Confusing Love with Obsession? Know the Warning Signs
Do You Drive Men Away?
Do you have a history of driving perfectly good men out of your life? Do you have a pattern of trying to control your man in ways that cause him to flee?
Are you so consumed with his whereabouts that you engage in behaviors that many would consider to be stalking? Have other men walked out on you because they couldn't handle your controlling, manipulative behaviors?
If you answered yes to these questions, then it may be time for a serious gut check.
To keep it real, it is only normal to be a little jealous once in a while, particularly if you are involved with a guy that is super attractive and gets a lot of attention. And If you have had a man cheat on you in the past, the issue of trust becomes understandably compounded. For many, the chance at love holds acceptable risks, like getting romantically attached to a guy who has "Hollywood" level good looks. But there does exist a fine line between love, jealousy and obsession.
Here is a quote from an expert who has studied this topic extensively.
"If being in love means being in constant pain, you are confusing love with obsession. If being in love means living in constant fear of him cheating, you are confusing love with obsession. And if being in love means becoming isolated from your friends and family members because you are consumed him, you are definitely confusing love with obsession"
To better understand the construct of love and how this differs from obsession, I decided to interview the person who said these very words, an expert in the field of love and relationships.
Interview with Dr. John Moore
Moore is author of the popular book, Confusing Love with Obsession. He holds a PhD in Psychology from Northcentral University and teaches courses in human behavior and health sciences at American Military University. As a Chicago therapist, his firm Guy Counseling provides consulting and training services to people and organizations on health and wellness, including some Hollywood celebrities. Moore’s work has been featured in Web MD, Cosmo and ABC Television.
I recently sat down with this super sexy doctor and consultant to the stars in an interview before he left California for a flight back to Chicago. We met at a the 101 Coffee Shop in the Hollywood Hills just off Franklin Street. Easy to talk to and relaxed, I pressed the Doctor for answers to questions on love and obsession.
Let's Jump Right In
Can we really create a definition of love?
Scholars have been trying to define love for centuries. Folks like me who study human behavior have tried to offer a clinical definition for decades. Love comes in many forms and is experienced among and between people in different ways. An example might be maternal love, whereby a mother has love for her child. We also have love that occurs for someone we care for, such as a friend or family member And then we romantic love – which is experienced between two individuals and involves intense passion. Romantic love usually is transformative if it is mutual felt by two people and is long lasting.
Let’s Stick with Romantic Love. Can You Define That Term?
It sounds like you are looking for a clinical description [laughs]. Here is my 25 cent definition according to research that has been underway for some time now.
Romantic Love is a multi-factorial phenomenon that involves an intense attraction towards another with emotional, psychological and physiological features.
That sounded kind of clinical didn’t it? Sorry but you asked for it [laughs].
So what is the difference between loving someone and being obsessed with them?
That is a great question. Perhaps it is easier to look at this through the lens of chemistry. When we look at love and obsession from 30,000 feet, there are chiral elements involved, meaning that they look similar to one another but are very much different. I call it a kind of chiral love.
In healthy love, there is an intense attraction towards another that involves passion. When and if a relationship evolves, based on mutual feelings, that love transforms into a companionate type or love. In this scenario, two people have mutually shared feelings towards one another, to a lesser or greater degree and are supportive of each other. Love can be considered healthy here because it is nurturing, supportive, giving and affirming. Both people trust one another in ways that are spoken and unspoken.
Is the Quality of Sex an Indication of Passionate Love?
While sex may be an important aspect of love in the beginning of the relationship, it becomes less important over the long term. By this I mean there is more than a physical attraction that sustains the romantic relationship. And so to answer your question, the quality of sex needs to measured through the lens of time. In the beginning of a relationship, its not uncommon to experience fireworks [laughs] for the first couple of years. After awhile though, there needs to be a lot more than a bedroom connection for anything lasting to occur. If all that exists are the fireworks, then we need to assess if this is an unhealthy kind of love. This is particularly true if a low degree of trust exists and a high degree of jealousy with an emphasis on physical attraction. The Greeks called this "Eros" or "erotic" love.
And what about Obsessive Love or Unhealthy Love as you Put It?
Unhealthy love, such as what we see in an obsession, is really not love at all. Instead, it is a caustic condition whereby a person has intrusive thoughts about another and is unable to focus on much else except that individual.Unfounded concerns about cheating, emotional infidelity and the like are usually at play. This is where you see the ugliness kick in with controlling behaviors, like making a person continually account for their whereabouts, monitoring their every move and otherwise not trusting them. It's a terrible downward vortex because the more they experience feelings of anxiety, the more they try to control.
And so typically, you will see that a person obsessed with another has in many ways become addicted to them and usually will have many elements of codependency in the mix. Relationships that are obsessive in nature usually never bode well for the long term. They are too caustic.
What makes them caustic?
Well, mostly because of the high degree of control we see, usually exerted by one individual on another. Trust in the other person simply is not there. Another feature is that the obsessed person does not know how to let go of an individual or the intrusive thoughts. They can become physically ill when they are not with that person or in close proximity of that person. As you can imagine, this is a real problem for all parties involved.
