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Why some people love obsessively and what to do about it

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 Why some people love obsessively and what to do about it (Photo: iStock)

Sometimes we 'love' too much and it hurts too much to let go; rejection from our significant other feels like the end of the world as if our whole life has come to a standstill, a dead end as if we've been completely shattered. Romantic love weaves complex stories of passion, connection and often obsession.

At the centre of this emotional web lies the concept of limerence, a phenomenon explored by renowned psychologist Dr. Susan Forward in her groundbreaking book, "Obsessive Love: When It Hurts Too Much to Let Go."

Obsessive love is where the line between devotion and fixation blurs, leaving us to ponder the depths of our hearts.

Understanding limerence:

Limerence, a term coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov, describes an intense, involuntary emotional state where an individual becomes infatuated with another person. This goes beyond ordinary attraction or affection; it's an all-consuming fixation that can border on the pathological. The limerent person fixates on their object of desire, often idealizing them and feeling an overwhelming need for reciprocation.

Attachment theory and limerence:

Attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby, provides a framework for understanding the dynamics of emotional bonds between individuals. Its entire premise is in the role of early childhood experiences in shaping adult relationships; known as ‘attachment styles.’ There are two attachment styles; ‘Secure’ and ‘Insecure’.

Insecure attachment emanates from unmet infantile psychological needs. Insecure attachments include ‘anxious’ and ‘avoidant’ or a blend of both dubbed ‘disorganized or ambivalent attachment style.’

Individuals with anxious and ambivalent attachment styles often experience an intense fear of rejection and a heightened need for reassurance which in turn amplify the intensity of limerent feelings.

Those with avoidant attachment styles struggle with commitment and closeness, contributing elusiveness, and are least likely to be limerent.

The allure and agony of obsessive love:

Obsessive love is perilous despite promising an emotional intensity that transcends the mundane, it carries the potential for profound heartache. Dr. Forward's words echo the paradox of this emotion: "Obsessive love is like a hungry, unfulfilled baby, constantly craving, constantly needing and incapable of ever being satisfied."

The allure lies in the euphoric highs, the intoxicating rush of emotions that come with being utterly captivated by someone. Yet, as Dr. Forward warns, this intoxication can become a lethal elixir, leading to an unhealthy dependence that can shatter the very fabric of one's emotional well-being.

Forward’s insights urge us to recognize when love transforms into an all-consuming force that threatens our individuality and well-being. She writes, "Love, even when it is genuine, can sometimes turn into a prison from which there seems to be no escape."

Understanding the fine line between passionate devotion and destructive fixation is crucial. It requires introspection, self-awareness, and, at times, seeking professional guidance to untangle the emotional knots. The journey towards a healthier, more balanced form of love begins with acknowledging the shadows within our hearts.

Forward's work serves as a beacon for those exploring the tumultuous waters of obsessive love. It empowers individuals to break free from the chains of unhealthy attachments and find a path towards self-love and resilience. Her words resonate with both empathy and a call to action: "Obsessive love is not love at all. It is a need to use another person to feed our emotional hunger. True love is about giving, not taking."

Embracing a balanced love:

Strive for a love that is balanced, nurturing and free from the chains of obsession. The human heart is delicate.

Weave love in threads of understanding, compassion and self-love. For in embracing a love that is healthy and empowering, we unlock the potential for profound personal transformation. As Forward aptly puts it, "The more you know about obsessive love, the more you can love without being obsessive."

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