Is it affection or obsession?

Sometimes, early in the getting-to-know-you stage, one of both of you become so smitten that you find yourself emailing, calling, texting or IMing multiple times throughout the day. You can have an ongoing IM or text conversation throughout the whole day, getting little else done. Yet you are having fun, excited by the attention and getting to know the new person.

Whenever this has happened for me, it has been trouble. Yet when I’ve been smitten, I ignore the signs. However, if it is the man who is apparently smitten, I have learned to be receptive, but to create a little distance. How? By not responding as quickly as I might to an email, IM or text message.


Because if I’m not enthralled at the same level as he is, responding quickly and frequently can send a signal that I am equally enchanted. This is sending the wrong signal. Usually, at first, I am a bit cautious, having learned it can be easy to become besotted with someone, even before you’ve met them. Then you’ve fallen for the illusion of the person you barely know, rather than the real thing.

Also, with just a little encouragement, some people can go from feeling affection or fondness toward you, to full on obsession. This happened to me this week, with a new man I’d met online just a week ago. We enjoyed each other’s communications, and it escalated quickly. The IM responses quickened to where soon we were responding to the other before a message was fully typed. He’d call me within 10 miuutes of signing off the computer at work, wanting to chat on his way home. He’d text, email or IM me throughout the evening at home.

We met for lunch 4 days after our initial contact, and he was already wanting to hold hands, put his arm around me when walking, hug and kiss. Needy? I think that would be an accurate statement. Even though I am comfortable with and appreciate attention and affection, this felt like too much too soon to me.

Yesterday, we IMed a few times, then he called a few minutes after logging off to talk to me while he was doing errands. “I just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you,” he said. While I appreciated the sweetness of the sentiment, I teased, “Thanks. I thought you might have forgotten all about me in the intervening 20 minutes since our last IM.”

A few hours later, I received this email:

“I am writing this because I see myself falling back into patterns of behavior that I don’t like. I am becoming obsessive about you, and I don’t approve o f that in myself. As you pointed out, I had spoken with you only a few minutes before, and yet I had to call. I have spent a number of years trying to work through this tendency, and I guess I haven’t managed it yet.

“You are a spectacular lady, and I truly want you to find someone who is as awesome as you are. But until I get my head squared away, that isn’t me.”

I applaud his self-awareness to realize he was falling into old patterns. He had told me that one girlfriend had broken up with him because she felt smothered. I could see that. Obsession is never healthy. As we saw in “Fatal Attraction” and other works, it can lead to sad outcomes.

So no matter how much you enjoy affection and attention, if you feel you or he are obsessed, best to do what my guy did and back away.

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7 responses to “Is it affection or obsession?”

  1. Lulu Avatar

    DG, I think you hurt his feelings with your sharp response. I hope you haven’t lost a possible romance there, with a nice man who seemed to sincerely (if over-enthusiastically) admire you. I don’t know what IM is, but what with text, e-mail, telephones etc are we sometimes just too available? A friend of mine and I had a picnic on the beach today, and we both left our mobile phones at home. We had a relaxing, undisturbed lunch with the Sunday papers then spent the afternoon walking and talking. Sometimes it’s good to be a little unavailable.

  2. Rod Avatar

    Hmm… well if texting several times a day, calling for an hour or two every night, and sending emails is obsessive, dang it, Im the poster child for Obsessive. Course, my gf did the same thing for a year and a half and it was wonderful. Currently, however, we are non-obsessive as we dont talk, email, or call. If Im optimistic, its a ‘break’. If Im pessimistic, its a ‘breakup’ Hmm… next time around maybe we’ll pace ourselves a bit better. Balance. Life is all about finding balance.

  3. Kvetch Avatar

    It’s obsessive when something is so new. It’s not healthy. But it is fun – so it’s sometimes hard to avoid. If you can transition from obsession to affection – fabulous – if not – click on over to someone new.

  4. Gatti Avatar

    I dated a guy a few times about five years ago who would go completely panic stricken if I wasn’t reachable at all times. It was creepy and he didn’t last very long. He was still grieving for his last girlfriend and was incredibly needy.

  5. Anita Avatar

    Hi… the story of you obsessively messaging this guy seems so fmailiar… the fact that he told you that he broke up with his girl… wow… sounds like my bf… he told a few im friends that me broke up with me.. altjough everythign was going smooth between us till i found out… then he told me that his online life is a lie just something he makes up… so be careful of men like that… he even started calling and sms’sing this gal from online who is much older to him… even conviced her that he loves her… i saw his conversation with her …. his call records tell me about how much he talks to her… so you see….. thers a need for much discretion in such cases… it can hurt very bad for those obssessing about someone who actully has made a facade about their feelings…

    wish all teh singfle people all the best… hope you all find that special someone

  6. nysharon Avatar

    Always trust your gut DG and you did again this time. I am sure you said it with your wonderful delicate sense of humor and that is good Karma. There are some women who don’t trust that, and end up in big messes.

  7. Christine Avatar

    DG – I think this is really an interesting question. One that I’m quite sure I would have been slower to consider when I was younger. I think I used to regard this “obsessiveness” as real enthusiasm, energy, and genuine interest in me. Despite the frenetic pace, I often enjoyed the ride. Although I’m savvy enough now to know why I should give pause to this kind of attention, it does sadden me a little bit that someone’s earnestness and excitement can be so quickly viewed as a negative. One more reason why dating after 40 does not always seem like so much fun…….