The Difference Between Healthy and Obsessive Love

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The infatuation stage of romantic love usually occurs in the early months in a healthy love relationship. It can involve persistent thoughts of the love object and wanting to spend every moment with that person. A healthy love relationship usually evolves over time such that it no longer involves the near desperate intensity and fervor of infatuation. Healthy love tends to mature over the years to include commitment, friendship, and a solid respect for the other person as an individual and of their needs. Healthy relationships allow both people to feel loved, cared for, and respected and allow for each person's individuality and pursuit of their own professional lives, recreational activities, and friendships outside of the love relationship.

Unfortunately, obsessive love has been romanticized in literature for centuries, as well as by the media, once the media came into existence. From the mutual suicides of Romeo and Juliet to even many of the most recent romantic movies, being obsessed with the object of one's love is often held up as something to aspire to rather than having the potentially devastating aftermath of the behaviors when the movies fade to black.

The difference between healthy and obsessive love is that with the latter, those feelings of infatuation become extreme, expanding to the point of becoming obsessions. Obsessive love and jealousy that is delusional is a symptom of mental-health problems and is a symptom that occurs in about 0.1% of adults. Individuals who suffer from delusional jealousy often interpret minor experiences like a coworker saying hello to their spouse or romantic partner looking at a passerby as positive proof that their loved one is being unfaithful. Male alcoholics have been found to be particularly vulnerable to developing delusional jealousy. Females are more likely to develop obsessive love toward people they know rather than toward a stranger. The objects of love for women who love obsessively are often people who have been in the role of helper in their lives. In the uncommon instances that obsessive love involves violence, men and women seem to be perpetrators of such violence at equal rates. Risk factors for developing obsessive love include a lack of full-time employment as well as having family members who have psychiatric problems, particularly a delusional disorder.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/10/2013