It can be exciting and exhilarating when you discover an undeniable connection with someone new. After all, it is not every day that you encounter this kind of chemistry. The heady thrill of meeting someone you are attracted to, who understands you, and who is also interested in you can easily overwhelm your rational mind. And while infatuation at the beginning of a relationship is par for the course, if you are not careful, it can quickly evolve into an obsession.
When you are obsessed, you cannot see the big picture, focusing all your thoughts and energy on one subject. You may disregard your self-care, place other obligations on the backburner, or lose interest in passions that previously held your attention. And although some might assert that it is normal to obsess during the infatuation stage of a relationship, this fixation hardly creates a good foundation for a balanced relationship. While you might not be able to control your feelings, you can regain perspective to help you obtain and sustain the healthy relationship you want. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
Although it might be challenging, do your best to objectively view all parts of this other person and how you relate. While this may detract from some of the addictive feelings of infatuation, honestly knowing who you are with and how compatible you may be is essential to your long-term happiness. If the person says or does something that bothers you, note that to yourself. If you see patterns that you wouldn’t want to live with in the long run, keep that in mind. Don’t ignore these realities, but rather, factor them into the whole picture.
Can I slow down and let the relationship naturally unfold?Do you think about your wedding after a few weeks of dating? Are you planning a vacation for the two of you in six months? Are you already trying to determine how you will spend the holidays with your respective families? If so, you may be feeding an obsession.
Instead, put aside your plans and focus on being fully present, enjoying the moment. Resist the urge to jump ahead and to set everything in stone. Allow the relationship to unfold naturally. You are not trying to force anything, but rather, are traveling together to see where this relationship goes.
When you are in a healthy, in-love relationship, you can comfortably be separated. You may want to be with that other person, but accept their needs and wants just as you want them to embrace yours. You are individuals, and you are in a trusting relationship with each other. The good feelings you share grow stronger with this mutual understanding and respect.
When you are in a healthy, in-love relationship, life is in a better balance. Finding this balance is an active, challenging, and on-going assignment. As you spend time with this new person in your life, don’t forget everyone else. Don’t cancel those dinner plans with your best friend. Don’t put your parents off who are ready and waiting for you to help them. Be as reliable and present with them as you are with this new person in your life. Let the new person know that you enjoy spending time with them, but that you won’t cancel standing plans to be with them. Then figure out when you are both free to spend time together again.
If you can keep these four questions in mind as you navigate your new relationship, you can avoid the temptation of obsession. Loss of self in a relationship is not love; it is losing track of your best interests as you succumb to the hopes, dreams, and good feelings that come with infatuation. But with a little self-awareness, you can begin to see the realities of the relationship, be a part of its natural unfolding, and stay connected with the other important people in your life.
Nancy L. Johnston, MS, LPC, LSATP, MAC is the author of Disentangle: When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else (2nd Ed.) and works in private practice in Lexington, VA. With forty-two years of clinical experience, Johnston is an American Mental Health Counselors Association Diplomate and Clinical Mental Health Specialist in Substance Abuse and Co-Occurring Disorders. She offers presentations, workshops, and retreats for self-recovery.