There is hard science behind the notion that true love can last a lifetime. A neurological study from Stony Brook University revealed that couples who experience “romantic love” long-term, keep their brains firing in similar ways to couples who have just fallen in love.They defined “romantic love” as characterized by “intensity, engagement and sexual interest.”
If lasting love is an attainable goal, then what’s getting in the way of achieving it? What keeps so many people from maintaining that excitement and closeness they once felt with a partner?
One psychologist would argue that many couples can preserve “romantic love” by avoiding the trappings of a “Fantasy Bond.”
The fantasy bond is a concept developed by psychologist Robert Firestone. It describes an illusion of connection a couple forms that replaces real acts of love, affection, and relating. A fantasy bond exists when a couple starts to forego their individually and lose the “me” to become a “we.”
The most remarkable sign that a fantasy bond has been formed is when one or both partners give up vital areas of personal interest, their unique points of view and opinions, their individuality, presumably to become a ‘unit’, or a ‘whole’. The attempt to find security in an illusion of merging with another leads to an insidious and progressive loss of identity in each person.
According to Dr. Firestone, people have a tendency to reenact the defensive styles developed in childhood. Once old defensive styles are triggered,the individual acts with this defensive posture, blocking the development of a genuine, unique relationship with the partner.
The fantasy bond allows us to feel secure and connected to someone else, while numbing us against some of the more painful emotions that love stirs up, such as fear of loss, memories of hurt, longing, or rejection.
Unfortunately, we cannot selectively block out pain without also blocking out joy.
Without knowing it, couples tend to set up routines and fit each other into roles rather than face the unpredictability and inherent challenges that come with maintaining passion, excitement, and a deep sense of fondness for another person, separate from themselves.
So what are some signs that you may be in a fantasy bond?
• Less eye contact
• Breakdowns in communication
• Less frequent affection and routinized lovemaking
• Loss of independence
• Speaking as one person, overusing “we” statements
• Using everyday routines as symbols of closeness, in place of being emotionally close
• Engaging in role-determined behaviors (i.e., as father, wife, breadwinner, decision-maker), rather than developing yourself based on your personal goals and interests
• Using customs and conventional responses as substitutes for real closeness and relating
If you notice that your relationship has some of these qualities, don’t despair! A fantasy bond exists on a continuum. It isn’t a black or white, good or bad label for your relationship. Once you realize that you have fallen into some form of a fantasy bond, it is possible to reemerge as a happier, more in-love version of yourself.
To do this, you must first investigate and explore how your old wounds were triggered. Therapy can help you with that. It’s often hard to discover on your own. Then you can engage in behaviors that encourage real and meaningful contact with your partner, i.e.,try the opposite of what’s on the above list.
Ultimately, you can become the person you want to be in your relationship—minus the fairytale, but with a much happier ending.Stay in Love by Staying Out of Fantasy.
Some excerpts from PsychAlive: http://www.psychalive.org/stay-in-love-by-staying-out-of-fantasy/