Many of you might be thinking that no you don’t idealize love. Heck I’ve probably said that to myself many times but unknowingly was idealizing love. Here are some signs that you probably idealize love. Please note that sometimes we fall into a trap of idealizing love in different ways. Perhaps the way you idealized love when you were a teenage is largely different now that you are in your forties.
- Have you or are you currently trying to make a relationship work with someone who doesn’t love, respect and / or treat you well? Having any of these qualities in your relationship shows that there is a problem and you may be idealizing the love you have. I once fell hard for a guy who did not love me. Worse, he didn’t even care to try to get to know me. He had no interest in learning about my life, my interests, nothing. Most of his interest in me was just because he was physically attracted to me and seemed to enjoy the attention I gave him. For some reason I believed because of this profound love I felt for him, that the universe had to work in my favor, that he would come to love me on his own, would one day have this desire to suddenly get to know me, and whatever reasons I came up with to keep feeding my fantasy. How did this end? Well we could never even become close to being friends and ultimately we both moved on with our lives. With my first serious boyfriend there was mutual love and we both treated each other well enough, but the respect went down the drain after the first year together. Fights would happen frequently, we would ignore each other and make ups were great, but we never communicated or discussed our problems. For some reason it was simply easier to ignore the problems rather than work through them together. It just felt like the love we had for each other would magically make things okay.
- Are you and your partner or past partners compatible? By compatibility, I mean do you both have similar values on long-term goals, can you be open and honest with each other, do you both genuinely enjoy spending time together? I once dated this guy for close to 5 months. There was physical chemistry, a spark, I enjoyed talking to him and just felt a general pull to him. However, after 5 months I felt we barely knew anything about each other. We did not seem like we even had a friendship. Talking about long-term goals was something I wanted to avoid. Traveling is important to me and I knew he wasn’t the type to leave the state, let alone the country. His political and religious views were largely different to mine and it was easy to toss that aside and focus on the chemistry and spark between us. My friends and family would comment how we didn’t seem to suit each other but I ignored it, feeling like they weren’t present during all the good times to truly know how the relationship was. When you are in love it is very easy to justify and lessen the importance of the obvious incompatibilities you have with someone. If you find yourself focusing too much on the chemistry, spark, physical connection and ultimately the way you feel about someone, yet ignoring things such as compatibility, values, aligned morals, how you handle arguments, how much genuine fun you have together, then you are probably idealizing love.
- Do you believe if you find love that everything will be great? Let’s get more specific. Do you avoid traveling because you would rather do it with a significant other? There’s no reason to do a cross country road trip through Europe unless it’s in the arms of a lover. Do you tend to let go of friendships and passions while in a relationship? With your significant other you suddenly don’t feel a need or want to do all the things that used to make you happy or to make a solid effort to keep in touch with your friends. Does your life feel empty just because you haven’t found love? You have great friends, a good career, a good relationship with your family, an adorable pet, a cool hobby and whatever else but none of it means anything because you just haven’t found that special someone. Does your life seem meaningless without a partner? Does the idea of being alone and without love scare you to the point where you consider that life may simply not be worth living? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions than are placing a much higher value on love than you should be.
- Do you tend to lose yourself in relationships? To clarify, what I mean is do you tend to sacrifice yourself to the degree where you lose your own self-respect and give up things that are important to you. Many people find themselves losing who they are in a relationship. Suddenly you can’t remember the last time you played guitar, even though you loved playing the guitar when you met your partner. Your friends who have always been there for you are suddenly harder to get a hold of now that you have settled into your relationship. The goals you had for yourself have been put on the back burner. Do you find yourself trying to please your partner constantly? Perhaps your partner has to talk to you for two hours every night before you go to sleep therefore you aren’t focusing as much on school or work, and find yourself constantly stressed before you go to sleep. Maybe your partner frequently threatens to leave you or has cheated and lied to you which leaves you on edge, feeling insecure about yourself and always trying to find new ways to get your partner to not stray from you and to ultimately love you. Are you tolerating disrespectful behavior from your partner so that you can earn their love? Do you feel like you need to constantly work to make yourself seem valuable and lovable to your partner? Is being you just not enough to maintain the relationship or your partner’s interest?
- Do you tend to believe relationships should always be easy? There are people who believe that any type of arguing or fighting in a relationship is unhealthy. Arguing does not fit their view of what a relationship entails. Any sign of conflict shows that a relationship is not worth being in because it does not match your views. If two people love each other, things just magically work. These people tend to quickly leave relationships once issues arise or start looking for someone better when they realize their partner has flaws and is nowhere close to perfection. Some people feel the desire to leave a relationship or cheat once the initial excitement of a new relationship wears off. If you have similar feelings then you may be idealizing love and associating it with the exciting feelings of infatuation.
- Do you believe that someone must love all of you, including your addictions and poor habits? Although it is true that we should desire a partner who accepts our flaws and appreciates our quirks, this does not mean that a partner should encourage us to have damaging behaviors or that because someone loves us, that means that this person doesn’t want us to change and improve ourselves. I once dated a guy who I had no idea was doing drugs. I was absolutely shocked when he told me that he did drugs and even more shocked that he expected me to be okay with it. He felt that if I truly cared about him I would tolerate that he does drugs occasionally. He wanted me to be a partner that would simultaneously actively support and encourage him to stop doing drugs while being understanding and forgiving that he will continue to do drugs. His reasoning was illogical and he truly believed that if someone loved him, they would be fine with him doing hardcore drugs. That relationship ended shortly upon realizing this. A good friend of mine was in a relationship with a woman who suffered from severe depression, was unable to find a job and absolutely refused to go to therapy and seek help. My friend was so in love with her that the idea of breaking up with her seemed impossible and she felt he should love her just the way she is. Again, she took no action to seek help and was constantly miserable. Ultimately he did find the courage to end that relationship. Believing that your partner should accept or ignore habits and addictions that are destructive is idealizing the power of love. Alternatively, believing you must love and be with someone even if their actions become dangerous and abusive to themselves and others means that you are idealizing love.
