Everyone likes a fun romantic comedy. Part of the stories’ strengths are that they follow a familiar pattern—there’s the first moment of attraction, a little sexy flirting, the promise of something more. Eventually, there’s some kind of problem between the couple—a plot device that drives the story. But in the end, they realize they were meant for each other, get together, and live happily ever after.
It’s a sweet fantasy—the kind romance and relationship addicts are easily addicted to. But we all know fantasies aren’t real. The definitions of fantasy in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, “the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need.”
Those words, “unrealistic or improbable” warn us that when we buy into a fantasy of Prince (or Princess) Charming sweeping us off our feet, it’s inevitable that we’re going to be let down.
But addicts don’t let go of things, and so relationship junkies don’t let go of that fantasy perfect partner. Of course, since no one is perfect, their partner will never measure up. So they try their hardest to change their partners, to make them fulfill the happily ever after fantasy they’ve imagined.
Whenever we begin to focus on fixing someone else, an alarm should go off. Because what that really means is that there’s something inside of us that needs to be fixed. Focusing on changing another person is just a way to avoid focusing on ourselves and our issues.
Trying to change someone is just an attempt to control them. But the truth is, you’re powerless to change anyone but yourself, and you are kidding yourself if you think you can. Only your partner can change themselves, and only if they really want to change.
When you find yourself making excuses for your partner, you deny what is real in them. You lose the ability to accurately assess who you’re picking, and that makes you more vulnerable to abuse, both emotionally and physically. And if you keep making it easy for your partner to exploit you by living in that fantasy world, by explaining away their faults and bad behavior, they’ve got no reason to change.
Don’t waste your time believing, “If he loves me he will… .” or “If I’m just more patient she will…” These are the things that happen in romance novels, but they don’t actually happen in real life. How often have you told yourself that if/when you get married to the person you’re dating, things will change? Honestly think about it—have you ever really seen someone change just because they walked down the aisle? Getting a person to commit to a relationship, marriage, having kids, changing jobs, or even moving to a new town won’t change who they are at their core. If they weren’t working on their issues before, they won’t be working on them after you get married.
We need to accept our partners where they are, for who they are—or leave them. There are some issues that are deal breakers and others you can accept. Figure out what those are for you, and stand firm. If you decide you can’t accept something, move on, or else you’ll live in a constant state of resentment and anger.
When you cling to another person out of fear of abandonment and deep-seated feelings of emptiness, you attract the sort of person who takes rather than gives. You need to teach yourself that you can stop settling for less, and stop expecting another person to change and become your fantasy lover. Declare right now that you deserve the very best, not a fixer-upper relationship. Promise yourself that you’ll begin to look honestly at your partner, today, right now. You deserve everything in a partner that you desire. If you’re not getting it, move on.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Certified Transformation and Recovery Coach and the leading Psychotherapist on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and Sex Addiction. She helps singles navigate the dating process to find the love of their lives. Take her quiz to find out if you’re a love addict or sign up for a 30-minute strategy session. She is also the author of “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie:Kicking your Obsession”. Sherry maintains a private practice in Westlake Village, and is a sought after online dating and relationship coach. For more information visit www.sherrygaba.com.