"Carol the Coach": The Illusion of Love

Do you know someone who is in love with a figment of her imagination?  You know the type.  You have a friend who has conjured up, in her own mind, a scenario that reflects what she wants the situation to be…as opposed to what it really is.  

I recently saw a man who was not being treated well by his wife. They hadn’t had sex in months. She was always choosing her kids over him, berated him constantly and spent their money impulsively. After describing this dead-end relationship, he began to talk about how much they loved each other and about their plans for the future.  Although he bemoanedthe lack of love in the relationship, he quickly went into denial and stated that all he wanted to do was help her work through her issues.  He was clearly in love with the fantasy of love and was not clearly seeing the reality of his situation! 

This often occurs in dating.  For instance, a woman will come in and report that she’s still seeing Tom and that she is more in love than ever.  As we explore the mutuality of the relationship, my client will describe the real scenario.  Her boyfriend is not communicating.  She does not hear from him for days and he has not invested anything financially or emotionally towards their relationship for months or possibly years.  It appears that the relationship is not dependable yet my client seems to be “in love with being in love”, and in actuality she is getting nothing back in return. 

Although she may be able to fool herself for awhile, eventually she becomes saturated with disappointment and can no longer deny unacceptable behavior from the other person. 

There is no reason to accept sub-standard behavior or “to accept the crumbs” just to have someone in your life.  The first step to getting the love you want is to get honest with yourself and decide what you want from a partnership or a dating relationship.

Next it’s important to assess whether you can retrain your partner to be more reciprocal.  Unfortunately, you have likely put up with the old behaviors for months or years. Therefore, the behavior is pretty ingrained making redirecting or retraining tough. Practice being clear and direct with your loved one and let him or her know what your expectation looks like.  It may be, “Tom if you don’t call me by mid-week, I will no longer be available to you at midnight for a nightcap.” Or, “Jason, when you avoid my calls or refuse to make plans with me, I will need to make other plans.”  To the unfaithful spouse, “If you continue to cheat on me I will make the decision to seek an attorney and file for a formal separation because I will no longer put up with the third person in our relationship”.   

If your partner can’t or won’t alter the behavior, it is time for you to seek professional guidance.  If counseling is not helpful, you will have to make the difficult decision to end the relationship.  This of course means that you will need to get healthy so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes in your next relationship. 

All of this work requires that you get out of denial and get honest with yourself about what you aren’t getting from your partner.  “Being in love with being in love” is never enough to build a relationship.