One of the most common ways my love addict continues to show up is in my ability to spin out an entire relationship in fantasy form, based on absolutely nothing. I’m not quite to the point where I find it amusing. I hope I get to that point some day, but for now I am grateful that at least I’m no longer willing to base reality on these lapses. The days when I used to try to act out my fantasies brought me nothing but heartache and confusion, and I’m sorry to say I pulled a lot of people through my painful and confusing head space with me.
Let’s take a look inside a typical fantasy.
It always starts out in my real life experiences. Let’s say I’m at the grocery store, pushing my cart through the canned goods aisle. I’m not dressed up, I have no makeup on, I’m not on a mission to do anything other than get groceries. But suddenly, with no warning, a man—and you have to understand, this can be any man—smiles at me. To really understand the extent of my addiction, it is important to really get the any man part. The man could be any age, any race, dressed in any manner, married or not, and the hard-hitting truth is that in this moment of addictive lust I will not even care to know anything about him—is he educated? employed? healthy? kind? intelligent? I’m not thinking any of those thoughts about this individual human being. In the split second after he smiles at me, my brain begins spinning out a fantasy that sounds something like this:
He smiled at me. He likes me! No, he LIKES me!!!
He’ll find a way to connect with me later on in the parking lot. He’ll ask me out. He’ll call me. He’ll start texting.
We’ll go on an amazing date. Dinner. A show. He’ll fly me to New York. He’ll tell me he’s always wanted to meet someone just like me. He won’t be able to take his eyes off me the entire night. He’ll hold my hand and play with my hair.
[Here’s the step where my brain solves any possible problems:] He’ll have to leave his wife/break up with his girlfriend. We’ll have to explain to everyone why the 20-year age difference doesn’t matter. The fact that he’s a millionaire and I don’t run in those circles won’t dissuade him because he will experience so much passion for me that he’ll be swept off his feet. [Ultimately, this is where I end up:] He will overcome all obstacles to be with me. It will prove his love.
We’ll get married and live in the house of my dreams. He already has this house and is waiting for me to make it a home. The sex will be amazing. We’ll travel together.
He’ll die and I’ll grieve for the rest of my life. [Or sometimes:] I’ll die and he’ll never be the same ever again.
You understand, this all takes place in just a few seconds. Zero to dead. Often, I stop and indulge in a little more detail. It doesn’t add significantly to the time.
What’s really important to notice is that the man who is the subject of my fantasy isn’t invited to participate in it. This is the working definition of objectification. I’ve taken a human being, stripped them of any actual meaning in their own life (whose father, husband, son, friend, neighbor, coworker are they?), and fitted them neatly into my little fantasy that has nothing to do with their needs, desires, intentions, or context. Here was an innocent smile, and I took it so far out of context—for my own purposes—that it no longer resembles anything looking like reality.
Additionally, this is most likely to happen when I’m feeling insecure in my current relationship. Or frustrated or resentful. It’s my way of avoiding facing reality—from solving any real problems—and enjoying a momentary feel-good fix instead. In the past, these behaviors led to me being inappropriately flirtatious. Or becoming even more resentful and angry with my actual relationship—because it never was as good as the fantasy relationship I’d just completed with the guy in the checkout line. My real man could never live up to the man I created in my head.
Admitting this tendency—to myself first and then to others—has allowed me to practice staying in the moment. That has given me the opportunity to actually solve my problems rather than avoid them. I’ve been able to express my real feelings, and ask for what I want and need. No, my relationships still do not resemble the fantasies. But then, they last a lot longer than six seconds. I consider that a good thing.