love in the time of hyperfixation
Florine Stettheimer, Picnic at Bedford Hills, 1918
I saw a TikTok where a girl’s therapist told her that in a healthy relationship with anything, you give ~30% of yourself, and keep 70% private. In an unhealthy relationship, you might give 90% and keep only 10%. I found this advice so wholly unrelatable I had to write an entire Substack post about it.
As you might already know: when I like something, I get tunnel vision. I can’t see or think about anything else. For me, the beginning of obsession feels completely, unmistakably good. There’s a purity to the experience that can only be described as euphoric: I was looking for you and now I’ve found you.
Some of my fixations have been longer-lasting than others. I’ve been obsessed with reading my entire life. I’ve been writing for a long time, too. Other fixations have been more temporary—I’ve fallen in and out of love. I’ve taken up hobbies that haven’t lasted. My friend Ben and I often discuss this: how can you tell which fixations will last and which are temporary? How can you tell which are fruitful and which lead to a dead end? We love passion, but also distrust it.
A constant dilemma in my life is what Heather Havrilesky describes as the tug between passion and loyalty. I identify as someone who is moved by idealism and intensity, but also cares about duty and longevity. When you’re torn between the two, what are you supposed to choose?