A Therapist Reveals Three Signs Of An Obsessive Partner
Being able to tell when passion evolves into the realm of unhealthy obsession requires a keen understanding of the psychological factors at play.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | November 5, 2023
Passion is a valued personality trait. We are inspired by people who wear passion on their sleeves and we do our best to bring passion into our own endeavors. When it comes to love, having a passionate relationship is often viewed as the pinnacle of romantic experience.
One study found that “zest,” or the ability to approach situations with excitement and energy, is top on the list of helpful character strengths when approaching everyday challenges. Other research has found passion to have strong ties to life satisfaction.
However, psychologists will tell you there’s a fine line between passion and obsession. For one, they both qualify as “hot” emotional states—characterized by intense emotions such as alertness, excitedness and elation as opposed to “cool” emotions like relaxation, calm and serenity. The same traits that lead someone to be the inspiring person who goes all in on the things they care about can, in certain cases, turn towards mania, rumination, insecurity and impulsiveness.
Here are three things to keep an eye on if you fear your romantic partner or someone you care about might be acting obsessively, and what you can do about it.
1. Multiple Interests Or Hobbies Dwindle To One Preoccupation
When a person’s range of interests suddenly narrows down to a single preoccupation, it could be a sign of obsessive behavior. Whether it's a hobby, activity, or even thoughts focused on one subject, the shift from versatility and breadth to narrow fixations may indicate an unhealthy level of obsession. This intense concentration might lead to neglect of other essential aspects of life.
What you can do: Encourage a broad range of activities and interests. Suggest revisiting abandoned hobbies or discovering new ones together. Open communication about the shift in focus is crucial. Understanding the reasons behind this narrowed attention can pave the way for finding a healthier balance.
2. They Become “Stuck” On One Thing You Did Or Said
Obsessive individuals might fixate on specific actions or words, replaying them in their minds and out loud incessantly. This fixation could range from positive experiences to perceived slights or misunderstandings. This tendency to get “stuck” on certain aspects of their relationship may lead to persistent questioning, seeking reassurance or even holding onto grudges.
What you can do: Promote open dialogue about their feelings and try not to become upset by the focus of their obsessive thoughts, even if they are accusatory. If the fixation persists, seeking professional guidance from a therapist may help you and your partner.
3. Their Self-Care Routines Begin To Fall By The Wayside
When an individual becomes excessively focused on someone or something, their own well-being may take a backseat. This neglect is evident when self-care routines, such as proper nutrition, adequate sleep and regular exercise, start to decline. Obsessive thoughts or behaviors may consume so much time and energy that maintaining personal health becomes secondary.
What you can do: Initiate conversations about self-care and well-being. Encourage the importance of maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Support your partner in prioritizing self-care routines and find time for activities that promotes their overall well-being. If needed, consider seeking professional help to address the underlying issues contributing to the neglect.
While passion is a vibrant and essential aspect of any relationship, recognizing when it tips into unhealthy obsession is crucial. Open communication, understanding and a willingness to seek professional help can be instrumental in navigating these situations. Remember, fostering a healthy and balanced connection requires mutual respect and a shared commitment to emotional well-being.
If you’re unsure whether the problems you’re facing in your relationship are a cause for serious concern, you can start to gain clarity by taking this test here: Relationship Satisfaction Scale