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Couch Side Observations of Love and Obsession
Written By: Mark Smith

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“We all need to look into the dark side of our nature - that's where the energy is, the passion. People are afraid of that because it holds pieces of us we're busy denying.” Sue Grafton

As a relationship therapist or ‘Doctor of Love’ I hear it all. I am charged with holding secrets about money, sex, betrayal, infidelity, crime, and desire. I find people to be incredibly fascinating and complex creatures. I never get bored listening to the stories my clients tell me. We all have our dark sides. It is what makes us unique and interesting.

One of the questions that I hear most often is simple but profound… ‘What is love?’ You will get a million different answers to that question depending on who you ask. My answer always surprises. While the question is simple the answer is complicated. I take the question to relate to romantic love, not the love you would feel for a child, a puppy, a mother, a car or a job. Are you ready? Here goes… romantic love is the incredible raw energy that draws you in like magnets towards people who are psychologically put together just like the people who wounded you the most in your childhood. Ok then, hum, where is that sudoku puzzle anyway, this knucklehead just lost me!

I will prove my theory to you. Make an exhaustive list. Write words that describe your father, your mother, step-parents, caretakers and or anyone who was abusive to you in any way before the age of 18. Then add any boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses. Now, compare the lists. Gotcha! Are you noticing some patterns here? Had you noticed the patterns before you saw them in black and white? We are all wounded as children to some degree and in some fashion. That twists us up. It twists up our wiring romantically. So, if you had a critical withholding parent and you’ve now observed that you’ve chosen a line of critical with holding girlfriends know that you have needed to do that in order to scratch an itch. None of them were mistakes. They were all opportunities to work on your unresolved issues around your need for praise, acceptance and nurturing. If there are 10 hot women in a bar and 9 of them are emotionally healthy (there is not such bar on this planet) and one of them is a critical withholding shrew guess which one you are going home with? You will lock eyes and that will be that. We are attracted to who we are attracted to for a reason.

Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.” - Paul Carvel. A love connection can easily turn into a passion which can very easily turn into an obsession. People are extremely needy creatures - voracious. Be careful with your heart. It is easy for a little flirtation to develop into an out of control obsession. If a man and a woman both experienced some abandonment as children when they connect they easily can meld into one unstable psychological being. Then any stepping back or perceived stepping back can cause some pretty major abandonment over reactions and outbursts. The headlines are full of frightening examples of one sided emotional obsessions. New love is a little mad, as it should be. It only becomes a problem when it becomes excessively mad. I worry about couples new to therapy who seem to have lost every vestige of their initial emotional hunger and urgency. I worry about couples who never fight. “Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot.” D. H. Lawrence. Say it hot. In my opinion having an obsession based relationship beats having a boring dead relationship.

I worry even more about couples who never make love. The heart and soul of a relationship is what takes place in the bedroom. We can teach a needy reactive couple to fight in a healthy productive manner, but it is like raising the dead to try to teach an emotionally dead non-needy couple to conjure up enough passion to fight and to love. If you have become so distant in your marriage that you aren’t having sex any longer then you had better get in to see a marital therapist very quickly before someone else takes your place in the marital bed.

Marriage and love really are difficult to maintain. It takes a great deal of work and emotional openness. It is all about knowing yourself deeply and then asking for what you need with a firm non-reactive voice. Hey, life is too short to live miserably in a relationship. Fixing it means going to therapy with an open mind and heart – make that call today.

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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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