If you’ve ever said “I don’t know what was real and what was fake”, “But it’s hard to let go of the fantasy” , “It feels like I was in love with an illusion” or “I’m finding it really hard to move on and accept what has happened”, you’ve got reconciliation issues. When you’re faced with making fantasy and reality consistent with one another so that you can accept the truth of what has happened, what you feel, do, or are being, you opt for the illusions which basically suspends you in No Man’s Land while opening you up to problems in the real world.
An illusion is a false idea or belief, or a deceptive appearance or impression.
A fantasy is an idea with no basis in reality and is basically your imagination unrestricted by reality.
Reality is the state of things as they exist. It’s what you see, hear, and experience.
So let’s imagine a few scenarios.
Scenario #1: You break up with someone because for whatever reason the relationship wasn’t working. Maybe it wasn’t progressing (see my post on landmarks of healthy relationships), or there was code amber and red behaviour but whatever it was, you’re not together. However, you keep remembering the ‘good times’ and the fact that you both like running in the mountains, eating jellied eels, sleeping in the bed at a 17 degree angle, and you have amazing sex. Time goes by and even though you were bloody miserable in the relationship due to the aspects that weren’t working, you keep focusing on those ‘good times’ and particularly on the beginning and wonder why they can’t go back to being that person. They get in touch, you think you’re getting back together, you have a whirlwind night/week/even a month and then you’re back to square one. You’re hurting and struggle to get over them. They get in touch again or you reach out. You think you’re getting back together, they haven’t changed and lather, rinse, repeat.
When you keep going back to a relationship that broke for a reason and where the person didn’t live up to the reality of all the wonderful things you thought they were, you let your focus on the ‘good points’, your feelings etc run unencumbered by reality. If you restricted yourself to reality or at least balanced the fantasy with very real prior experiences and knowledge of boundaries and why some relationships don’t work, there’s no way in hell you’d keep putting your hand back in the fire.
Scenario #2: You meet someone who’s attached. Maybe you know immediately or maybe they keep it under their hat until their feet are wedged firmly under your love table. You imagine that you’re destined for great things because you know, obviously they must be taking this massive risk and the connection and sexual frisson is so immense and they’ve said all of this stuff that makes it sound like you have a future together. Then the excuses start rolling in and they’re not behaving like the person you thought they were or rustling up that future they promised you. Things come to a head and they may even do that manipulative BS where they claim they were leaving but because you haven’t been ‘patient’, they won’t. You end things because you know it’s not good for you but every time they get in touch, you accept and are wondering if they’ve left yet and are going to become the person you thought they were.
When it becomes apparent that things are not what they seemed and yet you keep entertaining them it’s because you’re hoping that you can avoid admitting that you made a mistake in the first place by having them come blazing in on their white horse offering you the fairy tale. Instead of tempering the fantasy with reality – they’re married, talking out of their arse, and have done things that have left you feeling pretty damn crappy – you let the fantasy just keep running and running!
Scenario #3: You meet someone and they start talking up the future, Fast Forwarding you by introducing you to various people, pushing for commitment and so-called sexual and emotional intimacy, and basically taking you on a whirlwind romance. You’re having such a good time, you don’t want to pay too much attention to some things that are making you uncomfortable or even worried. Whether it’s weeks, months, or even a year, eventually the needle is ripped from the record and you land in reality with a cold, hard bump. The pain is immense and you can’t work out if it was all lies, half lies, 20% or whatever. You feel duped but at the same time you remember just how good it felt at times and you don’t want to invalidate that either. So you struggle to accept the truth, which isn’t that your relationship was all lies (it wasn’t unless it was a complete con or you actually know it was all lies because you were in denial) but more that 1) it didn’t work and 2) there are very specific reasons that indicate why it didn’t work that will have showed themselves, good times or not, if you’re willing to look at and accept them.
Unless you’ve been in a complete fantasy, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – it just has to be real. Just because your relationship didn’t work out and they may even have proved themselves to be a bit (or a lot) of a tool, it doesn’t mean that the good times didn’t exist or that everything was a lie. This is extreme and a bit childish – instead of going around chopping up their clothing, you’ve erased the past – that’s a fantasy too!
If you can’t differentiate between what was real and what was fake, it means that you were too swept up and cloaked in too many illusions to have a good grounding in reality. It’s not that you can’t or shouldn’t remember the good times or good points but if your imagination runs riot and doesn’t get rudely interrupted by reality, you’re opening yourself up to pain. This is exactly how people end up going back to someone who at best took advantage and at worst abused them. If they restricted their thoughts to reality in full colour, 20:20 vision, they wouldn’t be going back.
If you only remember the hot sex it’s like assuming that in reality they’re one walking, talking penis or vagina. Truth is that the hot sex may be packaged up in someone that doesn’t treat you with love, care, trust, and respect, that leaves you feeling worthless once the sexual high has passed.
The key is to work out what reality is and that includes the good, bad, and indifferent. What you think, can always be denied, rationalised, and minimised, but doing a stock take on what you’ve heard, seen, felt, and basically experienced is real.
What are the facts? Strip out the excuses and BS (whether it’s yours or theirs) and stick with what has happened – what are you left with?
Why didn’t your relationship work?
What did you ignore that in retrospect you recognise as a code amber or red warning?
What reasons did they give the last time they got in touch? What happened the last time you got back together? And the time after that?
When you focus on something good what do you have to ignore? What are you avoiding by focusing on the fantasy?
The truth is that when a person or a relationship are that great, you don’t need the fantasy because you’re living the reality. Are you living the reality? Did you live the reality?
By restricting your imagination with reality, you also ensure that you have healthy boundaries. Put a limit on how much bullshit you have in your life because in fantasies and illusion clad relationships you control the uncontrollable, whereas in reality you’re in control of yourself and can drive your own life.
For more advice on illusion free relationships, check out my book and ebook Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl in my bookshop.
Image source: Vogue. Definitions illusions, fantasy, and reality adapted from Oxford English DictionariesAdd to favorites