Have You Ever with a Love Interest
That Kind of Sounds like the Movie Fatal Attraction
Ummmm [laughs] I think that is a fairly good example for sure. I’ve also heard people use the movie Misery as an example … but that one involves a fan of a writer. The plots in both of those movies involve someone developing an unhealthy and even delusional attachment towards another.
So Are You Saying a Person Who is Obsessed with Someone is Delusional?
I think I would feel more comfortable saying that for some people, delusions can be part of the dynamic. Each person is different and so I am leery of lumping folks into the clinical pile. And so if a person is concerned if they are obsessed with someone vs. being in love with that person, I would suggest that take a look at their relational history and look for patterns.
What Kinds of Patterns are you Talking About?
Typically, a person who is obsessed with another does not find themselves experiencing that kind of situation for the first time. Almost always, there is a pattern at play that involves four different stages. These stages include the attraction phase, the anxious phase, the obsessive phase and finally, the destructive phase – which I illustrate in my book through the Obsessive Love Wheel.
I’ve seen that Wheel on Wikipedia. What Made You Create That?
To me, the wheel made sense. For people who are obsessed with another person, it is a lot like being on a wheel. Sometimes that wheel turns slowly … and other times quickly. The wheel however is always turning. For many people, the only way to get off that wheel is to jump onto a new one, which is really a metaphor for a disastrous relationship.
Signs You May Be Obsessed
- Constant monitoring of a love interest
- Inability to focus on daily activities
- Isolation from friends and family
- Paranoid behaviors about cheating
- Controlling behaviors that can be extreme
- Irrational fears of abandonment
What Can a Person Do if They Think they are Obsessed with their Boyfriend?
First, it is important for that person to not judge themselves and get into a place of self-loathing. Second, the person should try to recognize that something unhealthy is going on and that they may need to speak to someone for support, guidance and insight. Here I am talking about a helping professional, such as a psychotherapist. Third, the person should try to learn more about their historical attachment style. Articles and books on this topic are bountiful.
Can Controlling Behaviors Drive a Boyfriend Away?
Sadly. yes and they often do. Hard to hear that for some people I am sure but it's true. The obsessed person usually will be involved in a number of controlling behaviors, such as continually asking their boyfriend where they have been, making unfounded accusations of cheating, snooping through their cellphone, check calling them at work and going through their email. Stalking also counts as a controlling behavior.
Any and all of these behaviors can drive a boyfriend away ... [pause] ...they can also drive a way a girlfriend, wife or husband. The person being controlled gets sick and tired of all of the drama, ugliness and heartache and simply decides to leave.
Sounds Like it Gets Ugly Real Fast?
For many people, it sure does. The paradox of course is this [pause] ... the very thing the obsessed person does not want to happen, meaning a break up, happens because they cause it. They are so consumed with monitoring and controlling their boyfriend, for example, that they do not realize how destructive their behaviors are to the relationship. And for the boyfriend boyfriend, he usually indicates he is miserable, feels trapped and very unhappy...[pause]... let me be clear hear and say that [with emphasis] women and men engage in these behaviors. In fact, the research shows men become a lot more controlling than women in romantic relationships.
And so this is why I have always said that confusing love with obsession is an equal opportunity destroyer and is gender neutral. It destroys straight relationships and it destroys gay relationships. It does not discriminate.
Can you recommend any particular reading?
Sure, but that is a bit of a loaded question [laughs]. Obviously, there is my book however, there are many books out there which I would highly recommend. First, is Susan Forward’s book, Obsessive Love. Second, I would recommend Addiction to Love by Peabody. Codependent No More by Beattie is helpful. Learning more about the cause of the distrust and need to control is an important step towards the path of healing.
Obsessive Love Wheel
What Made You Write Your Book?
Years ago, I found myself in a situation where I had developed an unhealthy attachment towards another. There were few books available at the time, particularly for men, and so I decided to do some research.What was out there seemed to involve a lot of male bashing, which kind of made no sense. My own experiencing has been that both women and men can have problems crushing on another and that crushing turning into something unhealthy, like obsession.
At any rate, human psychology has always fascinated me and particularly this condition all of us seem to experience at one time or another called love.
You are Pretty Young and Down to Earth. When Did you Write Confusing Love with Obsession?
You are a funny guy [laughs]. I wrote that book when I was just barely 33 years old.Sometimes I find it hard to even say that.
Are You Surprised at How Your Book has Taken Off - Has it Changed You?
Yes, I am very surprised - and very humbled by it [laughs]. I'm super lucky to have such interest in the book, particularly from younger people. The case studies are written in everyday, plain-speak and avoids all of the clinical jargon - which a lot of people appreciate. It's been featured in magazines like Cosmo and publications all over the world. Someone even made a video about it set to anime that I think you are featuring. None of this has changed me though - I still wear jeans and an old t-shirt [laughs] and shop for things on sale.
If I get the chance. I try to get to California as much as possible and hit the beach ... and surf, chillax and all that.
How much do you work with Hollywood Celebrities in Your Practice?
Enough to know that I can't talk about it [laughs].
Thanks for Your Time Dr. Moore. It was Great Chatting!
You bet [pause] and thanks for the opportunity! [laughs]
End of Interview