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Signs of Possession in Sex and Relationships

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 03, 2020

What Is Possession?

We almost all feel some degree of possessiveness in romantic relationships. After all, it’s at the heart of the phrase “be mine” we hear every Valentine’s Day — that concept of “belonging” to someone. But possessiveness goes beyond taking pride in a partner’s accomplishments or becoming slightly irritated when someone gets a little too flirty with our significant other. 

If taken too far, possessiveness can become a serious issue that leads to other relationship problems. Among them include jealousy, abuse, paranoia, or stalking. It’s important to recognize the signs of possessiveness in a relationship and know when it’s taking a bad turn.

Possessiveness is fundamentally a fear of loss. Possessive people worry that their partners will leave them. This creates feelings of fear, anger, and sadness. Trust is a vital aspect of a healthy relationship. In order to trust, you must feel your partner is reliable, cares about you, and can be counted on. People who are securely attached believe they’re worthy of love and that others can be trusted. 

Possessiveness often stems from insecurities related to attachment styles. People with attachment anxiety tend to have a negative view of themselves and a positive view of others. They worry that their partners can’t be trusted. They have a chronic fear of rejection. 

Possessiveness can also be a sign of b orderline p ersonality d isorder. People with this disorder often have mood swings. They exhibit extreme possessiveness in an effort to avoid perceived abandonment. 

Signs of Possession

It can be hard to know when possessiveness crosses the line from normal affection to controlling and abusive behavior. Understanding the signs of possessiveness and learning how to deal with them can help you tell the difference and prevent possessiveness from spiraling out of control.

Here are some signs to look for:

Moving Too Fast

The beginning of any romantic relationship can be heady, but if your partner is fast-tracking your relationship by saying “I love you” very quickly, or pressuring you to move in together too soon, it could be a sign of possessiveness. 

Keeping Track of Your Schedule

If you find yourself being questioned over your whereabouts on a regular basis, your partner may be crossing the line and taking out old insecurities on you. It’s normal to let your significant other know if you have any major schedule changes, but you should be able to go shopping or have lunch with friends without having to check in constantly.

Snooping

Because people with attachment anxiety have lower levels of trust, they’re more likely to invade your privacy by snooping. This includes checking your phone for messages, monitoring your emails, or reading your social media posts.

Your partner might try to excuse their behavior by blaming you for not telling them enough. They may also think of your property as belonging to them too. 

Trying to Control Your Time

If your partner is possessive, they may want you to spend all of your free time with them. But you need to foster healthy relationships with friends and family, not just your romantic partner. When your partner interferes with those bonds by wanting you to spend time only with them, it may isolate you or jeopardize your other relationships. 

Dealing With Possessiveness

Navigating possessiveness in a relationship can be tricky. However, there are ways to handle the situation, whether you are in a relationship with someone who is overly possessive or if you yourself are too dominating in a relationship.

How to Deal with a Possessive Partner

If you recognize signs of possessiveness in your partner, you should understand it’s not about you. Their possessiveness is about their issues, whether it’s insecurity, attachment anxiety, or a possible personality disorder.

You can reassure your partner about your love for them and the state of your relationship. If their possessiveness hasn’t crossed the line into abuse, this may be enough to reassure them about the stability of your relationship. 

If reassuring your partner doesn’t help with possessiveness, therapy may be the next step. This may help them with issues from their past. You may both benefit from couples counseling.

How to Deal with Your Possessiveness

If you’re the possessive one in a relationship, here are some things you can do to deal with your own fear of loss:

  • Avoid snooping or situations that lead to unjustified suspicions.
  • Talk calmly to your partner about your feelings.
  • Maintain relationships with people other than your partner. 
  • Seek a therapist’s help with feelings of insecurity.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

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American Psychological Association: “Love Doesn’t Have to Hurt Teens.”

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National Institute of Mental Health: “Borderline Personality Disorder.”

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Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin: “Anticipated Sexual Jealousy: Its Relationship to Self-Esteem, Dependency, and Reciprocity.”

Psychology Today: “10 Relationship Red Flags.”

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