What do you desire in a partner? Everyone has fantasies about their perfect boyfriend, girlfriend, or future spouse. But not all of these love fantasies are workable, and a fair few of them can never come true.
If you know the distinction between what’s possible and what’s unreasonable, good for you. If you don’t, it’s time for a rude awakening because these desires you have for a partner may be actively harming your dating life.
5 Ways Idealized Love Destroys Relationships
Here are five ways idealized love destroys relationships and how to prevent it.
Your partner is a human being. They’re flawed, they make mistakes, and they need to work on themselves to improve. That’s just reality! Idealization robs them of this reality, painting them into something unreal and impossible by making them perfect in your eyes. This damages your relationship because:
- Your partner may feel overwhelmed by the pressure and expectations put on them.
- Their partner will never reach the standards you’ve set for them, as it is impossible to do so.
- Your partner may become frightened of being a disappointment or feel insecure and inadequate.
- Your idea of your partner will shatter when they inevitably break the false image you have of them.
- You may allow your partner to get away with negative behavior due to the rose-colored glasses you wear.
- You will assume that your partner will always be perfect and ideal.
2. You Equate Fighting With Doom
Fighting is a normal part of any long-term close relationship. Even in familial and platonic relationships, fights are commonplace, and part of the point is that you know the bond you share is strong enough to overcome these kinds of hurdles.
The same goes for romantic relationships. The world often portrays fighting as a surefire sign that everything is going downhill. While different relationships have different typical, healthy argument frequencies, fights can be beneficial for couples at the end of the day. As long as you’re fighting with positive methods, it can even facilitate better communication, a strengthened bond, and a happier outcome.
Sure, love shouldn’t be painfully or impossibly hard. But it’s not easy, either. It takes work, and misunderstandings will always occur between two different people. As long as you know how to work through them with positive thinking and respect, it’s perfectly healthy.
3. Your Expectations Are Unfair
We’ve talked about the dehumanization of idealized love due to its expectations, but there are other ways that these expectations can be harmful to a relationship. For the most part, they create unfair parameters that most individuals can’t meet. Here are a few expectations that can cause this to happen:
Idealized love can make you want your partner to change into the version of them you perceive. It’s okay for you and your partner to have goals for personal self-improvement. But actively getting into a partnership and expecting the other to change to suit your needs and preferences is a surefire way to make the relationship end in flames. You should love your partner as they are and support their growth without demanding or expecting them to change who they are.
You may compare your partner to other individuals, especially those presented in idealized ways. For example, you may want your partner to behave like a romantic comedy character, or you may want to have the #relationshipgoals that you see on Instagram and other social media. This kind of comparison is automatically unhealthy – fictional characters are fictional for a reason, and social media only shows the best sides of people.
· Perfect Spark
We’ve seen it plenty of times – the romanticized notion that when you meet someone, there should be instant chemistry or some spark. This, too, is idealized, and the reality is that most relationships don’t start like this. Some may not even have that so-called “spark.” Genuine love, attraction, and respect are what is necessary to make a relationship work long-term, not a shallow, surface-level expectation of passion based on movies and novels.
4. You Lose Empathy
When you idealize someone and have idealized ideas of love, you stop empathizing with a partner. The idea of them that you have in your head is already inherently false. There’s no way for you to understand them or meet them on their genuine level when everything you believe about them is wrong.
The ability to feel empathy for someone you’re close to, whether it’s a romantic relationship or not, is crucial. It allows you to comprehend others’ position, see things from their point of view, and put yourself in their shoes past your desires. Essentially, idealization is way too selfish and inward-focused to be empathetic, and that’s not how any relationship works.
5. You Communicate Less
Communication is central to a healthy and positive relationship. No one can read your mind. Expecting your partner to know what you want magically, need, or think will never end well. Unfortunately, it’s prevalent for people to expect this out of their partner due to idealized love.
This is because they exhibit these behaviors:
- Thinking they shouldn’t have to ask for what they want; their partner should naturally know.
