Enough already with all the fantasy thinking; all that endless gibberish about perfect relationships, only you can make me happy, don’t ever leave me, and other choice nonsensical ravings!
I can’t tell you how often I’m feverishly attempting to debunk and turn back all those unrealistic and almost magical quotes and statements made on relationship websites and Facebook pages. I even hear this crazy stuff from my patients when they first come to see me. It’s really quite frustrating – and truly nauseating to hear all this wildly irrational thinking, day in, and day out!
So where does all this fairy tale thinking come from? Well, for one, fairy tales. All those nutty notions of “perfect princes and princesses,” magic love potions, and “happily ever after” endings.
Or take a lot of those hair-brained romance novels and drivel-spewing T.V. comedies about partners who eagerly take on the responsibilities for the other’s life (usually through control), or sexual encounters falsely equated with true love, or all the neediness, and quick-fix, contrived marriages.
I mean, really?
The Fantasy Prone Personality
Wikipedia defines the Fantasy prone personality (FPP) as:
“…a disposition or personality trait in which a person experiences a lifelong extensive and deep involvement in fantasy. This disposition is an attempt, at least in part, to better describe the popular term ‘overactive imagination’, or ‘living in a dream world’. An individual with this trait (termed a fantasizer), may have difficulty differentiating between fantasy and reality…”
So, with that in mind, here are just a few examples of fantasy thinking:
1) There’s Only You & You Alone, Forever!
This is the “One Adam for One Eve” theory, where there can only be one, and only one, possible life partner for the other. (Thank Disney for this one!) This is a potentially destructive type of fantasy thinking.
Unfortunately, I often see individuals in my therapy practice, going back, again and again, to destructive and abusive relationships, thinking that this “love” can be the only one for them. Let’s face it; too many of us hold onto “bad” relationships way past the time we’re needing to let go, with this brand of fantasy thinking.
I believe that there are a lot of people out there who could be “just right” for a certain person. If only more people believed this…
2) Make Me Happy!
There’s so many relationship quotes out there talking about “making him this,” “making her that,” or “make me happy” – it really gets old after the hundredth reading.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, can ever make you anything, whether it comes to happiness, contentment, serenity, self-esteem, or anything else, for that matter.
Sure, someone might help you or contribute to your own achievement of something akin to happiness, but not “make you that”. But at the end of the day, you are responsible for your own happiness. It’s an inner job, not the job of anyone or anything outside of yourself.
I believe that this frantic search for happiness outside of oneself, which we so often see happening in our society today, is the main reason why there’s so much codependency and rampant addiction in the world today.
And the good news? You don’t have to buy into this kind of false thinking.
3) You’ll Never Leave Me, and I’ll Never Leave You!
Oh yeah? Don’t you believe it! Do you know how many times I’ve heard my patients make outlandish proclamations like that? Plenty! The fantasy belief that he or she could never “leave me” is patently false. (The sad thing is that I commonly hear that kind of misplaced statement of supposed endless love, when things like infidelity are already ravaging what was once a promising relationship.)
Believe me, if that perfect storm comes, trust, loyalty, all that good stuff that usually holds love together goes right out the window, and the relationship dies a painful death. Don’t ever think for a minute that they’ll always be there for you – it’s just not true.
What’s really important here, is the true belief that, no matter what happens, whether your lover decides to leave or stay, you’ll always have yourself to live with and rely on, and that’s a reason for hope – no matter what eventually happens.
4) Why Can’t You Read My Mind?
Oh, I love this one; all those mind readers out there; the ones that supposedly “should” be able to, and at all times, know exactly what you’re thinking. Talk about a fantasy belief!
Truth be told: Despite all the sensational writings about the remarkable ability for some gifted people to read minds, or practice fantastic things like ESP, most of us “everyday” types need to ask for clarification and explanations from our fellow human beings.
Yet, there is still this weird belief that, if you really know and love me, you’ll know what I’m thinking at any given time. Well, this just isn’t true. In my relationships, work, social, or romantic, I find myself constantly checking out what another is actually thinking. And, contrary to belief, my dear readers and patients, I can’t read minds, and you probably can’t either – so don’t expect your partner to do it!
When you’re not clear or sure about what your partner might be thinking, just ask – it could literally save your relationship.
5) Marry Me! (After the first date)
I remember once, when a friend was going out on a first date with a woman he’d just met a week before. I could feel his excitement and expectation as he relayed the story of his new “find”.
My Friend: “This could be the one! I can’t wait to go out with her!”
Well, seeing that I wanted to support him, I suggested he call me back to tell me how the date went.
Very late that night, he did report back: “This is the one! I’m in love! I’m going to ask her to marry me!”