Okay so maybe after reading this you have begun to realize that perhaps you do idealize love. Perhaps you even realized that you have a cycle of picking poor partners based on feelings of love or struggle with the idea of being single. So how do you stop the process of idealizing love?
1. Focus on yourself more. Prioritizing yourself is especially important if you are single or in an unbalanced relationship where you love, respect or value the other partner than they do to you. Learn to take of yourself. Nourish your friendships, get back into that hobby you used to love, find new passions that you can enjoy by yourself and do something nice just for you. One of the many reasons for prioritizing yourself is to realize that you can love life without having to depend on a partner and to allow yourself to see your situation more objectively. If your life is constantly revolving around your partner it is a difficult task to figure out what is actually best for you.
2. Evaluate the compatibility you have with your partner. Be completely honest with yourself. Is this a person you can envision a very long-term relationship with? Do your values align? Is this person truly your best friend, the person who gets you, understands and supports you? Do you both want to live in the same area? Can you be yourself completely with this person or do you feel like you have a guard up around them? Does your partner appreciate and support you? Are you friends as well as lovers? How successfully do you resolve conflicts?
3. Let go. Start the process of letting go of fantasies and people. If you are in a relationship that is full of toxicity, be honest with yourself about whether you are fantasizing that things will suddenly change. Many people often rush into marriage or children hoping that somehow a major event will change the relationship and their partner. Others believe that if they only give it a few more months or years their partner will go back to that person they once were in the beginning of the relationship. This is a fantasy. What you have with this person now is very likely what you will always get. Let go of the fantasy and accept the reality. If you are in love with someone who does not love you, either a partner who cannot commit to you or a friend who does not share your feelings, be honest about your unrequited love. Feelings can change but there is no guarantee. Waiting around for someone to develop feelings for you will often result in failure. The best thing to do is accept the reality and let that person go so you can find reciprocal and true love.
4. Learn to love yourself. Many times we accept poor relationships because we do not love ourselves enough to believe we deserve better. If you are unhappy with the relationship and feel you are not being valued, appreciated or respected then be honest about that. Be honest with why you are accepting poor treatment from a partner that you would never accept from a platonic friend. Learning to love yourself requires patience and a tremendous amount of effort. Surround yourself with people who genuinely love and support you. Start to establish boundaries for yourself so that you can identify how people should treat you. Be prepared to walk away when someone repeatedly disrespects your boundaries. Be kind and loving to yourself. Try to remember all the strengths and beautiful things about yourself. If you have flaws or things you don’t like about yourself then there is no better time than now to begin working on yourself. Create a life that you are happy with all on your own. When you are truly happy with yourself, you will attract people who are also happy with their own lives and will better complement you. Creating a happier life for yourself will also help you realize that you can be happy all on your own and that sometimes the best kind of love is the love you grant yourself.
5. Realize that you have control. It is easy to believe that love is out of our control. However, the opposite is true. Love is in your control. You can make the choice on how you go about entering relationships. If you typically fall into whirlwind relationships that end terribly, accept that you do have control over this pattern and can take steps to approach relationships more slowly. Your views of love can change and evolve. Do not fall into a victim mentality, believing that you have poor luck, attract terrible partners, that love isn’t real, that nobody will ever love you, that you are destined to be alone and other self-deprecating thoughts. You do have a great deal of control when choosing partners. Often times we purposely ignore red flags. A common mistake people make is coming up with justifications and excuses for someone disrespecting us. Some of these justifications may sound similar to you. “She lies to me but she suffers from severe depression so it’s okay. She’s going through so much right now.” “I didn’t hear from him for a month, but it’s okay because he just texted me saying he’s been busy with work.” “We fight a lot and her family hates me, but it’s okay because I love her and the chemistry is just off the charts.” “ A large majority of us enter and stay in terrible relationships because we ignore the red flags and will come up with many reasons to stay with our partner. This is in our control and has nothing to do with chance. Accept that you do have a large degree of control over your love life. Take responsibility.
6. Adjust your expectations. Evaluate your personal standards for relationships. They may need to increase or decrease. I have a friend who tends to go for guys who fit a certain mold. Her standards are extremely high and as a result she tends to attract men who are emotionally unavailable, have many options in the dating world and who ultimately will not commit to her. She meets great, kind, attractive and loving men all the time, who adore her, but she seems to not see them because they do not fit her high standards. This goes the other way as well. I know people who have low self-esteem and tend to choose partners also suffering with low self-esteem, which leads to a relationship filled with drama, anxiety and insecurities. Be honest with yourself about what you deserve in a partner and in a relationship. Manage your expectations about what a relationship will look like. Relationships will never be perfect and you’ll never find the perfect partner. Sometimes the right person for you has been right in front of you all along, but because you are chasing something out of reach, you never notice them.
Love is wonderful, unique and one of the best things about life. However, love is only all of those wonderful things if you are choosing partners who genuinely care for you, are compatible to you and where there is mutual respect, trust and love.