There are ways you can tell when you're in love with the idea of someone.
6 Ways To Tell If You're Only In Love With The Idea Of A Person

The fantasy can’t last forever.

by Candice Jalili and Corinne Sullivan
Originally Published: 
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Before I met my current boyfriend, I thought I was in love multiple times. Looking back on those relationships and comparing them to the way I feel about my boyfriend now, I've come to the conclusion that I didn't love them. Instead, I think I only loved them in theory, so if you ever find yourself wondering, “Do I love him or the idea of him?” then you’re definitely not alone. It’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two, but chances are you won’t ever feel totally satisfied only loving someone in concept.

As Anita Chlipala, a licensed marriage and family therapist, previously told Elite Daily, loving the idea of someone usually has little to do with the person themselves. "I’ve asked clients, 'Why are you with your partner?' Their answer is, 'Because I love them.' When I ask, 'What else?' they struggle with answering the question,” she said. “If you truly love the person you are with, you should have no problem rattling off a litany of their characteristics and behaviors that you find endearing and make your partner special to you.”

Wondering how to tell if you like someone or just the idea of them? Here are a few signs you aren’t in love with that person.

You Can’t See Past Their Imperfections
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If you truly love someone, you can accept them for who they are flaws and all. But according to clinical psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow, you’ll know you only love someone in theory if you can’t accept those perceived flaws. As he previously told Elite Daily, if you begin to question your love for them "when they are angry, stubborn, smelly, mean, selfish, or sloppy... and it's hard for you to get past these things,” then you’re probably more in love with an idealized version of your partner than the reality.

You Wish They Would Change

Falling in love with the idea of someone means there’s a good chance you won’t just be irked by their flaws — you’ll want to actively change who they are. “There are some parts of one’s personality that will be different than yours and you can still have a healthy relationship,” Chlipala previously told Elite Daily. "If you are wanting a major overhaul of your partner’s personality and frequently wishing they would behave differently, then that’s an indicator that you don’t truly accept them.”

You Compromise Your Own Needs

When your partner does not live up to the expectations you set for them, you might find yourself changing your own expectations, if only to keep up the charade that everything is fine. “If you find that you are letting go of your core values or passions to make your relationship work, you may be settling," Cayla Buettner, matchmaker with Three Day Rule, previously told Elite Daily. "A healthy relationship will allow both partners to thrive, learn and grow — both separately and together."

You Often Feel Disappointed By Them
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Even if you pretend not to notice their flaws and reevaluate your own standards, someone you only love in theory will still continually leave you feeling disappointed. As Dr. Klapow previously explained, “If you love your partner in theory only, then when you are with them they will rarely, if ever, live up to the idea of being in love. And you will notice that quickly.” The illusion of love can never serve as a substitute for the real thing.

You Can Imagine Being With Someone Else

Loving a concept rather a person means you can easily imagine replacing your partner for someone else. According to licensed clinical psychotherapist Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, the main thing that separates real, authentic love from loving the idea of someone is how attached you feel to your current partner. "You might start 'looking around' for a new person in your mind," she explained. "For example, you might be out with your friends or other couples and think to yourself: 'I wish my partner was like theirs.'"

You’re Afraid Of Being Alone

A reason why many people stay with someone they don’t truly love is out of fear. “A common fear is of never finding anyone and being alone forever, so people choose comfort and familiarity over taking the risk to find a good fit,” Chlipala previously said. According to her, you might even latch onto the idea of a person simply because “you’d rather have anyone around instead of dealing with your feelings of loneliness.”

True love isn’t always easy to recognize, but once you find it, I have a feeling you’ll know it.


Anita Chlipala, licensed marriage and family therapist

Dr. Joshua Klapow, clinical psychologist

Cayla Buettner, matchmaker with Three Day Rule

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist

Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.

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