Obsessive Love

“Romeo and Juliet” by Frank Dicksee (1884), Southampton City Art Gallery, Source http://www.odysseetheater.com (PD-Art, PD-Old-80)

The TLC channel is currently running a series titled “90 Day Fiance:  Before the 90 Days” https://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/90-day-fiance-before-the-90-days/ .   Alternately engaging, appalling, and cautionary, this reality show depicts couples whose relationships began online.

Though most have never met, all program participants feel certain they have found true love.  The question presented is, have they?  A more telling question might be, do they understand the nature of love at all?

The latter is a question abuse victims must confront, themselves, if they are to heal.

Online Relationships

Unfortunately, online relationships are prone to the distortion of projection.  We see what we want to see; hear what we want to hear.  We fill in the blanks with the image of our ideal, hope fueling our fantasies.

Abuse victims are especially vulnerable to this distortion.

Abuse and Our View of Love

Child abuse – whatever form it takes (emotional, physical, sexual, or neglect) – skews our view of love.  Abuse teaches us that love must be earned, and requires sacrifice on our part to the point of self-destruction.

Deprived of real love, we become desperate for it.  This continues to play out in adulthood.  We settle for crumbs, for partners who beat us, rob us, and cheat on us – all the while sure that we cannot live without them.

Destructive Love

No mere post (or reality show, for that matter) can capture all the complexities of love.  We can though clear up a few misconceptions.

A great deal done in the name of love is destructive.  Women are frequently stalked in the name of love.  Murders are regularly committed in the name of love.  Teens, in particular, commit suicide in the name of love.

Obsession is not, however, genuine love.

A.  Stalking

Social media and romantic comedies portray stalking as a compliment to the object of the stalker’s “affection” – something funny, even sweet [1][2].

In reality, over 7 million people are stalked each year, most by a former intimate partner [3].  Many are physically attacked, raped, and/or killed by their stalker.  Others live in fear – their privacy violated, their sense of safety gone, their loved ones placed in jeopardy.

B.  Murder

Passion is an acknowledged motive for murder [4].  Crimes of passion are legally recognized around the globe [5].  Particularly scandalous instances are widely reported in the news [6].

Murders in the name of love are so common the ID channel has a series dedicated to them.  Titled “Forbidden:  Dying for Love”, the program examines real life instances of murder prompted by illicit love [7].

C.  Suicide

Last but not least, there is obsessive teen love.  Most of us can fondly recall a teenage crush.  We are moved by Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers.  But Romeo and Juliet did not survive.  Nor do the modern teens who emulate them.

Christopher John Lindsay at https://christopherjohnlindsay.com/2014/10/27/romeo-and-juliet-1968/?c=5700#comment-5700 points out the problem with Romeo and Juliet’s love:

“Romeo and Juliet’s obsessive love for each other is unhealthy.  The tragedy of their relationship is that they each lose their independent identity.  Unable to live without the other, they take their own lives, and consequently are directly responsible for their own deaths.  Their relationship reveals how an obsessive attachment to another person is dangerous.  If we make another person our ‘all’, we may no longer have a reason to live when that person is gone.”

Lindsay goes on to make a profound observation:

“For Romeo and Juliet, romantic love is a substitute for God.  The night they first meet, Romeo believes Juliet’s kiss can take away his sin, which from a Christian perspective is something that only Christ can do.  He then equates their kiss to hands pressed together in prayer and likens Juliet’s love with the Christian sacrament of baptism, saying to her, ‘Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized.’  Romeo regards Juliet as his spiritual salvation.”

Rashid Ul Huda at https://enigmadebunked.home.blog/2019/07/17/is-teenage-love-highly-overrated/ explains that teens have a limited understanding of the world, and limited ability to deal with it.

“…it is confusing because you are between the age of a child and an adult, you need to make your mind up how you want to be seen—as a child, or as an adult?  Given the choice you would definitely consider yourself to be an adult—why be a child after all?  And to prove that you are an adult, you begin copying the adults.  You do as they do, you talk as they do, you dress as they do, you try to live as they do.  But the thing that makes you so vulnerable, is that, you think by just copying the adults, you would become an adult.  It doesn’t happen like that.  Adults do as they do, talk as they talk, dress as they dress, live their life as they live, because of various reasons.  A many thing happened in their lives that made them be the way they are.  But are you aware of that?  Just copying the adults won’t make you an adult.”

Real Love

Real love, mature love, enriches us and allows us to grow.  The Apostle Paul provides us  a description of such love:

 Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails” (2 Cor. 13: 4-8 NIV).

If we use this description as a guide, we cannot go far wrong.  Abuse victims must, however, apply it to their partners’ behavior, as well as their own.

[1]  Everyday Feminism, “How Romantic Comedies and Social Media Teach Folks That Stalking Is Okay If It’s In The Name of Love” by Erin Tatum, 4/16/15, https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/04/stalking-behavior-not-normal/ .

[2]  The Mary Sue, “This Video Looks at the Dangerous Trope of ‘Stalking for Love’ in Movies and TV” by Marykate Jasper, 3/3/18, https://www.themarysue.com/pop-culture-detective-stalking-for-love-trope/ .

[3]  National Center for Victims of Crime, Stalking Resource Center, “Stalking Statistics and Data”, https://victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/past-programs/stalking-resource-center/stalking-information/stalking-statistics .

[4]  Loup Dargent, “Top 5 Criminal Motives” by Mary Hansen,  https://www.loupdargent.info/2013/01/top-5-criminal-motives.html.

[5]  Wikipedia, “Crime of passion”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_of_passion.

[6]  Good Housekeeping, “Jodi Arias:  A Look Back at Her Gruesome Crime and Bizarre Trial” by Rose Minutaglio, 10/22/18, https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/news/a47623/jodi-arias-now/ .

[7]  InvestigationDiscovery, “Forbidden:  Dying for Love”, https://www.investigationdiscovery.com/tv-shows/forbidden-dying-for-love/ .



Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

11 responses to “Obsessive Love

  1. What you said:
    “Child abuse – whatever form it takes (emotional, physical, sexual, or neglect) – skews our view of love. Abuse teaches us that love must be earned, and requires sacrifice on our part to the point of self-destruction.

    Deprived of real love, we become desperate for it. This continues to play out in adulthood. We settle for crumbs, for partners who beat us, rob us, and cheat on us – all the while sure that we cannot live without them.”

    ….That was me, for much of my life.

  2. Thank you Anna for this enlightening post.
    It seems that in our request to find love and comfort we are trying to step on our own shadow. The more we fell the more we try, and with that giving more power and authority to our tormentors.

  3. I’ve not watched that show, but do hope it takes the opportunity to impart your wisdom to participants and audience.

  4. All of this reminds me why it is so critical that parents accept the responsibility to raise their children in homes where true love is exhibited on a continual basis. Instead, it seems that we have left the training of our children to Hollywood, where every distorted concept of love is packaged in such a way as to make our children want to emulate it.

    We know that love is kind, just as Paul described it. However, at times it is also messy, uncomfortable, and downright hard. TV reality shows never reveal the true picture, only that which they know will sell. How much needless pain and suffering could be avoided if we simply took the time to educate our children about what love is?

    Great post Anna, and thank you for sharing what is a much needed message.

  5. To borrow a phrase from a certain ex-VP, this is “an inconvenient truth,” i.e. an important truth that people need to hear, but do not want to. Bravo for posting this, Anna.

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