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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Romantic Obsessions and the Thrill of the Chase - Part 1

Romantic obsessions might be funny or entertaining in movies, but they can be very painful and self destructive in real life.  If your pattern is to chase after people, you know just how painful it can be--and yet, you might have a problem changing your behavior on your own (see my article: The Connection Between Obsessive Love as an Adult and Unmet Childhood Emotional Needs and Understanding Sexually Compulsive Behavior).

Romantic Obsessions: The Thrill of the Chase
When life seems boring and routine, "the thrill of the chase" can seem sexy and exciting.

The real thrill in chasing someone isn't about "catching" them--it's about the pleasure of the dopamine high you get from the anticipation.

The more uncertainty there is, the more exciting it is. This is especially true when someone is pursuing a person who is either not interested or comes across as highly ambivalent (see my article: What Makes So-Called "Bad Boys" So Irresistible to Woman? Brain Chemistry Might Be Part of the Answer).

The surge of dopamine can reach euphoric levels, which fuels the obsession and the chase even more.  This behavior can become highly addictive as a person continuously looks for the next dopamine high.

Clinical Vignettes: Romantic Obsessions and the Thrill of the Chase
The following fictional vignettes illustrate how these dynamics often work for both men and women:

Even though Ed was happily married and he loved his wife, he couldn't resist flirting with every attractive woman that he met. Throughout his five year marriage, Ed, who was in his mid-40s, had dozens of sexual affairs.  Many of the women knew that he was married, and they didn't care.  Like him, they were only interested in having a casual sexual relationship with him (see my articles: The Allure of the Extramarital Affair and Married, Bored and Cheating Online).

Initially, when he met an attractive woman, he was filled with euphoric feelings in anticipation of having sex with her. If a woman didn't respond to his flirtation at first, he would become obsessed with chasing her. He would try to find ways to be where he knew she would be, talk to her, make her laugh and win her over.

Since Ed was very attractive, more often than not he would succeed in winning women over.  But after having sex with a woman several times, his interest would wane, and he would be on the prowl again looking for the next attractive woman and the next high.  This pattern would continue over and over again.

Eventually, one of the women, who wanted something more from Ed and felt used by him, contacted his wife to tell her about the sexual affair. She sent Ed's wife a video she took (without Ed knowing) that was unmistakable.  She also told his wife about many of the other women Ed had affairs with over the years.  

When his wife confronted him with the video, Ed admitted he had numerous sexual affairs over the years.  He was ashamed and felt remorse for his behavior.  Although his wife was deeply hurt, she forgave Ed when he promised her that he would change.

After that, Ed didn't want to hurt his wife again, and he didn't want her to leave him.  So, for a while, he just barely managed to control his obsession for women.  But after a few months, he felt bored, and even though he knew he was risking his marriage, he couldn't resist pursuing attractive women, and he went back to having affairs (see my article: Coping with Addiction: Boredom as a Relapse Trigger).

Jane, who was in her late 30s, often complained to her friends that she usually wasn't interested in men who were interested in her.  She realized that she tended to become obsessed with men who were emotionally unavailable and who often weren't interested in her.  Even though this made her feel miserable, she felt she couldn't help herself. The more detached and emotionally aloof men were, the more obsessed she became with them. 

Even though her friends tried to warn her about the men that she was obsessed with, Jane said she couldn't stop herself.  She would chase after these men by calling them, texting them and trying to get them to go out with her.  

Just thinking about one of these men all day long would make her feel high. If she dated a man who showed initial interest in her but who ultimately didn't want to continue to see her, Jane would try to persuade him of all the reasons why he should continue to see her--even when she knew he was dating someone else.  

During her last six month relationship with a man who told her that he wanted an open relationship, she tried to force him into making a an exclusive commitment to her.  No matter how many times he told her that he didn't want to be monogamous, she didn't want to hear it.  In the end, when he broke up with her, he told her that he had been upfront with her about wanting to date other women and he couldn't stand her constant complaints that he wasn't meeting her emotional needs.

After numerous similar experiences, Jane's self esteem continued to plummet.  She tried to date men who were interested in her, but she just wasn't attracted to them.  She began to feel a sense of despair that she would ever be in a reciprocal relationship.

A tendency to pursue romantic or sexual obsessions is high risk, addictive behavior.  Even when there is so much at stake, including the erosion of self esteem or the risk of losing a loving spouse, the dopamine high involved can prove too much for many people to resist.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're struggling with addictive, obsessional behavior in your relationships, you're not alone.

An experienced psychotherapist can help you to overcome self destructive patterns that are ruining your life.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional so you can lead a healthier, more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article:  The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Therapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

Currently, I am providing teletherapy sessions, which are also known as telemental health, online therapy or telehealth sessions (see my article: The Advantages of Online Therapy).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.