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How Love Addicts Fall 'In Love" - The Fantasy Attachment

By Jim Hall MS, Love Addiction Recovery Specialist

Is it true love or fantasy love?

If you find yourself in a romantic relationship and feel obsessed or addicted to the person-- ask yourself this:  Am I attached to my partner for who he/she really is... or am I attached to fantasy of who I want him/her to be?

Fantasy Love-- is the dream, an illusion, a fairytale... The DRUG!


A love addict tends to enter relationships in a disorienting fog of romantic idealism. In other words, although those addicted to a person in a relationship will often feel "in love", what they often fall for the most is the fantasy (unconsciously). 


It is called love addiction, but it should actually be called 'fantasy addiction', because the fantasy is a love addict falls for.

I like to say it is the fantasy that is the potent drug for a love addict.


In a romantic relationship, a love addict doesn’t fall in love and get hooked to their romantic partner, they become addicted to the ‘fantasy' of their partner.


The fantasy is what they ‘make-up’ about their partner, rather than the person they really are (reality).

  • It’s the fantasy they ‘fall in love’ and get attached
  • It’s the fantasy they yearn for, crave for, and obsess over
  • It's the fantasy they believe in
  • It’s the fantasy they painfully grieve during a breakup.

We call it a love addiction, but it could be called a 'fantasy addiction'



When does the fantasy get started in a romantic relationship?


Very early in the early stages of a relationship.


When a love addict meets someone who they are physically attracted to, and this person is avoidant, emotionally walled-off, (or narcissistic)-- they will feel fireworks, euphoria, the 'high'. This is when a fantasy bond with the love interest is formed. 


As they bond with a person they will create an idealized version which enables them to minimize, excuse, and deny blatant realities of the person (e.g. negative traits, warning signs, red-flags).


The fantasy bond propels a new lover high on an imaginary pedestal, and he/she becomes their higher power.


In the haze of their fantasy, they assure themselves, they have found “the one”… one who will always and forever be there for them, love them, reassure them, and cherish them... a lover who will forever hold them in high regard, and rescue them from the burdens of life, take their brokenness (perceived) away and finally make them feel complete. Expecting anyone to makes us complete is by itself a delusion.

Smoking the pipe of a fantasy, love addicts may spend exorbitant lumps of their waking hours imagining a romance-fueled, quintessential life with their new (or ongoing) partner who will meet all their desired needs.


With the fantasy in command and leading them forward, they become obsessed and preoccupied with their partner, going all in, relinquish important life goals or interests; abandon their true needs, hopes, and aspirations, and often personal values; even abandon friendships and/or family relationships, not to mention themselves.


The "love" emotions are real... however, the feelings are not created from reality of their love object.

A romantic fantasy triggers real emotions and feelings in their mind and their body-- it feels like romantic love, and it’s euphoric.


The fantasy makes them feel like they are loved and are “in love” (with a passionate/sexual component). 


Not unlike a powerful substance (cocaine, heroin, ecstasy), addicted lovers get high off their fantasy-- it becomes a potent drug, a drug they come to rely on to feel like they matter, to escape their own reality.


They fall for their ideal image of a person, get strung-out, and more often than not, face a great challenge to stop their fantasy without incurring detrimental effects.


A romantic fantasy will crack and eventually crumble... sometimes fast, sometimes little by little.


Love addicts eventually discover the person they imagined their romantic partner to be (their fantasy)… is NOT that person at all, but a person who proves continually incapable of meeting their (love addicts) true needs for intimacy and mutual connection.


It’s unavoidable-- a romantic fantasy formed in a relationship will, at some point-- blow up. It happens in all addictive relationships.


Robin and her fantasy relationship experience:


Robin, a love addict was addicted to a fantasy about David. Her fantasy started meeting David on a dating site.

Robin was instantly attracted to David when she first laid her eyes on David-- he was equally attracted to Robin. She was mesmerized by the hazel eyes that stared so intently into her own.

He was charming, attentive, and seemingly very affectionate-- and he constantly lavished praise and adulation on Robin-- which made her feel very special. "He honestly was so sweet and endearing".

David and Robin quickly developed an intense romantic relationship. Robins fantasy was sparked on the first date, but was only starting… Within three weeks her fantasy accelerated into high gear…

By week four, Robin consciously came to a solid conclusion,  “David is the one”. She declared to her close friend Jenny, “David is perfect, it’s like we’ve known each other forever, we’re best friends and lovers, I never met someone that's such a perfect fit for me. He’s so amazing Jenny! I’m so lucky and blessed to find such a rare man like him.

Jenny,  I love him so much, and I genuinely know he loves me as much. I know we are going to be, forever, together, I just feel it. We're already talking about our future together”. 

