If you’ve never been swept off your feet by a dance floor romance, you should try it. For a few brief hours, heat, passion, and a heart-racing hope that this is the “one,” take over and rational thought becomes a distance planet in a galaxy far away. Hours, or even days, go by as we immerse ourselves in the euphoria of fantastical love, allowing a whisper of the “L-word” to linger in our mind, unspoken but still present.
Most of us come up for air at some point and return to the world of reality, breathless and exhausted, but with perspective that it was what it was – a brief, yet fantastic, trip to adult Disney Land.
Others, though, find fantasy so validating, or so addicting, they seek out these fictions and exclude all hints of reason. Life moves in a cycle from one “most incredible man” to devastating collapse, right back to the next “most incredible man.” Up and down, their relationships cover the full spectrum of emotions in blasts of short, but intense love affairs. How do you know if you’re in a fictional relationship? Here are 6 signs you’ve got a ticket on the river boat Denial:
1. Seeking validation from others – When your relationship is a fiction, deep down you know it, and convincing yourself otherwise becomes a full time job. The best way to keep your fantasy alive is to have other people affirm how amazing you two are as a couple. Validation by way of a 1000 “likes” and comments like “totes adorbs” for your choreographed, sepia toned couple pics on Instagram subvert reality and reinforce the fiction. The bigger the fiction, the more validation you need. The secret goal of these daily selfies is to convince enough people you’re truly happy so that you start to believe your own press clippings.
2. Surrender life goals – Another sure sign someone is living in a fantasy is they surrender their life goals and dreams. In varying degrees, people who live in a fantasy lose the ability to make rational decisions about their future. The deeper the fiction, the more they surrender. A deluded lover may put off that trip to Mexico with his college buddies, or may drop out of school and move to a swamp. So powerful is the allure of a fictional relationship that rational dreams are sacrificed to preserve it.
3. Overemphasize positive traits – Your new partner can do no wrong; he’s the “most incredible man” you’ve ever met. He’s smart, successful, popular and a real family man. It’s the best sex you’ve ever had. Effusive language in describing your new boyfriend is always suspect. It indicates not only that this lover is seeking validation but she’s also most likely overstating things a bit. Literally or figuratively, we roll our eyes when Sleeping Beauty breathlessly tells us what an amazing man Prince Charming is. We all know reality has taken a rain check with this princess.
4. Overlook obvious flaws – The flip side of overemphasizing positive traits, of course, is ignoring completely negative ones. Deeply deluded lovers simply push flaws out of existence hoping they magically disappear. Other, less deluded lovers believe they can eradicate the flaws with a gentle push or just the power of thought. Seriously fictitious relationships overlook alcoholism, abuse, and neglect, all the while seeking validation by trying to convince the world “this.is.the.life!”
5. Mood is dependent on other’s actions – “I think he’s upset at me,” “She hasn’t texted all day” and “He didn’t invite me over tonight. What do you think it means?” are all signs that a lover’s mood is derived from how they perceive the other lover to be feeling toward them. Reflected emotional states become a way of life for a lover living in a fiction. They feel happy if they perceive their partner to be happy; feel anxious if they perceive their partner to be upset, distant, or distracted. Their emotional state is reflective of their perceptions of their partner.
6. Exclusion of Friends – True friends have a license to be brutally honest and they’re quite happy to use it. True friends tell us to our face when we’re in a deluded state. Whether it’s the bandana we just started wearing to the gym, or our decision to pick up and move after two weeks of dating, these friends are a nagging dose of reality that hopefully keeps us in check. But a deeply deluded lover won’t have any of that negativity and instead will block his friend’s commentary, or tragically, block the true friend from his life. These friends get a purple heart award for being honest, but also get sacrificed in favor of the “most incredible man.” It’s a sure sign of a fictional relationship when a lover disconnects from his pre-fantasy group of friends, and starts over with a new, less troublesome bunch.
A blast of romantic love is a fantastic experience. Many long term, healthy relationships develop from “sparks” on the dance floor. It’s the transition from a fantasy Prince Charming to the reality of a real – and flawed – partner that’s difficult. If any of these 6 signs are present in your relationship, get out now before you end up living in a swamp.