s “Psychology Today” article "The Reality of Love."

Obsession is Selfish, Sometimes Abusive

An obsession with someone is fueled by your own desires and low self-esteem. In “Confusing Love With Obsession: When Being in Love Means Being in Control,” therapist John D. Moore describes how some of the characteristics of an obsessive relationship stem from insecurities and can sometimes be abusive. A partner who constantly checks in with his girlfriend and monitors her whereabouts does so obsessively because his biggest fear is that she will leave him. A person who is obsessed is also likely to get depressed when the desired amount of attention from a partner is not received.

Love Goes Beyond Feelings

While obsession can stem from infatuation and focuses mostly on feelings, love is much more than that. Love can start off passionate and romantic, but when the honeymoon period is over, love is still there as affection, according to psychologist Mark E. Sharp. While obsession focuses on holding onto feelings, love is about showing that you care. True love in relationships is shown through little, everyday actions, such as doing chores or giving massages to your partner on a stressful day.