It seems perfect. True love.
But then, somehow, it all went wrong.
Maybe you desperately want it to work still. So you make excuses and find reasons to stick around. You love someone and you’re sure you’ve found the perfect one.
When you’re in this place, there’s a good chance you’re not in love with an actual person. Instead, you’re probably in love with an idea.
The idea of love.
We like to think we’re in love. The romance. The allure of the perfect soulmate. Someone who understands us. But the truth is that, in many cases, this is an idea of love. We think we know what love means, and then we try to mold the situation (and a partner) to fit that.
Or, rather than really seeing your mate as a person, you see the “potential.” You’re in love with an idea of what the perfect romance would be, and you try to make it fit.
Here are some of the signs that you’re more in love with the idea of a person and your relationship than you are in love with the actual person:
1. You envision a future with a changed mate.
Is it all about potential when you look at your lover? If all you see is the possibility that s/he will change and turn into your ideal, you’re not in love with them.
You’re in love with an idea of them. You fantasize about how it will be different when your s.o. finally finishes school or decides that camping is really fun. Perhaps you think about all the great Broadway plays you’ll see once your lover has developed a refined taste.
When you love a person, you respect their differences and that they might not like the same things – and it’s ok. You can both enjoy your activities without the need for the other. Loving someone is about accepting that they may never come to a basketball game with you or follow the profession you think they should.
2. You live more in the future than in the present.
This goes hand-in-hand with the first sign that you’re in love with an idea and not a person.
Instead of paying attention to the present and working on yourself and your relationship, you live in the future. Your future memories and fantasies are what matter most to you.
Yes, you need to plan for the future with your s.o. But you can’t live there. Especially if your constant fantasizing about what will happen makes you grumpy that the present doesn’t live up to that ideal. You need to work on yourself and your relationship.
Living in the future puts the focus on trying to make your mate into someone else, rather than helping you become a complete person in a healthy relationship today.
3. You constantly compare your relationship to other couples.
Every couple is different. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
You run into trouble, though, when you compare your relationship to what you see from other couples. When you idolize a couple for their “perfect” relationship, and you want to do things just like they do, you’re on dangerous ground.
Rather than looking at the relationship and working on it in a way that makes you and your lover both happy, you constantly wish it could be something else.
Looking at the public face of other couples is dangerous. Mainly because what looks so perfect on social media might not actually be. You like the idea of what this couple has built, and aren’t really interested in the person you’re with.
When you compare your relationship to other couples, you spend too much time looking outside, to what others are doing. Instead, you should be looking at your mate, seeing a person, and focusing on whether or not this relationship makes sense.
4. On paper, it’s perfect.
Sometimes we look at someone and, instead of seeing them for who they are, we check boxes.
Pretty eyes? Check.
A business major? Check.
Maybe you even share a lot of interests. You both like the same music and movies. You have similar religious backgrounds. It seems like the perfect match.
And maybe it is.
But when you focus on how “perfect” all these “qualifications” make your partner, you aren’t actually seeing a person. Instead, you’re seeing a collection of characteristics that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to present to your mom.
You’re in love with an idea. The idea that you have this great match, your parents will approve, and you’ll be proud to go to all the dinners and parties with this person on your arm.
Unfortunately, just because someone seems perfect on paper, that’s not always the case. None of us are perfect, and you need to look through the traits and see the person. Sometimes, even with the surface compatibility, you’re not actually good for each other on a deeper level.
5. You find yourself changing to meet their expectations.
Maybe instead of expecting your mate to change, you start changing yourself.
Your s.o. is perfect on paper, and things are a little rocky right now. You don’t want to lose the ideal, so you decide to make some changes. If you change to meet your lover’s ideal, then things will smooth out, they will love you more, and it will be perfect forever.
Nope, nope, nope.
We can all improve as people. Progress is about being a little better each day. But that doesn’t mean you have to change the core of who you are just to please your lover and get them to stick around.
If you are with someone who places contingencies on their affection, and they want you to change into someone else, it’s not really love. And you are more in love with an idea of not being alone than in being with this person.
Not too long ago, someone who knows I’m just not having any more children said this to me: “If you find the one, you’ll want to give him a child if he really wants one.”
If I find “the one” he will respect that I don’t want any more children. In fact, if someone really wants children, it’s clear I’m not the one for him. We aren’t compatible.
Sticking around and trying to change who you are and what you want out of life just to be in a “perfect” relationship isn’t love.
Don’t settle for an idea.
Don’t fall prey to the idea that you need to have someone. This is what leads us to being in love with an idea instead of a person.
Instead of trying to find someone, anyone, to fill a hole in your life, start by figuring out who you are and enjoying life on your own. Once you are happy with yourself, you are more likely to attract others who are happy with themselves – including potential partners.
Look for people, and look at them as people, rather than fantasies or ideas. In the long run, you’ll have more rewarding relationships.