You've probably heard people say this, even if it wasn't directed toward you. The concept that you're only in love with the idea of someone can come across as vague, but this phenomenon happens more often than you might think. Being in a relationship has tons of perks, after all. You always have someone to snuggle with when it's cold, and you never have to go to the movies alone. But you should love your partner for who they are, not just because they're a warm body to sleep next to at night.
Maybe you're trying to fill an empty space in your life and you don't realize it. People need companionship, intimacy, and validation, but if you aren't complete on your own, depending on your boyfriend or girlfriend for happiness isn't the answer. You may have convinced yourself that you love them, but if you can relate to any of the below red flags, it's possible that you're more into the idea of being in a relationship than you are in love with your actual partner.
I spoke to Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. clinical psychologist and host of the Kurre and Klapow radio show, about signs that might indicate you're only in love with the idea of your partner. Here are three red flags that should be on your radar.
The more time you spend with your partner, the more you get to know them, including their less-than-perfect traits. If you truly love someone, you can accept them for who they are — flaws and all. But if "when they are angry, stubborn, smelly, mean, selfish, or sloppy, you begin to question your love for them, and it's hard for you to get past these things and ... see this as just a part of who they are," you might be more in love with an idealized version of your partner than the reality, according to Dr. Klapow.
To help determine whether you love your partner or just the idea of them, Dr. Klapow says that you can ask yourself a series of questions: "What do I want from this person?" "Do I love them as a total human being (good, bad, pretty, ugly)?" "Do I find value in being disappointed, seeing them in a less than favorable light?" "What can I gain from being with them if they change?" Determining the answers will give you a better idea of how you really feel about your partner.
The third and arguably most important sign to look out for is if you feel like your partner falls short of fulfilling your feelings of "life satisfaction, wholeness, and completion," says Dr. Klapow. "Basically, they are not 'completing you' or filling a gap in your life, and your expectation is that with them, and with them alone, you should be complete at a deep level."
Every relationship is made of three components, according to Dr. Klapow: Person one, person two, and the relationship. "We must make sure that all three are functioning well and that they can stand independently. Relying on the relationship to fix you means the relationship is doomed. Relying on your personal well-being and adjustment to fix the relationship will not work. Relying on your partner to bring everything to you and the relationship is also flawed. All three must be attended to and in balance," he says.
If any of the above statements ring true, you may be more focused on the idea of your partner than on loving your partner and recognizing that he or she is a real person who sometimes makes mistakes.
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