Why Do I Become Overprotective and Possessive in Relationships?

I am in a relationship that I have wanted all of my life. I find myself starting to sabotage it with overprotectiveness and possessiveness. I know what’s happening intellectually but am struggling to control it. What measures can I take to give me solace and contentment? - Overprotective
Dear Overprotective,

Thank you for writing in with such a great question. When it comes to the oft elusive quest for a partner to build a life with, what makes sense intellectually can begin to feel much more complicated in a hurry. You mention feeling overprotective and possessive in your relationship. While it can feel really scary to make yourself vulnerable, it might be a good idea to talk to your partner about what you are feeling. In a relationship, discussing hopes and dreams, as well as fears and insecurities, can be very effective in building intimacy and fostering a strong bond. Imagine how you might feel if you learned your partner was struggling with some fears and insecurities of his/her own. Imagine how you might feel if your partner expressed how much you were loved and valued and compassionately alleviated your fears. It is possible that opening up a conversation about how you are feeling in the relationship might just produce these responses and increase the connectedness between you.

For many people, initiating a conversation like this with their partner can feel more than a little uncomfortable—it can feel completely overwhelming, perhaps even impossible. If you find yourself somewhere on this spectrum, you might find it beneficial to talk to a therapist. My belief, which is backed up by a growing body of research, is that much of the change that therapy produces is a result of the therapeutic relationship that develops between the client and the therapist. Therapy can be very effective in helping people work on relationship issues, in part because the therapy relationship allows you to participate in a safe, strong, and healthy relationship. Therapy affords you the opportunity to learn, develop and practice relationship skills in a safe setting and offers continued support as you begin to implement these skills outside of your sessions.

In addition to mastering relational skills, therapy can also offer a safe space for you to take a look at yourself and the health of your relationship. Sometimes when people are feeling overprotective and possessive in their relationships, it can be an indicator that they lack the confidence and self-esteem to believe that they are worthy of the relationship that they are in. If this is the case, therapy can be invaluable in helping you learn to truly love and accept yourself and to know that you are worthy of love. Sometimes overprotective and possessive feelings in a relationship can be indicators that the relationship is not a healthy one—maybe your partner has given you real reasons to not believe he/she is trustworthy. As an objective third party, whose sole responsibility is to you and your well-being, a therapist can also offer insight into the health of a relationship.

Committed, healthy relationships can offer a sense of partnership, comfort, support, and myriad other benefits; however, they also require hard work and an ability to look at yourself, your partner, and the relationship in ways that can be uncomfortable.

Kind regards,

Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
  • Leave a Comment
  • R.Z

    November 16th, 2012 at 9:48 PM

    I was like this before when I was much younger. Over possessive to a point where I can now imagine I must have been frustrating for my partner. Lost out on a great long term relationship solely because if that reason. I learnt my lesson. You can hold sand in your hand but hold it too tight and it will just slip away!

  • kent

    November 17th, 2012 at 4:04 AM

    If you have been hurt and abandoned earlier in life, either by your mom or dad or in a relationship, then I think that it would only be natural to begin feeling possessive of someone that you love.

    The hard thing to recognize though is that for a healthy person being possessive like this is actually going to drive them away. And while it is easy to see this it is hard to stop that kind of behavior without a little bit of help.

    That’s the one thing that I would encourage- don’t be shy about asking for some help because most of the time all of us need this. This might not be an issue that you can overcome on your own.

  • Dimple

    November 18th, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    There must be a reason behind why you are overprotective and possessive in a relationship. Your attitude is a direct results of his behavior.

  • Kali

    November 18th, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    Have to learn that many times the best protection is release. Being over protective and over watchful can definitely run those that you are closest too off and leave you standing with nothing but an empty feeling.

  • Jamejimion

    November 19th, 2012 at 3:56 AM

    For most of us this is a trait that we have when we have never been given the tools to ahow someone real love. We think that love is about having to have someone under our thumb all the time, but really it is more about being able to let them go and still being confident that they will come back to us.

  • Xeexee

    November 19th, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    You sound like you understand what’s driving your behaviour but are struggling to know how to cope.

    Give to yourself that which you are seeking in your partner, this might be love acceptance and nurturing which has been missing, part of this will be a therapeutic process which allows you to grieve past losses and validate the feelings you are having at the moment. It may also involve accepting that you are trying the best you can in what sounds like a very difficult situation for you….and is all part of your healing. Being able to manage you’re present feelings may also be assisted by considering meditation or mindfulness practices….wish you healing on your journey. First step has already been made by you….

  • Ray

    September 27th, 2014 at 3:56 AM

    Maybe possessiveness and over protectiveness is due to lack of perceived or actual abundance?

  • Nerdygeek

    April 5th, 2015 at 12:44 AM

    The key to having a good relationship is giving your partner time to miss you.

  • Riya

    June 5th, 2016 at 2:37 AM

    I am too friendly with my best friend but my boy friend gets over possessed feels jealous and insecure.
    what should i do so that my boy friend does not get jealous or something like that. but the problem is that i cant stop talking to my best friend .

  • john m.

    January 8th, 2019 at 8:27 PM

    I’m one of the most protective guys that my girlfriend has and I asked her one day ” am I too protective or overly protective ” and she responded with ” I think it’s hot that your overly protective and I don’t mind it as long as you don’t limit me to people that I can talk to” why does my girlfriend think it’s so hot about me being overly protective over her. can anybody here answer that because I can’t..

  • Laura

    October 17th, 2019 at 8:25 PM

    Acting this way always happens in a relationship due to one partner lying and cheating. it’s a coping mechanism

  • Athomas

    March 20th, 2020 at 9:23 AM

    In my view. Ia have been told that iam possessive. By my Love. Iam not an expert in the relationship field. However, wanting to protect your partner or your Love is a great trait. Going to far is what causes ill will and frustration with the other party involved. My suggestion is open communication and lots of listening to the other side is huge. Professional help can do wonders aswel. Much success n

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