Are You Keeping Him or Freaking Him?

Who hasn't fibbed or fudged it to catch or keep a man? 'All's fair in lust and war. We'll, that was my excuse,' says 28 year old freelance copyrighter Candace. But while her friends were prepared to buy it when she bleached her stunning auburn hair - pubes included - to attract Zane, a visiting international ballplayer who preferred blondes, they balked when she began dropping assignments and other interests - including them - to be with him.

He, it emerged, was as possessive of his blondes as of the ball. It was when Candace got pregnant to keep him that she nearly lost all of her friends entirely, along with the plot.

'What can I say?' she sighs today. 'I was 23 and crazily in wouldn't commit and his contract was coming to an end. I seriously thought throwing in my job and following him around the world with a baby could make us happy.'

Candace blamed antibiotics for upsetting her cycle on the Pill, and Zane believed her - but backed straight out. He didn't ask for tests and offered to pay maintenance, but that wasn't what she was after. At the time she was devastated and when she miscarried at two months she almost had a breakdown. That's when she turned to professional help and began questioning how she's arrived at that point.

'When you want something so much, you just do what you feel you must do,' she says now. 'It's really hard to know how much is too much. And it's even harder to hold back.'

How Much is Too Much?

It's healthy and necessary to compromise in relationships and to sacrifice to some degree. Sometimes relationships require some healthy pretence. You may need to pretend you're not irritated about something small and let it go to keep the peace. It's when you have to pretend about things because you're anxious you'll lose him if you are yourself, or when you start to lose your sense of identity in the process of pretending, that it starts to become unhealthy.

Women often fib or change themselves to a degree to be attractive to their partners. How many women wake up in the morning next to a man the way nature intended - with absolutely no effort made? It's not necessary to tell him everything you do to improve yourself physically and in other ways, such as through the tips you pick up in self help books or the advice you get from other people.

It's the intent and the extent of the behavior that is important. The point to watch for is when your decisions become 'other centered', and when you lose a clear sense of who you are and what fits with you. If you press pass this point, you risk losing the sense of who you are, and risk re-creating yourself as something you believe someone else wants.

This is a sign that your liking or loving them has turned into an unhealthy obsession. And the irony is that the more you do this, and the tighter you cling, the more you will frighten off the object of your affection and risk getting the very result you fear.

Are You at Risk?

The woman who goes too far to get or keep a man fails to see that the more desperate she becomes, the more he'll avoid her because of the intensity and anxiety in the air. A vicious cycle is created, with the potential to escalate past sad or silly to scary - deliberately getting pregnant, undergoing surgery, using love potions, even stalking or harming the man or hurting yourself.

Think Hard Before you Act on your Emotions

Changing yourself significantly, lying or acting in order to win or keep someone is about a deep fear of being different or separate. These devices usually operate to protect you psychologically from feeling that difference implies an aching separateness rather than a healthy differentiation. When you do this and are not yourself, or don't have your own opinions, you are what psychologists refer to as 'dependent' - you assume the other person won't like you, or will disapprove of you or reject you because of who you are.

This is an indication of low or nonexistent confidence - often the result of an upbringing that didn't provide consistency and security. The problem is that in a relationship, if you change or put on an act to win or keep a partner, you'll end up with a sense that the relationship lacks connection and depth. You'll also lose trust. The outcome will be neurosis and anxiety.

Reading the Signs

Changing yourself for someone else is just one of the signs of unhealthy obsession. If you can't concentrate on your normal daily demands, if you can't stop yourself phoning, SMSing or emailing the person incessantly and if they're indicating they don't want to be with you but you don't want to accept it. And get professional help if you start checking on them, or following them or having thoughts about harming them or yourself.

How to Turn Back

Before you make a decision you may regret, from getting pregnant to getting a boob job, understand that actions have consequences. They can change your life for the worse, forever, so think hard before you act on your emotions. No man is worth serving a prison sentence for. There's no one and no unrequited or broken relationship that you can't get over in time.

In therapy it's possible to explore the roots of unhealthy, potentially damaging urges and learn ways to resist or channel them, and to find ways to build confidence.