If you’ve ever found yourself on the toxic side of online relationship spaces, then you’ve no doubt heard some interesting takes on love and coupledom.

A really popular turn of phrase you often hear people say is, “I want someone who’s obsessed with me.” It’s a novel idea. What would it be like to fall for someone who couldn’t get enough? Who got intoxicated at the very sight of you?

The people who crave this kind of relationship are often victims caught in traps of their own making. Confused by a heady mix of fantasy and romance, they adapt delusional standards and ideals. Only to become disappointed when things inevitably don’t work out as they planned.

That’s the danger of wanting a relationship that’s centered around that kind of obsessive passion. Fairy tale castles aren’t waiting for you over the horizon. When you seek that kind of relationship, what you find is a rocketship ride that burns out (or explodes) before you even realize what’s happening.

We shouldn’t seek relationships with people who are “obsessed” with us. We ourselves shouldn’t make obsession the central focus of our connection with others. If you want someone who is obsessed with you, who follows your every move — get a dog. Humans are not for obsession. They are for sharing experiences and traveling this journey of life side-by-side.

The strange obsession with obsession.

Who would pursue obsession in a relationship? Who would really want someone to be completely consumed by passion and interest in them? People with unhealthy relationship standards and attachment styles set unhealthy bars in their relationships. Obsession is often one of those bars. People who want an obsessed partner aren’t really looking for love. They’re looking out for themselves.

Some common patterns become clear when you look at the type of person who seeks a possessive relationship of extreme intensity:

  • Serious insecurities: Insecure people are terrified of rejection because they don’t think they are lovable or worthy. That can result in clinging tightly to the people they love and forming warped ideas of closeness and love. Obsession is one of those, more specifically the idea that an obsessed partner would be less likely to abandon them or disappoint them.
  • Avoiding repeats: When you’ve been through a couple of big heartbreaks, it changes the way you look at relationships. Some people get hurt so much they head in the opposite direction. They seek people who are completely different from the distant partners who betrayed them. There are many who go as far as seeking obsessed partners who they believe are unable to do anything to cause harm.
  • Major misunderstandings: A lot of people cut their teeth on toxic relationships. They witness them in their childhood homes and then go out into the world to create more of them. People like this build their relationships on misgivings and misunderstandings about what real love and healthy connections are. So they pursue an imbalance, partners who are obsessed with them until those lessons are learned the hard way too.
  • Undercover narcissism: Narcissists have a major ego problem and expect the outward validation of others to solve it. Whatever they feel they want others to feel. They’re especially dangerous because they live in a land of delusion which they also expect other people to reinforce. Obsessive dynamics in the hands of a narcissist can quickly escalate.
  • Fearing reality: The world is a scary place and life is scary too. It can create a lot of fear and the idea that we’re not strong enough to make it alone. In that fear, some people lose sight of the independence that comes with healthy relationships or a healthier reality and way of being. They seek obsession believing it will make them safer but those dynamics have an uncanny way of blowing up in our faces.
    The shield of another person is never enough to protect us from ourselves or the brutality of life. The thin veil of obsession won’t protect you from being disappointed, being betrayed, or aligning yourself with someone who wants to take advantage in the long run.

Healthy relationships should be the goal, but that won’t feel like the fairy tale that you imagine. Balanced relationships are a give-and-take. Always home, they go through ebbs and flows like anything else. If you crave a love that is so intense it requires a resolving of boundaries, it’s not the human love you’re looking for. It’s the love of a dog.

Do you want someone who is obsessed with you? Get a dog.

The truth is that humans, in a healthy state, aren’t capable of that kind of obsessive, all-consuming love that some have been coached to desire. That’s because healthy human is busy pursuing a happy life for themselves, they’re doing internal work and enjoying the work they put in. A healthy partner doesn’t dedicate every single second of their life to another healthy partner. Both recognize (and respect) the need for lines for their own personal space and experiences.

A dog, however, can foster that obsession with you. They will hound your steps wherever you go (a little bit of a pun intended) and show you absolute dedication no matter how low you sink. On the toilet, in the middle of the worst hangover imaginable, they don’t care. They think you are the perfect representation of love. To your dog, you will never do wrong.

