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True Love? Mentally Healthy Relationships Aren't Possessive

Being in a relationship with someone, whether it's a romantic connection or a close friendship, can feel good and boost mental health. But can you have too much of a good thing? Is it wrong for someone to want to spend a lot of time with you, or is it just a sign of love or friendship? There is a line between enjoying time together and being possessive. Knowing that line can help you keep your relationships--and yourself--mentally healthy. 

Wanting to Be Together Can Be Mentally Healthy

Possessive relationships aren't necessarily indicated when two people want to be together. Positive relationships can be a component of mental health and wellbeing. Having someone to confide in can help you feel accepted and supported, and enjoying fun and laughter with someone you care about is a buffer against life's stressors and challenges.

It's natural to want to spend time with someone you love. In fact, when a friend or significant other has a pattern of avoiding you, it can be a sign of a different type of unhealthy relationship or that they are facing difficulties that are causing them to withdraw. In either case, talking to them about it can help you decide how to move forward. 

Sometimes, someone you're with might want to spend too much time with you. Here are some signs that their behavior has moved past love and become a controlling and possessive relationship.

Signs of a Controlling Partner or Friend (and an Unhealthy, Possessive Relationship)

There is a difference between someone who loves you and enjoys spending time with you and someone who says they love you and tries to get you to spend all your time with only them. Trying to completely monopolize someone's time is a form of manipulation and control

When you're in love or have a deep friendship, it's not always easy to tell the difference between these behaviors and attitudes. Having someone tell you they love you and want to be with you all the time not only seems sweet and innocent but also can feel wonderful and natural. This sentiment alone doesn't make someone possessive. To determine if someone is acting in an unhealthy way and trying to keep you all to themselves, watch for signs and patterns. 

A possessive person often:

  • Overexpresses their love, caring, and/or desire
  • Tries to make you feel guilty when you can't or don't want to be with them 
  • Lavishes you with compliments and also belittles or insults you
  • Says things to convince you that they need you or that you're the only one who understands them 
  • Criticizes your other friends or family members
  • Works to convince you that you have no one other than them and that you're dependent on them for love, affection, and happiness
  • Tells you that anyone who tries to take you away from them is jealous and is trying to ruin this wonderful relationship

The purpose of this behavior is complex. The person may indeed love you (or value your friendship), but their idea of love is likely unhealthy. By doing the above things, they are likely trying to destroy your self-confidence, so you become dependent on them, make you question the quality of your other relationships to isolate you from others and any support you might receive, and cause you to believe that you owe them your love and attention. 

Behaviors and statements from a controlling person are usually disguised as love. Even when they begin to criticize or belittle you, they often will tell you that it's because they love you (or they apologize, beg for forgiveness, and ask you to stay with them). That's a big part of what makes their behavior and words so confusing.

Staying in a relationship like this can lead to depression, anxiety, self-doubt, and more. If you notice any of these behaviors in one of your relationships, consider talking to someone you trust to get their take on the situation and brainstorm what to do. If your partner or friend has already isolated you, this can be tricky but know that it is possible. You might begin by reaching out to a service such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233). They assist people of all ages who are in toxic or abusive relationships (you don't have to be physically abused to call). 

There is a difference between healthy love and control. It's okay and desirable to want to spend time together, but it is not okay for someone to try to keep you all to themselves. You deserve the healthy kind of love. 

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, June 22). True Love? Mentally Healthy Relationships Aren't Possessive, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, November 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2021/6/true-love-mentally-healthy-relationships-arent-possessive



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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