The Fantasy Relationship and How to Get Over It
By Jim Hall MS, Love Addiction Recovery Specialist
Are you in love with a fantasy of your partner?
Romantic fantasy addicts are essentially love addicts. Love addicts tend to enter relationships in a disorienting fog of romantic idealism. Although in a romantic relationship, a love addict will often feel "in love," what they often fall for the most is fantasy (unconsciously).
It is called love addiction, but it should be called a 'fantasy addiction' because fantasy is the true addiction for love addicts.
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 (what they ‘make up’ about their partner, rather than the person they are (reality).
When does fantasy get started in a romantic relationship?
Very early in the early stages of a relationship.
When a love addict meets someone 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 that 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 make us complete is by itself a delusion.
With the fantasy in command and leading them forward, they become obsessed and preoccupied with their partner, going all in, relinquishing important life goals or interests; abandoning their true needs, hopes, and aspirations, and often personal values; even abandoning friendships and/or family relationships, not to mention themselves.
The "love" emotions are real... however, the feelings are not created from the reality of their love object.
The fantasy makes them feel “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 rely on to feel like they matter, to escape their reality.
They fall for their ideal image of a person, get strung out, and often face a significant challenge to stop their fantasy without incurring detrimental effects.
A romantic fantasy will crack and eventually crumble... sometimes fast and 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 someone 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 eventually blow up. It happens in all addictive relationships.
Robin and her fantasy relationship experience:
Robin, a love addict, became 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 staring intently into her own.
He was charming, attentive, and seemingly very affectionate-- and he constantly lavished praise and admiration on Robin-- which made her feel very special. "He honestly was so sweet and endearing".
David and Robin quickly developed an intense romantic relationship. Robin's 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've never met someone that's such a perfect fit for me. He’s so amazing! I’m so lucky and blessed to find such a rare man like him.
I love him so much, and I genuinely know he loves me as much. I know we are going to be, forever, together, I 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, Robin's fantasy began getting a bit shaky, and her high was dissipating.
There was an energy Robin sensed that started changing about David. She noticed David's interest and adoration for her started to wane. He didn’t seem eager to get together on the weekends and would make weird excuses.
Over time, he didn't respond to her texts and phone calls like he used to, where he would usually respond within a couple of hours, changed to maybe 24, sometimes 48 hours.
When Robin asks him if anything is happening and if he is feeling different about things, David gets enraged, automatically becomes defensive, and responds, "You're crazy; you're so insecure and sensitive."
Robin became increasingly anxious, and sometimes she felt pure panic and distress. Robin's fantasy, the person she imagined David to be, was cracking.
One day, four months into the relationship, Robin saw David's phone lying on her kitchen table; she picked it up and noticed a text from a woman. She 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 encounter for sure, but she wasn’t sure if he was 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 of the best romantic highs she's ever experienced to one of the lowest lows she's ever experienced... soon enough, she was in full withdrawal and meltdown mode.
Robin's fantasy of who she thought David was, and the relationship she thought she had with him was her heroin... The fantasy of David was her drug and demise.
If it were possible for any person on earth to fulfill a love addict's fantasy… in no way (no how) could the type of person love addicts enter relationships (walled-off, avoidant, or narcissist).
If fantasy can talk!
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 addict's fantasy is often overpowering. But that doesn't mean it cannot be broken.
It can. To get over an addiction to a person, a fantasy must be broken... even though grief and withdrawal are necessary processes, it is a worthwhile task.
Recovery becomes possible when we break from fantasy.
Love addicts will have great difficulty overcoming love addiction if 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 get over a fantasy relationship
To overcome a fantasy of a romantic partner, we must first start accepting that we’ve been in fantasy and this is a drug, the real drug.
As a writing exercise explore the following:
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.
Over time we begin seeing the distinction between what we made up about someone ( fantasy) and the person's reality.
For many love addicts, this process twill bring up a grieving process. Yes, we actually grief the loss of the fantasy.
As they comprehend more and more the reality of their avoidant or narcissistic partner, the more they see and realize, "This is not the kind of person I want for a long-term relationship, who he was made me unhappy and miserable, and I deserve better, and it was not my fault."