One minute, you’ve matched with someone on Tinder. The next, you’re spending every waking hour daydreaming about them and/or checking your phone to see if they’ve texted you back. Or worse, they’re not texting you back, and you still can’t get them out of your mind.
If you’ve found yourself completely obsessed with and consumed by a love interest, rest assured that you’re not alone. Because of the intense euphoria associated with dating and falling in love, it’s common to get fixated on the person causing these feelings, says psychotherapist Richard A. Singer Jr., M.A.
This can happen with people you’re crushing on from a distance as well as people you’re dating, though it will likely fade as your relationship progresses. It can come back, though, after a breakup, when you’re pining after a former partner.
Getting obsessive about someone doesn’t mean you can never have a healthy relationship with them, says Singer. But it can become a problem if it leads to negative thoughts and emotions like anxiety or jealousy. “Obsessions take you out of reality and stop you from being in the present moment or in the world,” says Singer. “Basically, you are living in your head.” While a bit of obsessing in the early infatuation phase is normal, anything beyond that may take work to overcome if you want a truly healthy relationship.
If this sounds like something you’re going through, it’s high time you get back to living your life.
1. Remember you don’t need them.
When we’re really into someone, it can feel as if our lives depend on their next phone call. So, reminding yourself that you don’t need the other person, you simply want them, can help you feel less at their mercy.
“An analogy to this is the fact that you might really want chocolate cake, but you don’t sit obsessing about it for hours on end and unexplainably lose your power of speech when you see it,” says Adina Mahalli, MSW, relationship expert and mental health consultant for Maple Holistics. “This is because you recognize that the cake is a want and not a need. When you acknowledge that your love interest is a want and not a need, you automatically regain some of your control.”
2. Remember they’re not perfect.
When we’re crushing on someone to the point of obsession, we’re often putting them on a pedestal, says Mahalli. Reminding yourself of their flaws can help you take them off that pedestal and make peace with the situation if your feelings are unrequited.
“The perfect person doesn’t exist,” says Mahalli. “Sure, there might be a perfect person for you, but that’s only after you’ve accepted them, faults and all. You don’t need to demonize them, but you do need to realize that if you think they’re perfect, you might need to remove your rose-tinted glasses.
3. Cultivate the qualities that they bring out in yourself.
“When you find yourself obsessing over a love interest, on a very deep level, it usually means that being around them brings out a part of you that you want to reclaim,” says Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert with a private practice in New York City. “Perhaps focusing on them makes you feel more alive and more complete in some way.”
Instead of relying on the other person to bring out that side of yourself, see if you can be the version of yourself they bring out all the time. For example, if you love how they give you the chance to be playful, think of ways you can be more playful in your daily life.
4. Notice what triggers the obsessing.
If there are particular situations that leave you prone to obsessing, try to identify them before the obsessing starts. For example, many people start to obsess over a love interest when they’re feeling anxious, isolated, or depressed, says Thompson. “Notice the moment right before your obsessive thoughts start and right before you reach out to make contact with your love interest. [What you feel at that moment] is most probably what you are avoiding.”
If you tend to obsess over someone when you’re lonely, for example, you might reach out to friends, or simply practice sitting with and soothing yourself. “It’s important that we stay with how we feel and what is underneath the obsessing to truly overcome it,” says Thompson.
5. Gain control over your thoughts.
Though it may be easier said than done, psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW, recommends picturing your thoughts as trains: Consider what “destination” you want to go to, and only follow the trains of thought that bring you there. “Thinking about your lover only reinforces neural pathways about them,” Koenig explains. “Drop them like a hot mental potato. The less you attach to thoughts about them, the weaker the pathway gets until, over time, you stop obsessing about them.”
You can get better at this by practicing mindfulness meditation, says Singer. Sit still and notice any thoughts that cross your mind, and when they do, just return to your breath. “The importance is just noticing and not judging any of the thoughts, obsessions, or feelings,” he says. “This will begin to increase the ability to remain in the present in normal everyday life.”
6. Be conscious of how you structure your time.
If you have a tendency to social-media-stalk your love interest, make a rule that you can no longer do this. If you can’t control yourself, consider unfollowing or (in the case of a toxic ex) blocking them. You might even do a digital detox and delete certain apps from your phone, says licensed psychologist Erika Martinez, Psy.D.
Schedule activities that engage your mind so that it’s not free to obsess over your love interest, she suggests. If you can’t resist thinking about them, you might block out 15 minutes or so in the day to do it so that your mind is otherwise free to think about other things.
7. Stop blaming yourself when things don’t work out.
Often, obsessions — particularly post-breakup obsessions — are fueled by self-blame. “Pain-producing thoughts like I shouldn’t have picked that partner!, How stupid I was!, or What’s wrong with me that they left? keep us depressed, angry, and in general, unable to move on,” says licensed psychotherapist Arlene B. Englander, LCSW.
If you feel you made certain mistakes in the relationship, Englander recommends journaling about your feelings and what you’d like to do differently in the future. “Talking this out with friends could be helpful, as well, as they can often provide more objective feedback,” she says. “Do they see a pattern in the type of partners you pick or how you behave once you’re involved? Use the breakup as an opportunity to get as much information as possible.”
8. Consider talk therapy.
If you’re struggling to get your mind off this person, going to therapy never hurts, says Singer. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be particularly useful to develop greater control over your thoughts.
“CBT is definitely effective and deals with changing your thought pattern and behavior,” he says. “In the case of obsessions, you may employ a strategy of visualizing a big stop sign in your mind when you begin to notice the obsessions coming on. The sooner we notice, the better, because once you are caught up in the obsession, it’s hard to stop the momentum.”