I’m Obsessed With Someone I Can’t Be With

Q: Hi. I’m obsessed with someone I can’t marry, but I know he loves me in a very special way. How do I stop thinking about him? The harder I try to stop thinking about him, the more I think about him.

Reader’s Question

Hi. I’m obsessed with someone I can’t marry, but I know he loves me in a very special way. How do I stop thinking about him? The harder I try to stop thinking about him, the more I think about him.

Psychologist’s Reply

There are difficult types of emotional and romantic relationships. You are describing what I often call an “emotional affair” in which you have romantic feelings, obsessions, and fantasies about someone but there has been no normal dating or intimacy. Emotional affairs often occur between co-workers, friends, neighbors, and other social connections. Often, as probably in your case, the emotional affair is uneven, with one person having more emotional investment than the other. In your case, you’re fantasizing about marriage while he is exhibiting perhaps a fondness for you. That’s about a 95 to 5 percent investment between you and this individual.

Emotional affairs are very common and are not unhealthy for the most part. They become unhealthy when the fantasy becomes excessive or begins to control our life. If we won’t take a work promotion because it would move us away from our lunch partner, then that may be intrusive.

Rather than try to stop thinking about him, recognize that such thoughts are normal. It’s actions that get us in trouble, not thoughts. I would also recognize that your emotional equipment is working properly. Allow yourself to think about this person, but to also think about others as well. Who has similar characteristics that you admire?

One additional aspect you might think about. Emotional affairs, fantasies, and loving people who are unavailable are safer than plunging into the real world of dating and risking romance. When we are obsessed with someone out of reach, we may actually be obsessed with not risking ourselves again in a normal romance. There are times when the fear of a real romance or dating fuels the fires of an obsession that is more fantasy than reality. It sometimes keeps us romantic yet safe while we heal up from real-world relationships. Just a thought…psychologists are always thinking about such things…

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