- Believing their partner should automatically know how to comfort them, help them, or do right by them, even in new relationships.
- Dropping hints and hope that their partner will pick up on them quickly and easily, then get upset when their partner does not pick up on the suggestion.
- Tending to say what they don’t mean, hoping that things will play out like they do in fiction.
- Believing that in an ideal relationship, partners know everything about each other instinctively.
- Thinking intimacy in the bedroom should be perfect, romantic, and sensual without ever needing to talk about what they like to dislike.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how this is not good. A person can’t figure all of these things out without being told. Don’t let movies and books tell you that the right person will always know what to say and do. That’s not how this works!
Now that you know how this ideology weakens your relationship, here’s how to prevent it.
1. Challenge Common Depictions Of Love
It’s easy to develop idealized views of love because the most common depictions are overly positive. Challenge them and apply critical thinking to what you see before assuming everything is precisely as it seems. For example:
- When you see a fictional relationship, note aspects of it that are toxic behaviors masquerading as romance.
- Be more critical of the couple-related content you consume on social media and ask yourself if what is being presented is genuinely realistic or healthy.
- Realize that most people will only want to present the best parts of their relationship first, so a couple that always seems happy has its ups and downs, just like you.
2. Be Prepared To Work Hard
One of the most significant flaws of idealized love is that, for whatever reason, it assumes things are inherently perfect without effort. Understanding that all relationships are hard work can help to remove that unhealthy expectation.
Indeed, relationships shouldn’t be so tricky that you tear your hair out in frustration every day. But it’s not so easy that things fall into place naturally with no effort, either. Both parties must put in equal effort to maintain a positive dynamic.
Think about it: you’re dating a whole different human being, with all sorts of quirks, flaws, and motivations. You’re sharing your life with that person! That’s not something that’s ever going to be extremely easy, even if it isn’t painfully hard! So keep that positive thinking going, and expect to work hard to keep your partnership alive and healthy.
3. Respect Your Partner
Without respect, a relationship cannot survive. It’s such a fundamental part of relationships that without it, there’s no point in dating at all. People often say that someone must earn respect, but you should both already respect each other when you choose to enter a commitment with someone. Here are some reasons that this is important in preventing idealized love:
- Understanding that your partner is unique and is deserving of their individualism and respecting that so you do not seek to change them or dictate their behavior.
- Knowing that mistakes and errors (within reason) are commonplace among any human being and respecting your partner even when and after making these mistakes.
- Trusting your partner to handle themselves, try their best in the relationship, and put their best foot forward; in other words, to respect them enough to give them the benefit of the doubt first.
- Staying loyal emotionally and mentally aside from just physically by respecting them enough to refrain from comparing them to other people you find desirable or attractive.
- Never seeking to change your partner’s deep-seated ideals and beliefs unless they are comfortable with that and respecting them enough to disengage from a relationship if you cannot manage your differences.
- Not resenting your partner for their imperfections, but learning to understand them and work with them and stand by them as they work on improvement.
4. Don’t Set Any Expectations At All At First
Idealization is all about expectations. When you have so many of them, things are sure to go south. So get used to simply not having expectations. Don’t expect good things, bad things, or neutral things. Instead, expect that reality cannot be what you envision.
Research indicates that expectations on relationships, even ones made with positive thinking, can decrease the quality of a partnership. This does not mean that you shouldn’t have standards. By all means, choose to date someone who meets your reasonable desires in a relationship, such as “a person with a career,” “an honest person,” or “someone with similar political views.”
But don’t expect things. Your personal opinions aren’t going to line up with any actual human being, so let yourself be surprised by your partner instead of disappointed. If there’s an issue, you can practice healthy communication to find understandings or compromises.
Idealization always paints a false picture; no matter what it is you’re idealizing. So focus on preventing these unreasonable expectations and, instead, build a healthy, powerful relationship that is based on truth, good values, real life, and genuine love!