Are You In an Obsessive Relationship?

As a physician, I've seen many patients who felt trapped in obsessive relationships. They can't stop thinking of someone. They can't stop checking their phones to see if he/she texted. A great part of their consciousness is devoted to ruminating about what this person is doing or not doing and they are afraid of losing the person. These obsessive/possessive relationships can be very painful.

I discuss this topic at length in my new book The Ecstasy of Surrender. In the book I emphasize that bonding with a partner is a natural part of getting to know someone and of falling in love. But getting overly attached goes beyond healthy bonding and is disempowering. When you truly love someone you’re not interested in possessing the person or keeping him or her in your clutches because you’re afraid of losing the relationship. Instead, you respect your partner’s autonomy and spirit. You’re not too entangled, by standing together side by side. True intimacy is always a balance between bonding and letting go so the relationship can breathe.

Take the following quiz to determine your obsessive patterns.

Quiz: Are You Overly Attached to a Partner?

  • Do you cling to your partner?
  • Do you want to possess him or her?
  • Are you often afraid of being abandoned or betrayed?
  • Do you get anxious when you don’t hear from him or her every day?
  • Do you constantly think about the person?
  • Do you start obsessing about a partner after you have sex?
  • Does your partner feel you are trying to control or suffocate him or her?
  • Do you feel you can’t live without the person?

How to interpret this quiz: 6-8 yeses indicate that you are extremely overly attached. 3-5 yeses indicate that you are moderately overly attached. 1-3 yeses indicate that you have a tendency to overly attach. A score of zero indicates that you have healthy bonding with your partner.

First to deal with an obsession you have to seize control of your thoughts and mind. Then consciously change your thinking from unwholesome thoughts to constructive positive ones. It is very important to consciously shift out of the obsession using your will to do this.

An aspect of myself that I’ve made progress in healing is my tendency to get overly attached to men. During sex I bond quickly and fuse with a man but I can’t un-fuse with him later. I start yearning for him and thinking about him constantly. Some of this is organic and beautiful, but becoming overly attached crosses a line. I can become obsessed and intensely hungry for contact particularly if I’ve been single for a while.

I am a sexual being so, after I haven’t had sex for a while, I can become needy compared to when I have an ongoing connection with a loving partner. Being in this position makes me (and many women) vulnerable to getting overly attached. For instance, if I don’t hear from this man for a few days--I can get anxious and afraid of losing him or of being abandoned. It’s not good for me, and moreover, most men don’t appreciate this kind of response. So in my tantric sexuality sessions and in therapy, I discovered how to enjoy passion from a more grounded place. Here’s how:

  1. I learned that over-merging with a romantic partner without a pause can decrease the erotic charge. It actually can be more erotic and intimate to go in and out of intense connection with a partner, rather than sustaining it. This gives both lovers their space and more breathing room.
  2. I don’t “root” in a man, but root primarily in myself and the earth. One way I do this before and after lovemaking is to visualize my body developing roots into the soil like a tree. I’m still surrendered to and immersed in pleasure, but I also keep a fuller sense of myself intact later. I’m able to separate from him and more comfortably see us as separate beings.
  3. After lovemaking or to deal with possessiveness in intimacy, I also find it useful to meditate with my partner and then say to each another, “I adore you. I honor you. I release you.” This is a healthy way to bond while not excessively attaching or fixating. It produces a beautiful equilibrium of loving.

The solution to not becoming overly attached or possessive is to focus on strengthening your self-esteem while addressing and releasing fears, including the fear of abandonment, which can cause the need to cling. Working with a skilled relationship therapist or coach can be productive. Also you can practice the three tantric techniques that I described above. These will help you develop autonomy and grounding. Being willing to surrender the tendency to overly attach in favor of healthily bonding will allow you to have more joyous and pleasurable relationships without the pain of obsession.

Adapted from The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life Harmony Books, 2014 by Judith Orloff MD


Eyewitness 28th August 2014 1:10 pm

For discussion purposes, I sometimes like to look at things from a different perspective because I find it helps me to grow. It may interest you to know that there are people here who have never had a relationship and never will. We live life differently from those who go from one failed experiment to another, never noticing that the whole thing is unnecessary. Surely there is value in being by yourself, in learning to love who you are and in doing something more with your day than expressing personality and filing every hour with mundane attempts to avoid being unhappy or alone?? Does not the ego bask in being perceived as 'happy' and 'successful'? To 'not be liked' is universally frowned upon... while being adored and happy is a sure sign we are 'enlightened' and doing what were 'supposed to be doing'. I wonder if people would be embarassed to realize that all they're really doing is darting around subconsciously begging others to validate them so they can be sure they matter in the world?? Surely this is not the goal? It looks a bit silly to this reader. :) Just saying.

Marymorce 29th August 2014 2:43 am

I think there is no specific time for the "obsessive relationships" I have experience such obsession even after a six month relationships. On other hand i am completely agree with you, that 5-8 years relationship is quiet hard or even impossible to break.

laughlight 31st August 2014 4:51 pm

What a beautiful disengagement ritual this is:
“I adore you. I honor you. I release you.”

I appreciate such intimate candor. Special morsels of wisdom here.

Interesting to read a comment from one who hasn't had an intimate relationship. We're not all obsessive, but it is a healthy human who can deeply interact with another human in balance and love. Brings a depth to life and to each partner that is nothing less than ethereal and quite beautiful.
It's about Giving. And yes, receiving. Life's richness ~ Amen


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Dr. Judith Orloff

Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty.

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