Love and obsession: what differences

Love and obsession: what differences

Distinguishing love from obsession is essential for strengthening emotional intelligence, building healthy relationships, and promoting well-being.

Love and obsession: what differences

Last update: July 04, 2022

Love tends to be confused with some pathological personality traits. One of these is obsession, characterized by a strong romantic attraction and an obsessive need to be reciprocated in the same way. Love and obsession, therefore, are very different.

Not recognizing the differences between love and obsession can damage relationships, as well as your emotional health. The truth is that it is difficult to distinguish between the two also by virtue of the common belief that love has the manic characteristics of obsession.

In this article we present the main differences between these two dimensionsi, so as to recognize them more precisely.

Obsession doesn't mean love

Love and obsession are two completely different states. While obsession may seem like the exaltation of love, it really isn't.

Obsession with someone does not mean loving them, but rather feeling that you cannot live without them. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov says obsessive behavior lies in:

  • Indulge the person in question.
  • Change your agenda to match yours and adopt a stalker conduct.
  • Focus only on the admirable aspects and ignore the negative characteristics.
  • Altering the personality according to his tastes.
  • Feeling some kind of relief when thinking, speaking, observing or feeling the presence of the desired person.

Tennov also describes a number of physical effects in the obsession, among them rapid palpitations, tremors, erratic sweating or eating disorders.

In case of obsession the partner is considered a property.

Main differences between love and obsession

It is essential to know how to distinguish between these two dimensions, otherwise we can easily fall into toxic relationships and experience emotional distress.

partner idea

When we feel love for someone, we see them as our complement. When we obsess, however, we continually miss it. We have ua perennial feeling of emptiness when absent.

We feel that we cannot live without our partner, that we need him or her; in love, however, our happiness and fulfillment do not depend on the other person.


Another difference between love and obsession is possession. The obsessed person believes that the partner belongs to them, so it will exercise constant and obsessive control. Some examples are the need to know what it does, how and when. In other words, knowing his schedules in detail and knowing who he will be with at all times.

Obsessive attention is reserved exclusively for the desired person, losing sight of his own life. It is as if everything revolves around the partner.

On the contrary, love is based on acceptance, freedom and respect. Who understands it allows the partner to cultivate their individuality and start their own projects. It is also assumed that the other person is responsible for themselves, so you do not feel you need to monitor their actions.


In love, personal and intimate spaces are respected, so there is no reason to feel irrational and obsessive jealousies. You trust that your loved one wants to continue the relationship and that you are free to break it up when you want.

On the other hand, the obsessive relationship is based on the need to fill an intrinsic void caused by the fear of abandonment.

Any clue showing that the desired person cultivates his or her life and relates to others makes one feel jealous, fears and insecurities, so control is resorted to and the presence of the partner is required.

Jealousy is due to a strong insecurity.

Self-esteem in love and obsession

Obsession with someone occurs when one suffers from low self-esteem. Those who are not capable of experiencing a great void that they try to fill and satisfy with another person. This is why he feels that without it he cannot live.

To genuinely love another person, it is essential to love yourself first. Only in this way will it be possible to respect subjectivity and accept the freedom of the partner. The partner does not have to fill in gaps, but to complete.

Pain after the break

To close with the differences between love and obsession, we will reflect on the experience of the breakup. In the case of love, bereavement usually develops normally, without stretching or becoming pathological.

It is much more difficult, however, following an obsessive relationship, because other dimensions such as low self-esteem, emotional dependence, fear of loneliness, personal insecurities, etc. are at stake. The ideal in these cases is to consult a psychologist who can help overcome these conflicts.

Finally, it is quite common for the obsessive person to "fall in love" with another person shortly after the previous relationship ends, because they need someone to fill their emotional void.

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