We have all seen movies depicting bizarre, stalking, and obsessive behavior being acted out on screen. However, we often fail to recognize these same behaviors being played out in our own lives. I think this is due in part to making one’s actions more overt, obvious, and bizarre on screen as the goal of movies depicting obsessive behavior is to convey to the audience the behavior is toxic, typically within the span of an hour and a half. In “real life” the actions of those that are obsessed are subtler, thoughtful, and gradually escalating in nature. Relationships that involve an obsessive partner not only creates anxiety, tension, sadness, depression, etc., for those that are obsessed but extends to the target of the obsession as well. Obsessive behaviors in a relationship can interfere with the couples’ communication, intimacy, trust, and the overall quality of the relationship.
Here are a few signs you may be involved in an obsessive relationship:
Displaying love insecurity- constantly questioning whether your partner loves you
Constantly questioning relationship- reassessing and doubting quality and purpose
Looking for partner physical flaws- Constantly picking on or pointing out your partners perceived physical flaws, taunting, and baiting partner
Stalking behavior- following, tracking checking up on partners every move
Invading partner’s privacy- going through partner’s cell phone, mail, email, computer, etc.
While it is normal to have thoughts your partner may not be as authentic or honest as you would like them to be, once it begins to interfere with everyday functioning then there is a problem. The problem begins when the obsessed behaviors become so extreme they can no longer manage them, i.e., instead of focusing on work he or she is consumed with thoughts of their partner that does not allow them to be productive, leaving work early to spy on partner, neglecting family and friends in an effort to “catch” partner cheating, etc. People that are obsessed in relationships also have unwanted thoughts even when there is no rational reason to question the relationship (i.e., their partner really does love them). Thoughts and behaviors such as this can l lead to a hostile, combative relationship with several break-ups and make-ups. Obsession carried out in relationships can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy if the symptoms end up pushing a partner away. The target of obsession in a relationship may well feel so absorbed in the bizarre world of their partner that it feels like they share the obsession with them. However, are also those that are obsession target in a relationship that carry feelings of resentment, especially if they have been restricted in their life and their enjoyment of certain things has been affected. The best way to manage obsessive behaviors is to seek treatment, identify the source of the behavior, i.e., what perpetuates and fuels the behavior in an effort minimize and or eliminate the behaviors.
Katherine & Alan
Katherine & Alan have been in a relationship for 3 years, things have been going well until a young, very attractive woman was paired with Alan at work. Katherine is 10 years older than Alan and has been very sensitive about the age difference since they started the relationship. One day Katherine decides to surprise Alan by bringing him lunch at work, but she was surprised when she entered the building to see Alan engrossed in a conversation with his attractive colleague. Feeling intense insecurity and jealousy, Katherine began to question if Alan was still committed to their relationship. She began questioning Alan’s love for her, going through his cell phone, emails, and showing up at his job unannounced. Katherine spends her days consumed with thoughts that Alan is cheating on her with his coworker.