If that’s the kind of relationship you’re seeking, something that is totally dedicated to making you happy every second of every day — get a dog. People don’t have that capacity, nor should they. Healthy relationships aren’t made up of two people chasing each other in all-consuming passion. The healthiest relationships are built by equals who have the space to run their independent lives together while creating a shared reality.

Finding the power to foster healthier relationships.

We have the power to create relationships that add more positives to our lives than negatives. The conflict that obsession brings in a relationship doesn’t have to be the goal. We can find balance, peace, and the love we crave by adjusting the way we see healthy partnerships and our place in them.

Break away from the fairy tale

Too many people fall into fairy tale thinking with their romantic relationships. Some imagine that falling in love will fix all their problems. To this person, the magic carriage is going to sweep them off into candy-floss clouds. Others think that a “good” relationship will have no troubles or flaws at all. The obsessive partner fits in well with this imaginary fairyland. We imagine that to be our Prince Charming.

That fairy tale, like every other fairy tale, doesn’t exist. It doesn’t matter how “obsessed” someone is with you. Life is still hard and relationships are even harder. You’re combining your life with another person. Blow-ups and disappointments are going to happen. Failure is still a possibility.

Breaking away from the fairy tale makes it easier to break away from the idea that we want a partner who is “obsessed” with us. We need healthy partners to navigate the challenges life naturally presents us with. They’ve got to be able to juggle their own lives while holding our hand in compassion through ours. An obsessive partner is a burden we don’t need to hold ourselves back with.

Find the beauty in solo experiences

In the end, you’re the only one who is riding in the cockpit of your life. No one else is going to cross the big finish line with you. There isn’t anyone who is going to guarantee your happiness or protect you from every single hurt in life. That’s not possible. You’re the captain of your own ship when push comes to shove. Embracing that can empower you to find the beauty in a life without an “obsessed partner”.

Learn to celebrate being in charge of your own life. You don’t need the shelter of someone else. You don’t need them to carry your emotional weight. You’re strong enough and capable enough to navigate any challenges that life has in store for you. There’s a beauty in that which makes obsession an unnecessary if not unwanted part of a partnership.

Spread the love you crave

One of the worst things you can do is to make one person responsible for the entirety of your happiness. Not only is it unwise, but it’s also unfair to the other person involved. Sure, they can be a part of your happiness, but they should not be the sole reason behind it or for it. You have to spread out the love you crave and fill your life with as many people and things that provide you with that sense of being loved as possible.

Don’t expect all that love you’re missing to come from one place. Connect with the world and with the people you value in it. Avoid placing the burden on one single person with full responsibility for your joy in life. They cannot carry that weight. They will potentially disappoint you in their efforts to meet their own needs.

When we have multiple sources of love — of varying types — in our lives, it gives us that greater sense of connection we truly value. Because the truth is that many people who claim to want “obsession” really want an overwhelming sense of love that can break them out of the past. That huge sense of love can be created to fill you up and help you heal.

Fall in love with you

If your desire for an obsessed partner comes from a place of insecurity, then there’s only one rational response. You have to rebuild that self-esteem for yourself. Having high self-esteem is what makes it possible to stand on your own strength. One way to do that is by learning how to love yourself and how to make choices that truly align with the happiness and eternal life you’re seeking.

Rather than looking outside for someone who will make you feel worthy, give that sense of love to yourself. Start with your strengths and the elements in your life that you’re grateful for. Celebrate them. Reward yourself. Learn to be confident about what you’re good out and then expand your self-acceptance.

Move on to those things which make you insecure, the things you don’t like. Embrace them. Too hard? Do things you’re good at and surround people who lift you up (while still holding you accountable). Fall in love with the life you wake up to each day and little-by-little learn how to fall in love with you — the person who is building it.

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Obsession should never be the standard we strive for in a relationship. Connections possessed by passion are off-balance and focused on the wrong aims. The healthier way to a healthier relationship is the middle way. Seek to find the balance. Keep space for yourself and keep space for a partner to build their own lives alongside the one they share with you. Still feel a craving for that intense love you’re missing? Get a dog and dedicate your life to fostering love in as many forms as you can throughout your life.

© Practical Growth 2023

E.B. Johnson is a writer, NLP coach, and podcaster who helps women create their ideal futures. Get a FREE workbook and weekly coaching emails directly to your inbox when you join The Growth Digest, a self-recovery newsletter.