The Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love

By Dr. Monique Belton and Eileen Bailey

Reviewed by Caroline Comeaux Lee

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Have you ever found yourself calling your partner repeatedly even though they have asked you to stop?  Does your partner sulk, pout and pick a fight whenever you want to meet up with friends for a drink?  Perhaps the fights have escalated and you now are being shoved around.  The Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love: Break Free of Unhealthy Bonds and Open the Way to True Love by Dr. Monique Belton and Eileen Bailey may help you recognize the unhealthy relationship you are in and show you ways to correct the issues.  Although many books on relationship tout the ability to fix your relationship, Overcoming Obsessive Love acknowledges that it is carving the path but that the couple must do the work that it describes.

Overcoming Obsessive Love is for the obsessive lover and his or her partner.  Broken into five parts, the book devotes its focus to explaining obsessive love and showing how each partner plays a role in the unhealthy cycles typically found in these relationships.  Although the obsessive love relationship is complex, Belton and Bailey attempt to address the various factors that play a role for each partner.  The book also has extra pieces of information throughout each chapter to assist:

  • Definitions of terms that are relative to the topic
  • Tips and ideas to develop a healthier outlook on love
  • Warnings that signal an unhealthy lover or relationship
  • Case studies relative to the chapter discussion
  • Facts and statistics

In addition, each chapter ends with key points for the reader to focus on.

The first part of the book focuses on defining obsessive love.  Belton and Bailey break down the obsessive love relationship, describing how it develops, why it might develop, and relating it to social norms.  They also break apart myths typically associated with obsessive relationships, such as “all obsessive love relationships include physical violence.”

The second and third parts of the book address the obsessive lover and the partner of the obsessive lover respectively.  Each part provides a questionnaire at the beginning to help determine if the reader fits the profile of one of these partners.  After describing the typical traits of these characters, Overcoming Obsessive Love dives deeply into the behaviors that are associated to the role in the relationship.  For the obsessive lover, this could be self-punishment, anger, self-recriminations, or dysfunction in every day, such as missing work to check on the whereabouts of their partner.  The partner, though, could be participating in behavior that is enabling or contributing to their obsessive lover.  If the partner is codependent, the obsessive love may be helping them fill a need to take care of someone else.  On the other hand, the partner could be sending mixed signals to their obsessive lover, such as setting a boundary with their partner but then not holding up to it.  The third part goes on to give suggestions on how to break off the relationship, manage finances, and handle the situation if there are children involved.

Part 4 is where the book begins to bring all of the initial information together to really assist a couple in breaking out of their cycle of obsessive love.  It begins by focusing on the self-image of the partners, encouraging each to look at them deeply and address the issues that are encouraging the unhealthy cycle.  Belton and Bailey include a questionnaire for each partner: for the obsessive lover, it focuses on the self-image; for the partner, it focuses on accessing their strengths and weaknesses.  The chapter encourages the partners that they have the power to change their self-image and includes strategies, such as visualization, to do this.  Therapy and counseling for the individuals and the couple as a whole is encouraged as well. 

The next two chapters are devoted to the individuals, providing information to the obsessive lover on how to break the cycle of obsessive behaviors and assisting the partner with setting boundaries and making changes.  The last chapter is the meat of this part of the book, though.  In it, there are self-help exercises for both partners to assist them in creating a new self-image and growing out of the cycle built into the relationship.  The partners are encouraged to use logs and journals of their behavior in order to identify patterns, use positive speak to combat the negative thoughts that have become habit forming, and to lean on friends and family for support.  The chapter also encourages affirmation.  “Affirmations can help you cope with negative thoughts and fears.  You can say them silently or aloud.  The more you repeat affirmations, the more you believe them.”

Finally, the book ends with a focus on what to do if the relationship becomes dangerous, either through stalking or abuse.  It provides information on how to protect yourself from stalking, what to do if you are being stalked (i.e. filing a police report), and how to use the law to protect yourself.  It addresses the various types of abuse a partner may experience and describes how each of these will affect the partner.

Overcoming Obsessive Love addresses many, if not all, of the key points within an obsessive love relationship.  Having experienced such a relationship, I wish that I had this book handy.  Although it may be considered heavy on the technical aspect of relationships, Belton and Bailey are sure to create a focus on the emotional load that comes with being in the cycle of obsessive love.  It is easy to appreciate the intricacies within the book because the obsessive love relationship is certainly one of great complexity.

However, readers may find that the final part, which addresses a relationship turned dangerous, may not be enough.  It seems that if the authors felt the need to address a dangerous relationship separately in its own part of the book, would it not warrant more focus than a mere 50 pages?  In addition, the rest of the book is strong in hitting the relationship from two sides, both technically and emotionally.  The final part of the book, though, focuses much more on what to do and less so on the emotional drain that this may have on the partner experiencing the danger.  The authors also fail to address adequately the emotional fallout after finally ending a dangerous relationship.  It seems that this neglect may leave the reader feeling let down and unsure of how to continue if they are in such a relationship.  They may be left wondering how to pick up the pieces once their life has been torn down so far.

Overall, though, Overcoming Obsessive Love is a great resource for both parties involved in an obsessive love relationship.  The book discusses the background necessary to understand what has led to the obsessive love and the roles that each partner plays.  Providing the couple techniques for addressing their needs and issues within the relationship gives them a strong point from which to start healing and correcting the obsessive love cycle.

The Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love
By Monique Belton, PhD and Eileen Bailey
Alpha: June 7, 2011
Paperback, 320 pages
$16.95

Psych Central's Recommendation:
Worth Your Time! +++

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APA Reference
Comeaux Lee, C. (2011). The Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-essential-guide-to-overcoming-obsessive-love/0009365
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
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