Understandably, I was a bit surprised (and concerned), as I reminded him that this was only the first date. But, as you might’ve guessed, at least, at that point, there wasn’t much more I could say to him, because his mind was solidly set. As far as he was concerned, this was true love, and why waste any time? For him, she obviously was the one, and the time was right to pop the question.
Well, the time was obviously not right for my fantasy-thinking friend, because, in fact, he knew almost nothing about this “new” woman. Actually, in a few short days, his dreams were dashed when she told him she was seeing someone else, and had no intentions to marry. He found out the hard way that it might‘ve been worth the time to get to know her before he leaped into thoughts of matrimony.
Too many people jump into love relationships way too fast before they really get to know one other – yet more victims of fantasy thinking.
6) The Sex Was Fantastic, Therefore, You Must Love Me!
Unfortunately, many people routinely mistake sex for love. They jump into the sack with a new person, and voila, they’re magically in love. This kind of fantasy thinking can really confuse things – like the status of a new relationship.
This is not to say that sex, soon after meeting a potential partner, is always a no-no. The where, when, and how, is always up to the two people involved to decide.
Sexuality, especially at the beginnings of relationships, can be a very sensitive and powerful thing. (Check out my previous blog on sexuality and the honeymoon period.)
So, be careful with how you handle sexuality and your feelings, and stay well away from this kind of fantasy thinking – you won’t regret it.
7) A Real Man – A Real Woman
I get so tired of the notion that a “real” man is this, and a “real” woman is that. The whole “who is real?” controversy sounds like something right out of a John Wayne movie; usually a lot more fiction than fact. So what is a “real” man? A cowboy who can handle a gun, or control a woman? Is a “real” woman someone who can cook well and will only speak when spoken to?
Does anybody “really” know anything besides this dangerous kind of stereotypical type casting?
I guess it depends on the eye of the beholder. The problem is that “real” is relative and always open for interpretation. So, what a real man or woman is to one, may be quite something else to another, which can lead to a lot of confusion – and fantasy thinking.
In my book, a man is a man, and a woman is a woman, and they’re both real – period.
8) I Know You Really Care About Me (Even Though You Constantly Abuse Me)
There’s a lot of mental, physical, and sexual abuse out there, and this kind of negative attention is too often mistaken for love. This fantasy thinking happens when the victim translates this unacceptable behavior (many times unconsciously), into some twisted proof of caring connection.
Rape Victim: “At least he pays attention to me!”
This is the height of fantasy thinking, and can be quite dangerous, especially where abuse is concerned.
9) They Need Me, So They Must Love Me
Here’s another case of mistaken identity between relationship partners:
She: “If he needs me so much, this must be love!”
I beg to differ! Neediness is just that, neediness, and it should never be interpreted as something that even remotely looks or smells like love.
Sadly, this type of fantasy thinking goes both ways:
He: “I need her so much, so this must be love!”
Talk about something further from the truth!
Love has nothing in common with neediness. Real love is all about support and connection – not rescuing others from their own fears or shortcomings.
10) The Perfect Relationship!
Like there’s really such an animal as a perfect relationship! So often, hear from people and read about those who actually believe in the silly notion of perfect relationships; where there should never be a conflict, a disagreement, or, God forbid, any differences.
And there’s that particularly mistaken belief that a partner is incapable of making mistakes, being hurtful, or ever even thinking a “wrong” thought – like some kind of Superman or Superwoman.
The truth is that so many of us are misreading our relationships, and screwing them up because of all these fallacious beliefs about them.
I recently read this posting from a man in Virginia who made a mess of his marriage because of his fantasy thinking about the perfect relationships and his denial about the actual imperfection of his now ex-wife:
“Maybe you are hooked by the fantasy or ideal about how it is supposed to be. I know I was at one point in my life. I had an ideal, dream or image in my mind of how relationships are supposed to be or how the perfect one should be. I had a difficult time accepting relationships the way they really are. I worked hard at making my relationship with my ex-wife approximate to my idealized fantasy.”
And here’s another statement from that same guy, after, thankfully, coming to his senses:
“I had to accept reality the way it is rather than how I wanted it to be. I started to give my support system, in my recovery or spiritual renewal program, permission to call me on it if I am hooked into a fantasy relationship again and lose myself in it. I work hard to stay reality based these days’ and keep myself from losing my objectivity and contact with the way things really are. I now make every effort to accept my future relationships are going to be the way they are rather than how I want them to be.”
So, accepting the reality of who and what your partner is truly about, right from the start, is absolutely crucial for eventual love success.
A True & Final Thought:
In all these examples of fantasy thinking, the same theme runs through it all; denial and false patterns of thinking.
The important point to all this, is how dangerous this fantasy thinking really is, and how, through conscious awareness and painstaking learning (and often relearning), to face reality on reality’s terms, we can seek and maintain healthy love relationships that are carefully built on truth and clear thinking.
You both deserve it!