As we head towards Valentine’s Day and its heart-shaped candy boxes, our thoughts turn to fantasies of romance. Some fantasies are healthy and inspire creativity and vision, but are fantasies predominating your emotional life and keeping you from the real relationships that could serve you and fill your heart? The answer may surprise you, even if you consider yourself firmly grounded in reality.
Our society loves romantic fantasy. Movies, books, and TV shows abound with love stories brimming with timeless longing and the devotion of soul-mates. We are conditioned towards two major fantasy themes: perfection and conflict. Sensitive, dashing, romantic fantasy “soul-mates” answer our wildest dreams of perfection; someone who wants nothing more than to pour on passion, interest and dedication to our every need while conflict generates excitement and intensity. Many romance stories detail the delicious build-up of a relationship; stolen moments, glances, and giddy feelings of anticipation. But do you know of many romantic fantasy novels about 20 year married couples or any that show the process of actually being in a relationship? Have you ever noticed that once a couple with lots of romantic chemistry on a TV show finally hooks up, we start to lose interest because the friction isn’t there anymore? Or how TV-show writers and film writers devise conflicts to keep things fresh?
Fantasies aren’t just for TV and movies. A fantasy is anything that keeps your focus somewhere other than right here, right now, on the connections right in front of you. A fantasy will always keep some prize somewhere else, just out of reach while a real relationship is something that lives, breathes and functions here in the present moment. You may believe on an unconscious level that real relationships don’t measure up and that fantasies are about passion and intensity. In reality, they deaden our heart and keep us walled off from real experiences. Here are common fantasies that can intrude on real relationship and what to do about them:
*The Past Was Perfect This is a spin on the fantasy of perfection. Someone who used to be in your life represents your perfect love. Your memories become sacred to the extent that you build a shrine to this old love in your heart…. nobody else measures up. Secretly, you’ve never let go of your past love and so you’re closed to new relationships. Allowing yourself to move into real relationships can put your old relationship in its proper place. Value your memories in perspective and remember that new people (here and now) can connect to you and have relationships with you that are just as rich and wonderful and different from what came before. Honouring the past does not mean living in it. (This is also true if you have the dark fantasy “the past was terrible and I’m scared to be hurt again”)
*I’m Looking for Perfect You want a man who is 6’5″ inches tall, has one green eye, one brown eye, who drives a Ferrari and owns a Portuguese water dog. He has a sense of humour, is charming at parties, knows how to cook a mean soufflé and he’s your soul mate. In this perfection fantasy your requirements for love, companionship and how the other person should act are so specific and demanding that you find yourself constantly let down by the real flaws, foibles, or insecurities of real people. Moreover, your fantasy expectation is about a relationship “object” that is there to serve you and fill you up, – not about someone you can relate to as a full person. To bring real relationships in, feel strong enough in yourself that you can let the laundry-list of “musts” drop. Real people and soul-connections are human beings with fears and dreams just like you and there is a rich reward in getting to know someone fully. Trust that being real, you can connect to someone wonderful and that if you give people a chance and learn about them, you could be surprised at how much love your expectations have been hiding from you.
* Someday… He/she may be living on the moon, on a nine year mission in the desert, in another relationship or somewhere other than having a connected relationship with you. You (or the other person) are always cooking up reasons why right now isn’t good enough to commit to the relationship in front of you. There are ups and downs and distance in real relationships, but this is a fantasy connection involving distance. The relationship only exists in an envisioned future instead of what is happening right now. “Someday we’re going to have the best life…” or “Someday when he leaves his girlfriend….” or “Someday, when we’re both in the right place…” To move into a real relationship, ground yourself to the truth of what is really in front of you right now and find out whether it’s time to commit to the next level or time to let go. Open yourself to the life that is unfolding around you and the love that is in the present and nearby instead of at a distant point on the horizon… “someday.”
*I Love Conflict Your fantasy relationship must be exciting and passionate at all times. New love feels passionate and thrilling and then, well… it doesn’t. You may find yourself easily feeling physically, mentally or emotionally bored by relationships and may crave drama, fights, or negativity to keep things exciting (and so you can feel the rush of longing and reunion over and over again.) You may even cause chaos or break-ups in relationships to keep a level of intensity pumping at all times but without feeling intimacy. To trade conflict for realness, remember that relationship is not supposed to be your only source of excitement and meaning. Chances are, you’re missing a connection to yourself and your own inner passion which keeps you seeking it on the outside like a love adrenaline junky. A real relationship can be fresh and exiting in a balanced, mutually beneficial way that provides new thrills. Give yourself tools to deal with boredom and to create positive excitement and adventure.
* I Love a Purple Unicorn This fantasy is the purest of fantasies. You are fixated on something or someone that isn’t even real. It could be that your imagination has conjured up someone you want to see in front of you but who, in reality, is very different from your perception. Perhaps you’re in denial about the person you care about, or you may be simply looking for something that doesn’t exist. This quest never ends. Searching for unicorns may feel “safe” to part of you that is afraid of being hurt if you entered into a real relationship with a real person. To move into reality, allow yourself to say goodbye to the Purple Unicorn and allow yourself to see what is right in front of you. Real people are not perfect and no relationship is guaranteed t
o always make you feel wonderful, but the rewards are worth it. True love is a million times more amazing than any fantasy could ever be.
Ultimately dispelling fantasies is all about self love and willingness. If you trust yourself, love yourself and connect to yourself then you can trust that you can deal with anything a real-life-right-now relationship can toss your way. No other person can fulfill your life’s meaning, your purpose, or your connection to excitement… these are within you and are the gifts that you bring to a true relationship. With the truth of who you are, and with your full and open heart, you can move past conflict and perfection and into something lasting, real and rewarding.