What is that dividing line between passion and obsession? In the news was the breaking and entering of a man, a stalker, of Taylor Swift’s apartment and this for the third time. He was arrested and of course, this is a crime. But there are those who are so passionate about a hobby, an activity or an item that it may be hard not to label it an obsession. And it will affect any relationship.

The dictionary defines passion as: a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything; and obsession as: the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.

With those definitions, the main issue seems to be the word “domination.” And yet, at times, it may be hard to differentiate when the simple desire ends, and domination of thoughts or feelings begins. There are those who collect stamps, baseball cards, knickknacks, souvenirs, and what not. That could reach a level that might be called “hoarding.” I have a friend whose house is so full of such stuff, and valuable stuff at that, that you have to question if he is a hoarder. What do you do if your partner is such a person?

Then there is the fan who absolutely positively has to see the new episode of “Game of Thrones,” the ballgame, or some other TV show. What if you do not share that intense wish?

Any relationship requires accommodation if it will survive and become stronger and joyful. At what point does one draw the line and say it is interfering in connecting with one another?

This is a matter that may vary from one person to another. What you may be tolerant of, I may have a problem with. Does the time your partner spends on the hobby bother you? Do you feel you are competing for time together as opposed to time spent separately? Then take a good look at how confident and trusting you are in the relationship. On the other hand, you may both be quite comfortable with parallel and individual pursuits and appreciate the extent of space you accord each other.

Bottom line is this: Even identical twins raised in the same family have differing likes and dislikes, let alone partners whose upbringing may have been along totally unlike paths. So, there will be separate ways, preferences, and goals. The key is to appreciate the richness such diversity brings and to work out compromises without being judgmental. If you look down on your loved one’s behavior, ask yourself why your choices should be considered more worthy. In any human connection, it is empathy and compassion that lead us to stronger, healthier places.

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Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577