How You Can Tell if it’s True Love or Merely a Fantasy - The Top 5 Ways We Mistake one for the other

Love is a tricky word. The word love is used to describe a range of different relationships of varying quality. And our relationships are difficult to compare with each other, because of how differently we all view love. Your biases can distort how you view relationships. Even two people in a relationship together can have very different interpretations of the same experience they share. No wonder then so much conflict occurs in the name of love.  Below are some of the most popular mistakes people make that distort our view of reality. Understanding these will help you when you are deciding whether to turn dating into a committed relationship.

1.     You fall too quickly. Falling for someone before you know them well is not love. Sure it may be more than lust, and you experience real feelings for this person. But it’s not love, because neither of you know who you are dating yet. You just believe they match your fantasies of the perfect partner, so you get swept away with this view. When you hold onto this ideal fantasy too tightly you are prone to avoid or dismiss early warning signs that this may not be the right person for you in the long-term. You may even make excuses for this virtual stranger’s bad behaviours in order to keep your fantasy alive. Unfortunately once you get to know each other the fantasy can fade, particularly when you experience repeated arguments that damage rather than resolve. The perfect person does not exist, but some habits can be damaging, and you are better off finding out who you are dating before you fall too far. Then you can work out just how compatible you really are with each other in the long-term. The longer you avoid finding out the truth, the more you are investing in a person you don’t fully know or understand, and the more difficult it becomes to disentangle yourself from them.

2.     Material desires confuse compatibility issues. For example, the man with power and money and the beautiful woman fall for each other. He woos her with fine dining, his fast car, and ability to travel to exotic places for the weekend. She loves the lifestyle he offers, and he makes her feel special. She makes him feel confident and successful, and in this context no wonder they get along well! However, there is a barter trade occurring, an exchange of resources, which makes it difficult for you to determine if it really is love when you strongly desire what is being traded. You may be more in love with the material gain than the actual person. People can convince themselves it is love, at least so they can enjoy the ride for a while. But the relationship can come crashing down if the couple have not considered how compatible they are emotionally, or in terms of personality fit, life goals or values. These are the deeper issues that need exploration for long-term relationship success.

3.     Great sex clouds your perception. You are turned on physically by each other. You have great sex together, and one or both of you end up having strong feelings for each other based on this. Sure physical attraction and great sex are important factors, but they shouldn’t be the only things you search for in a long-term partner. Great sex is not enough to create a successful relationship. Great sex can lead you to avoid deeper issues that more truly determine if the relationship will be a happy one. Consider how you can have quality time together without getting physical. And are you really compatible on the deeper issues I mentioned above?

4.     You get along well already. A lot of people end up having a relationship with someone they enjoy spending time with, either at work or as a friend or housemate. This is convenient, but again it doesn’t guarantee long-term compatibility, especially if you get together because both of you are lonely.  And relating to each other well at work or as a housemate does not always mean your personal relationship will be amazing. There are different skills required to make the relationship work.

5.      Your friends and family love them. When everyone tells you they like this new person and that you should be together, that has some influence on your decisions. But if you don’t feel a sense of deep and genuine love for this person, then pleasing your friends should be secondary to what you want in a relationship.

These factors highlight how in the early stages of dating, couples can get stuck focussing on surface issues without finding out if you are both compatible in the longer term. This leaves the relationship lying on shaky ground. Can you talk about deeper compatibility in a constructive way with the person you are dating? Once it gets serious you need the courage to open up about your needs, expectations and what a good relationship looks like to you in the longer-term.

To create a truly loving and lasting relationship both partners need to meeting each others’ emotional needs, not just the practical needs. Satisfying each others emotional needs builds trust and respect, passion and commitment to each other. If you want to know more, the 7 principles of connectedness highlighted in my book ‘Closer’ helps you identify these needs and shows you how to create a strong emotional connection. Closer is available now at bookshops and online stores.

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