Customer Reviews: Obsessive Love: When It Hurts Too Much to Let Go
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on February 26, 2002
I can't count the times I have pontificated by saying that I would never read or recommend a self-help book. Well I was wrong. "Obsessive Love..." is a gem of the genre, a truly insightful and helpful book for all ages.
In clear, thoughtful, and easy-to-read English, Susan Forward explains the difference between love--and obsession, quite a different animal altogether. Because it is written with a nonjudgmental attitude and the compassion comes through on every page, it allows the reader who may be caught up in such a relationship to take the first painful step: admitting that he/she is indeed caught up in this unhealthy situation.
The book then gives advice on how to break the attachment and to see the relationship for what it is--or is not. It is aimed at giving the obsessor his/her life back, and of course, the object of the obsession gains the same bonus. Those who are caught up in such a relationship often feel hopeless, helpless, and truly terrified at the prospect of ending a relationship that in fact may not even exist (or that exists no longer). Forward understands this, and does not try to explain it away. She simply guides the reader, quietly and firmly, if you will, through a series of steps that she says will help. And they do.
Letting go is never an easy process, and Forward does not pretend that it is. But her advice works, and leaves the obsessor with dignity and a sense of having come through a serious situation, and out to the other side.
I would imagine that this book would not help a truly psychotic stalker. I have recommended it repeatedly to friends who are locked into relationships that are obsessive and unhealthy, or that are over entirely. The advice has worked every time. I recommend this book to anyone who is grieving over a failed love affair, or a preoccupation with a person who does not reciprocate one's affections. If nothing else, this book will provide strong comfort.
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on January 29, 2007
I have struggled three times with "obsessive love," and am now struggling a fourth time. When I first saw this book, I was encouraged to know that I'm not alone, and that I have a documented psychological condition with documented remedies. Unfortunately, however, I was expecting too much, and was disappointed. There is no easy one-size-fits-all solution, and I was left with more questions than answers at the end of the book.

Based on the cover, you would imagine that most of this book would be devoted to practical advice for obsessive lovers. Not so. The first section (pages 1-106) is just a symptomatic description of the problem, illustrated with numerous stories from Dr Forward's clients. She starts with an outline of the emotional process in an obsessive lover's mind - the constant fear of rejection, and ultimate denial of rejection, leading to a totally unrealistic view of the relationship. The chapter is padded with more examples than it needs, but it gets the point across: if you're an obsessive lover, you will now be in no doubt about it. In the following chapters, she goes on to talk about progressive levels of obsessive behavior: frequent phone calls, unwanted gifts, stalking, anger, revenge and ultimately murder (!). I lost the thread right at the beginning of this list. Obsessive behavior for me means pacing around my apartment, sleeping all day, bad eating habits, distraction from work, but never any obvious personal harrassment.

I plowed on, skipping through some of the bizarre and irrelevant stories, mildly encouraged that things could be a lot worse. The second section (pages 107-168) deals with obsessive love from the target's point of view: how to free yourself from an obsessive lover. That's probably useful information if you're in that situation, but not if you're the obsessor, as is probably the case for most readers.

Next we have a chapter about the possible root causes of obsessive love, namely bad experiences during childhood (pages 169-193). Dr Forward suggests that most obsessive lovers have suffered rejection by parents, peers or early lovers, and that our adult lovers are an emotional substitute. Interesting theory, but does it help? Not really.

Finally, in pages 194-278, we reach the meat of the book. A practical guide to overcoming obsessive love. Dr Forward leads you through a step-by-step process of identifying destructive triggers and behaviors in our lives, and systematically making more constructive choices. Part of the therapy involves a two-week "emotional vacation" away from your lover, with absolutely no contact permitted. The system sounds sensible, if you have the discipline to go through with it - though some aspects are embarrassingly silly (sticking little STOP signs all over your house!). I think it would be difficult to apply without human accountablility.

My biggest complaint, speaking personally, is that this book makes too many assumptions about your situation. In most of the cases where I've become obsessed, I have not been outright rejected. My "targets" wanted to remain as close platonic friends after the casual romance ended, since we had already been friends before dating. They didn't understand, or even realize, that I was going through agony with the friendship. In two cases, the situation was left open-ended, i.e. "I can't handle a serious relationship right now; let's just be friends, and see where we end up when our lives are less chaotic," etc. All of Dr Forward's examples deal with more explosive break-ups or cheating partners, and not with nice friends who just don't want a serious relationship. How do you separate yourself from a friend who doesn't even know you're obsessed, when THEY are the ones initiating all the contact? I have other friends who have suffered in similar ways, but Dr Forward has nothing to say on this scenario. She also doesn't deal adequately with "passive obsessors" - people who act out their obsession by withdrawing themselves from the world, instead of phoning, stalking, etc. Forcing yourself NOT to do something is a tangible objective - but when your obsession drains away all your energy, and all you can do is sleep or stare at the wall, this surely requires a different sort of therapy. Some of her ideas may help in this case (eradicating sensual triggers, increasing physical exercise, etc), but depression itself will still be a hard thing to overcome without professional help.
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on August 4, 2004
I first picked up this book several years ago when I realized that I had some issues around being addicted to a person. I have found it very helpful because some of the stories themselves parallel my own issues, and also because it has helped me to recognize characteristics of the persons with whom I form such unhealthy attractions.

This very well written book explores the symptoms and results of being addicted to a person. Author Susan Forward's basic premise is that a person who tends to be relationally addicted will be drawn to somebody who, for various reasons, becomes for him or her their One Magic Person. Through this person, the addicted one relives certain negative childhood experiences, hoping to make them come out right this time.