Robin was on a high, and she was sure she knew him, had him pegged, he was the man for her... she felt it, right? Unfortunately, only after a few months, Robins fantasy began getting a bit shaky, and her high was dissipating.

There was an energy Robin sensed that started changing about David. She started to notice Davids interest and adoration for her started to wane. He didn’t seem so eager to get together on the weekends and would make weird excuses for it.

Overtime, he didn't respond to her texts and phone calls like he use to, where before he would usually respond within a couple of hours, changed to maybe 24, sometimes 48 hours.

When Robin would ask him if anything is going on, if he is feeling different about things, David would seem enraged, automatically become defensive and respond critically, "You're crazy, why do you say that you're so insecure and sensitive".

Robin became more and more anxious, and sometimes she felt pure panic and distress. Robins fantasy, the person she imagined David to be, was cracking.

One day, four months into the relationship, Robin saw Davids phone laying on her kitchen table, she picked it up and noticed a text from a woman, opened his phone to see who it was and discovered David was having sexual encounters with two women; they were emotional/sexual back and forths encounters for sure, but she wasn’t sure if he was actually getting together for sexual encounters. But it didn’t matter at this point… this was the beginning of her fantasy 'blowing up' to pieces.

Robin went from one the best romantic high she's ever experienced to one of the lowest lows she's ever experienced... soon enough, she was in full withdrawal, and meltdown mode.

Robins fantasy of who David really is/was, and the relationship she thought she had with him was her heroin... The fantasy of David was her drug.


If it were possible for any person on earth to fulfill a love addicts fantasy… in no way (no how) could the type of person love addicts enter relationships (walled-off, avoidant, or narcissist). Moreover, many of them will have great difficulty to meet healthy relational needs that love addicts desire (e.g., closeness, intimacy, and mutual connection).


If a fantasy can talk!

When love addicts start noticing realities of their partner that fly in the face of their fantasy, the fantasy will try hard as hell, to excuse and justify these realities (denial).


If the fantasy could talk, it may justify the noticed realities  (e.g.,  immaturity, callousness, distancing tactics), by voicing things like: “he/she had a hard childhood”; “just be patient and love more, give more, do more”; “just be a better partner, stop being needy, stop talking about your feelings, stop telling him what your needs are, stop being so imperfect”; or “This isn’t the real him/her, he/she is the person I had in those first several weeks/months together…I want that person back”.


Even when a love addict begins to notice stark realities about their partner, like Robin, the fantasy won't suddenly disappear, as a love addicts fantasy is quite often overpowering. But that doesn't mean it cannot be broken.


It can. In fact, to get over an addiction to a person, a fantasy must be broken... even though grief and withdrawal is a necessary process, it is a worthwhile task to take on.

Recovery becomes possible when we break from fantasy.


Love addicts will have great difficulty to overcome love addiction so long as they continue medicating themselves with fantasy. This would be like a drug addict trying to get sober while continuing to smoke their dope or popping oxycontin. It doesn’t work.


How to stop and overcome a love fantasy over a person or romantic partner? 


To overcome a fantasy of a romantic partner, we have to first start accepting that we’ve been in fantasy and this is a drug, the real drug. We have to explore:


What we initially ‘made-up’ about the person, what the fantasy looked like (who we thought he/she was in fantasy); and thoughts and feelings of the fantasy.


We then have to examine the reality of the person/who the person, in fact, really is. This part is the bigger challenge. This takes some legitimate work and effort, and brutal honesty.


With continued examination, we steadily move into the truth and reality of who the person is.


Overtime we clearly begin seeing the distinction of what we made up about someone ( fantasy) vs the reality of the person.


For many love addicts, going through this process brings relief and is actually is very freeing.


As they comprehend more and more, the reality of their avoidant partner, the more they see and realize, "this is not the kind of person I want for a long term relationship, and yes, who he/she is made me unhappy, and I deserve better, and it was not my fault". 

We can’t just wish a romantic fantasy away, in order to heal.


This process takes work and effort. It is not an easy task. In some cases, it is possible to do it on our own-- however, this route can be risky, as love addicts are often very vulnerable to cycle back and forth into the fantasy, and/or find someone else to replay the fantasy with. 


From my personal and professional experience, my view is that getting help and guidance from an expert from a professional who understands love addiction, is much more effective, as well as a more speedy path to crushing the fantasy.


Remember, if you're addicted to a person, you're not addicted to the reality of him/her but the fantasy (the real drug)-- and yes it is toxic. 



About the Author: 
Jim Hall MS, is a Love Addiction Specialist, Relationship Coach, and Author of 3 Books on Love Addiction and Recovering. As a leading expert, Through his writings and online practice, Jim offers hope for those struggling with love addiction- to discover a healthy and solid path to break free from obsessive love patterns as well support and guidance to overcome the acute discomfort of breakup love withdrawal.

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