When it comes to matters of the heart, it is challenging to identify healthy love.
When we speak of unhealthy love, we imply the lack of reason. Looking back at my past amorous experiences, I was prone to unhealthy love. I fell in love various times, but rarely did I fall in love with an actual someone—I mostly fell in love with the idea of them.
Crazy, right? How is it possible to fall in love with an idea, when the person is right there in front of us?
Yet, I know this will strike a chord for some others—not only me. Oftentimes, we are incapable of identifying an unhealthy pattern when we’re stuck in it. Only later, when the pattern ends, do we see things objectively.
Generally speaking, there are two realities: the one out there that is untainted by our own projections, and the one in our heads. Most of the time, the one in our heads almost always defines the one that is outside. We habitually create our own realities because the actual world, as it is, doesn’t always adhere to our wishes. Consequently, to avoid the complexity and unpleasantness of the real world, we create a reality that suits our desires.
Then, the reality in our heads merges with the actual reality, forever altering our decisions, choices, and perceptions.
This is what precisely happens when we fall in love with the idea of someone. We create a fake reality about them inside our heads.
Unfortunately, we don’t do that consciously. We don’t simply choose to create realities other than the one out there; that said, a lack of awareness combined with intense emotions can lead us to skip the rational part in love.
You see, emotions are the first thing that develop when we meet a person—we might be extremely attracted to their physical appearance or highly fond of their personality. Whatever emotions we experience at the beginning, if left unattended, they overshadow the reality of the person. What happens when emotions overshadow reality? We put the other person up on a pedestal and create an ideal of them.
Now, the person might be amazing, and they might be the right person for us—but even if they are, through creating an ideal, we miss the chance of experiencing a healthy love. Creating a concept out of the right person is undesirable because we will never be fulfilled no matter how much they give us. And, by drawing preconceptions about them, we also miss the chance of getting to know them for who they are.
On the other hand, if we create an ideal around the potentially “wrong” person, we definitely set ourselves up for disappointment, since we miss the red flags and chase the ideal.
How many times have we found ourselves rushing to be with someone after a few days or a few weeks of meeting them—or in some cases, we even move in with them?
While we think it’s love at first sight, it’s simply our emotions taking control. Instead of focusing on getting to know that person more and taking things slow, we focus on what to give so we won’t lose them, and we focus on the end result. Oftentimes, it costs us their respect and how they see us.
The consequence? Our partner becomes a concept, rather than a real someone. And the truth is, concepts and ideas change. They never last. This is why unhealthy love (although it’s tough to get unstuck from it) can be easily forgotten later, because we don’t really lose the person—we’ve simply lost the idea that was in our mind about them.
That’s the reason we stay in unhealthy or destructive relationships for years. While we think we hold on to the person because we love them, the fact is that we hold on to the concept of the person we have created in our mind. We might stay with a cheating partner because in our own beliefs they will change. We might refuse to let go of an emotionally unavailable partner because in our heads they will open up and get close to us. We might even stay with a partner after they have changed how they interact with us because we’re still attached to the idea of how they used to be with us at the start.
There are a few relationships that I couldn’t easily let go of in the past. Back then, I thought I couldn’t separate from the person because I loved them so much. Now, I chuckle every time I think of this. I simply couldn’t separate from them, because separation meant the end of the story I had woven in my head. It’s not that I couldn’t let go of the person, but who I wanted that person to be.
Now, how can we stop ourselves from putting other people up on a pedestal, and actually fall in love with the person, and not just with our perfect image of them?
It all boils down to how we tend to our emotions and perceptions. We can apply this when we first meet someone, or even after years of being in a relationship.
Do you see this person as perfect, inside out?
If yes, know that you are overlooking their flaws. I’m sure they have wonderful qualities, but nobody’s perfect. Put your emotions aside, and see them for who they are without any judgments on your part. You might find a trivial flaw and end up loving it—or you might find a deal breaker that’s been hurting you all along.
Are you afraid of losing them?
We usually like to believe in the reality that hurts us less. There is a thin line between real optimism and disguised positivity so we won’t get hurt. If you think your partner will stop cheating or will give you the love and attention you deserve, are they really a person who will change? Or do you “think” they will change, only so you won’t lose them?
Are you constantly trying to please them?
When we are constantly pleasing a person without minding what they give us back in return, it means we are scared of pushing them away. As a result, we also create an ideal of ourselves in their head, which eventually stops them from seeing us for who we are. We abolish our darkest side (which we all have), and only show our good one. Consequently, our partner can’t love us for all that we are either.
Let’s take our time before jumping into a relationship with someone, and get to know them for who they are first. Seeing our partner without our rose-tinted glasses allows us to love all their sides, without misconceptions. In addition, it helps determine if our partner is the right person for us or not.
Emotions don’t define love. To extremely like someone or be fond of them doesn’t make them the right person for us. We need to discern what’s underneath our hopes, feelings, and conceptions. We must practice using our logic and reason when we fall in love. Only then can we call it healthy love.