In the majority of cases in the book, the addicted one eventually drives the other one away through their jealousy, possessiveness or what-have-you, and from that point the addict's focus switches to getting the other one back. This can take the form of unwanted visits, phone calls and gifts. In one of the sadder cases, the pursuer is reduced to sitting in a car outside the other one's house hoping for a glimpse of the beloved from time to time. Sometimes, the pursuer takes revenge against either the other one's property or, in a couple of very tragic cases, the other one's person.

The case histories in the book are partly told in the words of the addicted one, with comments by the author. There is a chapter devoted to the ones who are pursued, although even in this chapter, the focus goes back to the pursuers.

If it appears as though the pursuers are the always the bad guys, this is not the case. Sometimes the ones who are pursued are using the pursuers (who normally fall into a particular category that Forward calls "Saviors") and setting them up for a fall. These folks cannot be driven away until their web of lies and deceit are exposed.

Finally, there is a section on how to let go of the obsession. One of the strongest and most helpful parts of this section is the reminder that if the other party has cut off all contact, the relationship is over. Forward expresses her surprise at how many clients she sees who, even though they may not have heard from their ex-partner in months, still believe that they have a relationship with that person.

I highly recommend this book to anybody who has, or thinks they have, an addiction to a person. It's a great reminder that we are not alone in this illness and that help is available.
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on January 14, 2003
When I first got this book, I was so addicted to a person that I did not realize I was stalking him and invading his privacy. This book deals out some harsh truth in the beginning. At first I felt no sympathy for my painful ordeal and I couldn't read it. I would recommend reading this book after you have explored why you are the way you are and accepted that are obsessed or addicted to a person. Before reading this book, you might want to try How to Break an Addiction to a Person. That book is a little more sympathetic to how you feel and it helps you to understand why you are acting the way you act. Once you come to terms with yourself and your problems, read Obsessive Love. It gives clear concise directions on how to stop obsessing using behavior conditioning. The psychological techniques in this book really work because they do not focus on appealing to your logical mind but to your illogical emotions and thoughts. This book also provides some insight on how you got this way and it helps you to understand how the person you are obsessing over feels. That is important. This is a great book that really helps deal with a sickness appropriately. It is not a quick fix it is not cheesy. It deals you the truth and then tells you exercises to do everyday to help you deal with the pain. It takes work and dedication to make yourself a healthier person but with this book, you can do it.
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on March 29, 2001
I actually read this book about 8 years ago and it really helped me through some very tough times during the loss of a relationship. The book goes straight to the point and anyone who is going through a tough time with their loved one can totally relate!!! Over time, I have recommended this book to about 5 people and all have benefited. Today, I have a friend who is going through familiar issues and once again, I am purchasing a copy for her. Thank goodness it's still in print!!!
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on September 29, 2005
This book is a great place to start if you believe you or someone you love may be addicted to relationships. I also highly recommend "Confusing Love With Obsession: When You Can't Stop Controlling Your Partner and the Relationship."
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on July 13, 2007
I hate those reviewers who write, "this book changed my life," but this book saved my life. I was able to quit a very toxic relationship after 3 years while reading this book. The exercises really help because it's so eye opening to finally see on paper our unhealthy patterns and behaviors. Her section that explains the difference between feelings and thoughts is very enlightening since most of us seem to confuse the two in our communications (saying, "I felt like the movie was kind of slow," when we really mean, "I think this movie is slow, and I feel bored, restless.") This book can really help you get your life back in balance when you think you just can't live without that one magic person.
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on September 28, 2009
I've been an obsessive lover for 23 years, ever since I was in elementary school. I've always become super obsessed with a particular girl, thinking I have to have her in order to be happy, and I can never be happy without her. A few times I told a girl about my feelings toward her and was rejected, and once it caused me to attempt suicide. I've been suicidal over girls four times.

This book explains the nature of obsessive love, what kind of things it can cause a person to do, and it has a large section directed toward 'targets' of obsessive love. And most importantly are the last few chapters with numerous explanations and exercises for overcoming or gaining control over the problem. You have to do the exercises to benefit from this book, and she says multiple times that you might want to get a professional therapist in addition to reading the book and doing the exercises she has you do. She also makes it clear that not every exercise will benefit every person, and that each person should do what works for them.

After finishing the book I feel I understand my problems so much better. I didn't know that the severe anxiety I feel around attractive girls is due to a fear of rejection, which comes from having felt rejected by my parents when I was young. Because of this book I have, at the author's suggestion, taken up some activities that I enjoyed when I was younger that I haven't done for ten years or more. Having things to do that you enjoy that occupy your mind, and spending time with people you aren't obsessed with are important, as the author explains.

I especially liked her idea of writing out a 'eulogy' for the death of your relationship with the person you are obsessing over. I actually wrote 13 eulogies, for the 13 people I have been the most obsessed with in my life. I liked the idea of imagining it all being lowered into a grave and grieving over the loss of something that I had been so sure would have made me happy.

If you suspect you may be an obsessive lover, or if you suspect you are the target of someone who is, this book is a must-read.
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on April 9, 2003
This book helped me break the Infatuation Cycles I had developed. It is written in a very concise and non-invasive way so as not to offend and make you a deranged and sick person. My behavior was deranged and sick, but after reading this book I made a determined and solid decision to move on AND not look back. I have not repeated my Obsessive Cycle since.
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on August 20, 1998
This book was extremely well written and contained crucial information. It changed my life in many respects. It helped me to recognize the unhealthy relationship I *was* in .. and finally helped me to recognize what a healthy relationship is. This was my "relationship bible".
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