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The Fantasy Partner always disappoints

Dr. Amy Vail
Love is not a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers.
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Love cannot sustain itself. As Erich Fromm wrote in “The Art of Loving,” published in 1956, “The art of loving is like any craft. It requires patience, confidence, discipline, concentration, faith, and practice daily.”

Now that Valentine’s Day is over, the chocolates are eaten and the flowers have wilted, I want to take this time to look at how the fantasy of the perfect relationship can get in the way of developing healthy and mutually satisfying relationships.

Many people spend far more time planning their wedding, which will only last for one day, than they spend planning out their marriage, which is supposed to last a lifetime.

It is common for intimate partners to start developing fantasies about their partner as soon as they meet. This often helps bond couples together as they each fantasize their partner is finally the perfect one they have been looking and waiting for their whole life. However, this fantasy does not last and often leads to a deep sense of disappointment in the relationship, in the partner they have chosen and in their quality of life.

This fantasy often unfolds with the inner dialogue saying “if (my partner) would only do, say or be ‘x’ then everything will be better and we will be happier.” When this type of thinking takes root, it can be very difficult to see the person as who they really are, not as a disappointing version of who we perceive they are not, or a skewed perspective of what we think they could be with a little more effort on their part.

When couples find themselves in this pattern, too often one will start to withhold their love and affection from the other. The fantasy plays out with one partner thinking “why should I bother contributing to this relationship if (my partner) is not going to giving me what I deserve, or what I have envisioned I would have in this relationship?”

In life, it is easy to point fingers and place blame for our disappointments in life on to the other. However, when we do this, we must realize we have three more fingers pointing back at ourselves. It is easier to blame others for our unhappiness than to accept responsibility for our own shortcomings. If there is a quality you wish you could change in your partner, first look and see if it is not one you could more easily change in yourself. If this is the case, then work on yourself first.

Consideration, kindness and respect go a long way in fostering sweet relationships, both with our intimate partners, our family members and our friends.

Valentine’s Day is a socially mandated date day. However, if the “Lover’s day” sentiment were to be carried out and applied to every day, more people would celebrate their partners in more meaningful and authentic ways. This means appreciating the positive qualities our partners do have, instead of lamenting over the qualities we perceive them to be lacking. Love is not a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers. It is not a right that we are entitled to. Love is an achievement. Loving our partner means respecting who he or she truly is. If we can do this, everyday will begin to feel a bit sweeter and more satisfying. We may begin to live the love story we envisioned. We may achieve what Valentine’s Day is really about ” a life and a relationship filled with love and respect.

” Amy Vail, M.A., PsyD, is a Clinical Psychologist with offices in Squaw Valley and Tahoe City. She works with couples and individual adults and adolescents helping them find healthier and more satisfying ways to live their lives.


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