In Love with an Idea

Around this time last year someone was wondering whether she was in love with a person or an idea of that person. That stuck in my brain, and continues to as my own inner Wembley constantly questions and deconstructs my affections for certain people. What I would suggest is that everyone is always in love with their idea of a person, to some extent. Non-telepathic beings that we are, we never fully, truly know each other. There are always secrets that can be held back; a wife can live decades with her husband and have no idea about his latex boot fetish. What we know of a person is dependent upon our experiences with them, who they are around us, and that’s an inherently limited array of data. [1]

This is particularly the case in the early stages of a romance. When we know very little about a person, we build on what we know of them and what our imaginations would like them to be. In the case of a person for whom we have great affection, our imaginations tend to assume that this person is worthy of higher esteem than perhaps they deserve. When someone excites us romantically, our brains get excited and fill in the gaps with appealing assumptions. We idealize and in some cases idolize. Then when the relationship doesn’t last, we mourn not only the loss of a physical and emotional presence, but also the loss of the ideal that we held onto so strongly.

I try to puzzle out these sorts of things so that I can avoid them in the future, but in this case I don’t think there’s any way to avoid it. Our brains are geared to imagine and create and run scenarios. Creating and losing our own illusions may be unavoidable. Hopefully by simply being aware of these dynamics, we can proceed more cautiously and cushion the inevitable disappointments. The alternative is to get incredibly excited about someone you barely know and then get incredibly depressed when they don’t meet your expectations.

I’d be a terrible romatic comedy screenwriter.

1.) I also have this theory that everyone is a different person to each of their friends. The person I am when I’m with Friend A is a different person from the one I am with Friend B. The differences are subtle, but very real. My mental filters change, my movements and statements are different and obviously our exchanges will be specific to our shared interests and experiences. When we connect, we change slightly.

6 thoughts on “In Love with an Idea”

  1. It is also true, that no matter how good our intentions, each person entering a relationship tailors him/herself to the other’s wants and/or needs. Thus, when the relationship fails, or becomes turbulent, each member blames the other for not being what they expected, when in truth, that is all one has striven to be. Ah, the vagaries of the human animal in the throes of twitterpation.

  2. I feel the same way. Also when you try to work things out with someone that you were in a relationship with in the past and you had this idea it was going to be the same as it was when you first started dating. You want that person but that person doesn’t really exist anymore. Too much time and things that have happened. But you can’t stop thinking that it might be the same.


  3. I agree that we can only be in love with an idea of a person. We know a person through their words and actions only, so it’s always possible that they will harbor secrets. In fact it’s inevitable. However, the more time we spend with them, the more comfortable we are with feeling the secrets are not too dark and contrary to what they’ve revealed.

    The movie Fever Pitch, based on a Nick Hornby novel, has a good discussion about this. (I know it’s a Jimmy Fallon movie, but it was surprisingly watchable) The girls were talking about the fear they have of the “Bag of Hair Moment”. One recounted a relationship that was going along very well, getting to know each other, so much in common, yadda yadda yadda, until one day when he asked her to get something…his coat maybe…from the closet, and she found huge bags containing all of the hair and nail clippings from his entire life stored away. Eeewwwwww. All of the girls meeting someone new feared the Bag of Hair Moment.

    But I think what you are talking about is the danger of getting ahead of yourself in the discovery phase, and filling in things that you don’t know about someone, with things that you want, rather than things that you really know to be true about them. Assuming because a guy reads good books and listens to good music, that he would be honest and trustworthy. Not always true. Sometimes people are so in love with the idea of being in love, they too easily see a new aquaintance’s positives, and are blind to the negatives. Usually with time, the balance returns.

    It is somewhat puzzling that people continue to think that they know other people so well, when they must know that they themselves harbor secets from everyone else. Personally, I know that there are many things going on in my head that no one will ever have an inkling of. Even in a benign conversation, there can be layers of nuances, thoughts considered and left unsaid, that would possibly give away more of me than I want others to know about.
    That’s the key, really. We don’t want others to know everything about us. And we probably don’t want to know all about someone else.

    And yet we continue to form these alliances, reaching an uneasy level of trust, yet knowing trust is something we will probably never achieve completely…and probably shouldn’t.

  4. i am in love with an image of you. a strange wandering thru an alley of blogs and at last i find this here, the summation of all that is ideal, idealism defined. sure as damnit.

  5. Don’t forget that the process of getting to know someone is complicated by the fact that you’re both trying to portray the best versions of yourselves. You’re actively repressing some of your behavior to make a good impression.

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