Your friend calls elated — it’s finally happened! She’s found the one. You’re so excited for her. It’s just like she’s always imagined — she’s so in love she can’t sleep, can’t eat, and has never been happier. There’s just one little problem … they’ve never met.
Sound crazy? Believe it or not, this happens all the time. Romantic hopefuls now have so many ways to find each other — online dating, chat rooms, and social networking sites all provide new options for communicating with total strangers that may never met face-to-face. Yet, they often grow to feel very connected, and insist that what’s happening is real. I mean, hey — they’ve got the endless texts, emails, and instant messages to prove it. Who cares that their beloved may live far away — or could be lying about everything? What does it matter that they haven’t so much as held hands? This is l-o-v-e, and they’ve never been so sure.
Why, in this world full of opportunities would this phenomenon be so commonplace? The very fact that these lovers have only limited interaction could be adding to the allure …
Dubbed the “Fantasy Bond” by psychologist Robert Firestone, this feeling of illusory connection between people who don’t know — or barely know — one another is created as a defense against loneliness and the fear of intimacy. By having a love life that’s mostly in their heads, they get the benefit of not having to risk the rejection a real love could lead to, while getting some of their needs for attention satisfied. It seems harmless, but the danger is that the more a person relies on fantasies of connection, the less he or she will seek out — or be able to accept — love and affection in a real relationship.
In all couplings, it’s natural to go through a fantasy stage — the time frame when everyone is on their best behavior, acting like their idealized selves. This is enhanced by a euphoric cocktail of chemicals the newly in-love brain releases, making it impossible to see the source of infatuation as anything but their perfect dream lover (a stage which sadly lasts only a few months, leading many to later head for the nearest exits, mystified).
This heady time is Mother Nature’s way of getting us together, so we’ll keep the human race going. The real-life hope is that once everyone’s masks come off and the rush of brain opiates calms down, the fantasy will in fact become a reality. But for most, that never occurs.
If you fear you may be in the throes of a ‘fantasy’ relationship, ask yourself two questions:
1. What do I want?
2. Is what is happening reflective of what I want?
(Meaning, if you want a partner to spend every night with you and be exclusive, but you only see them once a month because they’re married, then yes, you are having a fantasy relationship.)
If the answer to number two is negative, try to fix the situation. If that isn’t possible, then recognize what you’ve been doing — you haven’t been ready for a full relationship, and you needed to experience a partial one. That’s okay. But if you want more, you’ll need to be brave and choose to believe in the abundance of life. Move on. You’ll only make yourself more attractive to everyone (including the unavailable lover you just gave up), and increase your chances of having something that can actually bring you the real relationship you long for.