There’s no such thing as loving someone too much. There is such a thing, though, as too much smothering. And smothering can definitely scare someone away.
So what does it mean to really love someone, and when does love turn into smothering?
Smothering, ultimately, isn’t about love, but about selfishness. When you love someone, you want what’s best for the person, even if that means the relationship looks different from what you had in mind. In contrast, when you smother, you prioritize your own needs for closeness or connection, as opposed to what the other person wants or needs. This is one reason people can get scared away and run from a relationship.
So let’s look at some differences between smothering and love.
Smothering takes. It’s selfish. When you smother, you’re really not considering the other person’s feelings and desires. You may feel like you’re showing love, but if you’re being motivated by your own insecurity about the relationship or your own fears about losing this person, then you’re probably more in the smothering camp.
Love gives. It’s generous. It prioritizes the other person’s freedom and autonomy. When you love, you’re willing to do whatever is best for the person you care for, even if that means you don’t get exactly what you want, exactly when you want it.
Smothering demands. When you smother, you constantly ask about the future, insisting on specific answers and results. You also demand attention or reassurance from the other person, requiring repeated statements of proof of their commitment level or feelings for you.
Love patiently waits. When you love, you enjoy the present, allowing the other person and the relationship to progress at a comfortable pace. You wait for both of you to become ready for a certain level of intimacy, instead of asking for premature answers or commitments that can put pressure on the other person and scare him or her away.
Smothering disregards what another wants. When you offer continual statements of how much you care about the other person, you may feel as if you’re actually offering love and simply trying to demonstrate how strong your feelings are. But when the other person doesn’t want to hear repeated avowals of your love, you can end up coming across as needy and desperate, merely because you’re disregarding how your partner feels and what he or she wants.
Love considers and respects the other’s desires. True feelings of love don’t force themselves on another person in ways or at times that the person isn’t ready to receive them. Again, sometimes the best way to show your love is to respect the other’s wishes and allow the relationship to grow and develop more gradually. It may seem strange, but there really are times when it’s not the best idea to say “I love you” over and over again.
Smothering oppresses. It pesters and desperately grasps. It calls too often or sends too many text messages. It results from fear and can end up making the relationship feel like a prison to the other person. It’s like building a border of rocks around a campfire to contain it and to keep it from going where it would naturally go.
Love offers space, respect, and trust. Love invites the other’s truest self. It frees the other to be and act and love how the person chooses. Whereas smothering encircles and contains the fire with rocks, love kicks the rocks away, allowing the fire to burn strong and free.
Smothering tells another what to think or do. When you smother another person, you tell them who they should and shouldn’t spend time with. You check up on where they’re going. You expect them to behave in ways you want them to behave, sometimes even through manipulation.
Love respects and encourages autonomy. Loving someone means allowing others to be fully themselves. Of course it’s true that in a relationship, two people rub off on each other and help each other grow and evolve, but this process needs to be built on respect and appreciation for each person’s individuality.
Smothering is insecure. Ultimately, this is the root of smothering. It can be produced by jealousy, fear, and anxiety, and it’s one of the surest ways of driving someone away.
Love is secure. Love is emotionally strong enough to respect another person’s space and to trust that what’s meant to happen will happen.
Relationships need space and air to breathe if they’re going to survive and thrive. Smothering can therefore kill a relationship by depriving it of oxygen. So remember, there’s no such thing as loving too much. The real question you need to ask yourself is, Are my actions genuinely loving? There can sometimes be a fine line between loving and smothering, but if you want a healthy and long-lasting relationship, it’s an important one not to cross.
In your efforts to find your one, true love, be careful not to make another person feel as if he or she is being imprisoned. Remember, you’re looking for a soul mate, not a cellmate.