Love is a feeling so overwhelming and intense that it is usually difficult to recognize where its limits lie. When it comes, the hormones in our brain start to flood the nervous system in a very different way than before, and a new way of perceiving things takes control of what we do, what we believe and what we say.

Therefore, it is not easy to recognize the differences between love and obsession with a person . Both experiences share many elements, but getting them confused can be very harmful both to our social life and to our own emotional health.

Learning to recognize feelings

Emotional intelligence consists, among other things, in knowing how to detect types of emotions and feelings that affect us in our daily lives, and in acting accordingly with this private “diagnosis”. It is a skill that is increasingly being emphasized in new educational models, but unfortunately we adults are not exempt from the problems posed by the lack of skill in this kind of ability.

Confusing love with obsession, for example, is very common , and in many occasions it is even believed that true love has the manic characteristics of the second element. As if obsession were more love than love itself.

Somehow, an idealized and highly toxic vision of romantic love can deform this concept so much that the pain and anguish produced by this type of relationship are perceived as something positive, part of the sacrifice that is supposed to be love. But this problem disappears if we know and understand well the differences between obsession and love, which are many and very relevant.

Main differences between love and obsession

These keys to distinguishing between these psychological phenomena can help you to have a much richer and more rewarding emotional life and, in the process, to avoid toxic relationships.

1. Jealousy vs. respect for others’ space

When someone experiences love for someone, he does so by embracing the idea that the other person’s life belongs entirely to the latter, and therefore does not consider interfering in what the other person does . This, in turn, has another consequence: since what the other person does is the responsibility of the other person, there is no point in watching their movements or trying to put up barriers to their freedom.

On the other hand, if you feel an obsession for someone, the other person becomes a problem that you feel as your own. This makes jealousy appear.

2. Reification of the other vs. humane treatment

In the obsession, each member of the couple is understood as the property of the other, which gives rise to very harmful paradoxes: who has the right to decide what the other should do, in what contexts?

In love, on the other hand, one never loses sight of the fact that the other is a human being, like any other, and that should enjoy his or her rights and freedoms in his or her day-to-day life. Therefore, unilateral impositions cannot be admitted as something normal.

3. Unhealthy Exclusivity vs. Realism

Where there is an obsession with a person, there is the idea that the relationship with him or her is predestined to be exclusive; in other words, that whatever the people involved want, they must create a kind of emotional bunker between them and never leave it.

In love, on the other hand, the vision of fidelity is much more sensible , since it is not so much based on exclusivity “as a rule” but on honesty and transparency. Here, everyone is committed, but it is assumed that there is no unbreakable rule about what the relationship should be, since it depends entirely on the people who make it up.

4. Based on low self-esteem vs. relationship-based

In obsession, the other person is perceived as a missing element without which it is difficult to live. In other words, the reason for the relationship that one seeks to have with someone is largely a low self-esteem.

In love, on the other hand, the other person is seen as something that complements us .

5. Searching for substitutions vs. acceptance

When a love relationship breaks up, after a period of mourning comes acceptance.

In the case of obsession, however, acceptance may take a long time to come , or it may not even happen, especially if psychological help is not available.

6. Blaming the other person vs. taking responsibility

Another big difference between obsession and love is that in the former, the other person’s lack of interest is used as a weapon thrown at them, and often emotional blackmail is attempted to make them feel guilty. This does not happen in the case of love, since it is understood that no one has the right to condition our freedom in that way.

7. Empathy vs. Patches in the face of problems

Where there is love, relationship problems are solved through empathy and communication . On the other hand, people who feel an obsession for others try to create a fiction that allows them to pretend that everything is the same, without having to face the root of the problem, for fear of losing control of the situation.