Obsessive Love : When It Hurts Too Much to Let Go
By Susan Forward, Ph.D., Craig Buck
We're about to build a bridge from your emotional vacation to the rest of your life. But in order for this bridge to carry you over the dark waters of obsessive love, you must be willing to take an honest look at your relationship-or lack thereof-and to deal squarely with what you find.
I know how frightening this can be. I know how important it may be for you to hold on to whatever glimmer of hope you can find to persuade yourself that you have a future with your lover. But too often that hope is false, and false hope is a trap that can keep you from moving on with your life.
The Fourteenth Day
The last day of your emotional vacation is a day of evaluation. If possible, plan your vacation so that this day falls on a day off from work. Don't make any dates with friends; plan to spend this day on your own. You've got a lot of thinking to do about the true nature of your relationship.
If you are like most obsessive lovers, taking a tough, candid look at your relationship is the last thing in the world you want to do because you know in your heart of hearts that this will inevitably result in some painful revelations.
Many of you have already lost your lover. Others are in a relationship that seems hopeless and is probably doomed. And a few of you are in a relationship that might have a chance of survival if only you can stop the obsessive behavior that is driving your lover away. Now that you've spent two weeks putting some distance between yourself and your obsession, you are ready to gain some real perspective about which of these situations applies to you.
To help you gain this perspective, I have devised (he following relationship status check. Even though some of the items on these two lists may appear self-evident, I've known scores of obsessive lovers whose denial was so great that they were blinded to even the most obvious of these signs. Don't let this happen to you.
Your Relationship Is Already Over If .. .
1. your lover has cut off all contact with you.
Your Relationship Cannot Continue As It Is If ...
1. you have to initiate almost all contact with your lover.
2. your lover rarely returns your phone calls.
3. after having had an exclusive relationship with you, your lover wants to begin, or has begun, dating other people.
4. the only way to get your lover to spend time with you is to make him or her feel guilty or sorry for you.
5. your jealousy, possessiveness, violence, or pursuit behavior repeatedly angers or frightens your lover.
6. sex is the only thing you and your lover enjoy together or the only thing you do together.
7. your lover is married to someone else and. despite promises, makes no move to separate or get a divorce.
8. your lover is financially irresponsible and expects you to repeatedly bail him or her out of financial difficulties.
9. your lover has problems with alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other compulsive behaviors and is unwilling to take any personal responsibility for these problems.
The first checklist has only one item-it is self-explanatory. If you answered "yes" but have not given up the fantasy that you are still in a relationship with your lover, it is time to face the truth. No matter how painful this may be, it will ultimately hurt less than the pain and humiliation you've been suffering by continuing to pursue a lover who rejects you.
If you answered "yes" to even one of the items on the second checklist, you must he willing to give up on your relationship as it mow exists, even if that means losing it forever. The only chance you have for a healthy relationship is if you are willing to do what it takes to change your obsessive behavior and if you have a partner who is willing to give you the time and opportunity to make those changes.
If you found yourself answering any of these items with a "yes, but" followed by some kind of defensive explanation, you are rationalizing. For example, you may have answered the question about whether you have to initiate almost all contact with your lover by saying something like. "Yes, but I know he's busy." If so, you are reluctant to face the painful but more likely explanation: that your lover simply does not want to spend time with you.
Please don't let rationalization-or any other form of denial-keep you from being honest with yourself. Denial can only stand in your way.
Now that your two-week vacation is at an end, you are in a position to consider your relationship more objectively than you ever have before. Between your log, the exercises done during your time out from obsessive love, and your status check, you should have a much clearer perspective on the nature, it not the future, of your relationship. With this perspective, you are ready to deal with the loss of your relationship, if you no longer have one, or to reenter your relationship on new terms, if that's still possible.
Your Emotional Vacation
Ends: Now What?
For two weeks you've been living in a state of emotional suspended animation. You've artificially isolated yourself from your target and from your obsessive patterns. During this time you've learned various ways to control the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make up your obsessive system. I know a lot of you may have slipped a few times during this two-week period, but even so, you made progress and you deserve to congratulate yourself for it. But the changes you've made have been temporary.
Now the permanent healing must begin-no more Band-Aid solutions. If your relationship has ended, I'll help you to come to grips with that painful truth and to continue work on controlling your obsessive tendencies. If you are returning to a relationship, I'll help you maintain control of your obsessive love in the presence of your lover-your most irresistible trigger.
It's day fifteen. Your suspended animation is over. It's time to accept what you've learned about your situation and your obsessive behavior and actually start to integrate it into your everyday life.
When Your Relationship Is Over
If your status check convinced you that your relationship is over, you are ending your emotional vacation on a very sad note. But the good news is, the confusion, doubt, and speculation that have been making you feel crazy are now behind you. With this new clarity, you can begin to develop a sense of stability in your life and to move out of the rut of your obsessive love.