Our imagination is remarkable. We use it to envision new possibilities, create, invent and even help someone survive the unbearable. Imagination and fantasy are often confused and intertwined, but there is an important distinction: Imagination is based on reality and fantasy is not and it’s unrealistic by nature.
In our relationships, we use imagination to help us plan a wedding, build a dream home or create a life together. However, fantasy thinking in relationships has the potential to create and shape unhealthy patterns and that could lead to destructive choices. Here are some of the ways our fantasy mind works against us when it comes to relationships:
- You ignore red flags or minimizing their importance.
- You focus on one’s “potential” or “who you want them to be” not who they are in the here and now.
- You have expectations of the other person that you project onto them.
- You see only the parts of your partner that you want to see. In turn, you are creating an altered sense of reality.
- You base all thoughts and actions on past realities, like acting as if the relationship is where it used to be during the honeymoon stage.
- You feel like you have a double life. In one, you may have a traditional marriage, job, friends, etc. In the other, you put yourself in high-risk situations such as race car driving, seeing multiple sexual partners and gambling.
- You go into a fantasy state to retreat when life gets hard or uncomfortable, referred to as splitting in extreme cases.
Fantasy thinking and behaviors develop in trauma bonding. Patrick Carnes developed the term trauma bonding, which refers to the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings and sexual physiology to entangle another person.
Recognizing when you use fantasy in your life is a great place to build awareness of how you use it as a coping mechanism. Working with a trained professional can help you understand why and develop healthier coping mechanisms in your relationships.
Please contact Hilary Rosenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation or counseling session.