Fantasy Love is Better Than Reality Love

Fantasy love is better than reality love because you can do anything you want in the fantasy – you can have the partner of your dreams; you can be adored or vilified; you can suffer like a martyr or you can enjoy an affectionate intimacy. Fantasy love gives you control that isn’t available in the real world. That’s why fantasy love appears better than reality love.

Fantasy love is having a relationship in secret. Fantasy love is having a secret imaginary relationship where you play out all the dramas from your previous experience with the image of the person in your current relationship. Your current partner becomes the lead star in your internal movie that loops and loops over your past so that you get to exert some control and power over them, which was not available to you earlier in your childhood.



Fantasy love is better than reality love

Tracy a 33-year old make-up artist had a lot in common with her boyfriend Robert, a 34-year old script writer for a popular comedy show. They enjoyed eating out in out of the way places; swimming in the ocean; water surfing and rock climbing among other things. And of course being in the entertainment business they had a lot to share about the cast and crews of the shows they worked around.

But not too long into the relationship, Tracy started to sense some irritation and dissatisfaction. When they were out at parties, Robert mingled a lot. That made Tracy uncomfortable. The attentive Robert she knew was now giving that attention to others. A hollow emptiness crept inside her each time Robert became vitalized with another person and not her. If Robert failed to respond within the hour to her texts, Tracy imagined that he had become untethered from her, leaving her broken and hollow. At one time she had experienced Robert’s undivided attention, as needed and without hesitation. Now in her fantasy  he was taking time, leaving her hanging; fantasizing about him losing interest, being sick of her, or worn out from taking care of her.

Tracy never spoke about her fears and doubts with Robert directly. She became distant fearing that if she let him in close again, he might make her feel good and then disappear again. What she did instead was have a relationship with him in secret: in her fantasy: in her head, where she had ultimate control, unseen and inaccessible to Robert.


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Fantasy Love Was All Tracy Could Have as a Child

As a child Tracy ate in secret. She hoarded food in her room anytime she could. Cookies, candies, packaged foods, cheese, sandwiches, sausages, fruit and sodas. She’d wait until everyone was asleep and gorge herself on her stolen and hoarded food and eat in secret. It was the most sensuous experience of taking care of her needs ever.  The secrecy gave her cover. She could gorge; eat candy with cheese if she wanted. She could stuff it all down without chewing, or she could munch methodically when she wanted the sensation of biting and chewing. No one would judge her, mock her or take anything away. Sometimes she starved herself for days to collect and store enough food to pig out on, cram it all down before daybreak and sleep with a full but bloated tummy that made her uncomfortable around people the next day. It served to minimize her contact with family members who could be hurtful.

Tracy’s mother was there one day and not the next. Young Tracy was often left with friends or neighbors who were erratic in caring for her and in particular feeding her regularly and consistently. So Tracy grew up never knowing where and when she would receive food that she could trust to be both nutritious and a plenty. Promises of food and meal times were usually broken; such that Tracy had to find a way of making sure she had her own food and didn’t need to depend on adults. That’s when her secret eating began. It’s also when her fantasies took shape. In the fantasies she would imagine her mother taking her to McDonald’s; or having a hot home cooked meal waiting for her when she got home from school; sometimes she fantasized about her mom doing packed lunches for school with all her favorite snacks. She got to have the care and the relationship with her pretend good mom in her fantasies – and she had to do it in secret – eat in secret so that no one have power over her to keep her hungry or give her stuff that she didn’t want just because it was there.


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Fantasy love lost Tracy a Wonderful Guy

Fast forward to Tracy’s experience of Robert socializing with others and being absent when she reached out via text. In her fantasy world, she could “stuff” herself with whatever scenario suited her purpose. Robert could be the abandoning mother at one moment and the negligent one the next. Tracy would distance herself from Robert when she was upset with him, ‘starving’ herself of connection, and fantasize that he was abandoning her. Within the fantasy Tracy felt strong, powerful and in command, despite the suffering of losing contact. The fantasy switched as needed to Robert feeling guilty, admitting to his negligence while begging her to talk to him again. What an ecstatic feeling – having absolute power to make Robert grovel and ensure that he’s under her control, loving her the way she wants.

Imagine being able to have all that power, control, and vindication at whim – calling it up at will any time she needed in her fantasy world.

Is fantasy love really better than reality love for Tracy?

  • Living her control and power fantasies in secret means she is not present in her real relationship with Robert.
  • Fantasy love isn’t nurturing – it’s based on a sense of short term power and control. So it doesn’t fill her up with sustained good feelings.
  • Fantasy love keeps everything secret – it doesn’t make her feel secure in the real world. She is still going to be putting Robert to the test, live out her fantasy of abandonment, rejection and neglect and then manage it in secret. There is no incentive for communicating with Robert.
  • Fantasy love keeps everything secret – it removes the motivation to create a mutual understanding where the couple can learn of each other’s sensitivities and adapt together.

Fantasy love morphs into real love in relationship counseling

Robert couldn’t enter her fantasy world. He gave up because he couldn’t compete with  Tracy’s ever changing fantasy of him. Tracy’s fear of losing Robert brought her to counseling.

Tracy had to work through her abusive and negligent childhood experiences, mourn the loss of the caring relationships she should have had, and then feel safe enough to participate in real world relationships. The connection that she made with her therapist helped stabilize her while she went through the fires reliving her awful experiences, but this time around she developed her sense of self-empowerment and as it permeated through her life, she was eventually able to be safe enough to make a good relationship, that was fulfilling and nurturing.


copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2017


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