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Romantic Fantasy or Real Romance. Which?

By James Sniechowski Judith Sherven

Do you remember as a child closing your eyes and making a wish when you blew out your birthday candles? Remember how you hoped with all your heart your wish would come true. In all likelihood, those that did come true were made to happen by your parents or another relative, someone who had the power to bring your wish to reality. Didn't it seem like a miracle when you got what you dreamed of? All you had to do was wish and there it was!

If you can see a rabbit in a cloud or a face in the bark of a tree; if your heart can be opened by the giant chords of a powerful symphony or you can discover something where nobody ever looked before, you might be praised for the wonder of your imaginings. You might even be called a genius. Do you have to give up imagining? Not at all. The price of giving up imagining is the death of the soul.

But we need to make a critical distinction at this point, a distinction that's so important it carries the weight of whether you will have a successful relationship or not. You cannot prefer your imaginings over reality and you cannot allow reality to squash your dreams. You have to weave them together to make a whole and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, for too many, this distinction is not made, and they consciously or unconsciously choose what they imagine over what actually exists in and around them and are reduced to living in heartbreaking fantasy.

To experience real love and true intimacy, we have to understand that, because we are all confronted with differences, we cannot have everything we want just the way we want it. Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who turned out to be different than what you imagined? Perhaps the reality of this person was even pretty terrific, but he or she was different from your expectations and you had to adjust. Even when that works out well, there's still a feeling of loss when you have to let your fantasy expectations go.

For far too many, however, the loss is intolerable. Rather than having to "settle" for a person they can't help but see as ordinary and unexceptional when compared to their fantasy, they choose their own world of romantic make-believe. They prefer the stories they've made-up rather than having to live in the truth of who they really are and what it's like to be with a real person who is different. And nothing is more effective at destroying real intimacy than opting for the images and emotions of romantic make-believe.

Romantic fantasies take many forms. They can be very subtle and hardly noticeable, or they can be outrageous and unbelievable. The key to spotting such fantasies is that they always compensate for a sense of loss, hopelessness or any feeling of inadequacy. For example:

Niki can't stop her date's unwanted sexual advances because "I'm afraid if I say "No,' he'll lose interest in me." So she ignores her own response and creates a fantasy about him -- that he's so much more open and honest about his sexual needs than she is -- and she lives inside that story rather than the truth that she doesn't want to go to bed with him and doesn't have enough self-esteem to make her feelings known.

Niki does not have her feet on the ground. She displays a dangerous preference for her idealized notion of "how it's supposed to be." She rejects the differences between reality and her own fantasy and then has no way to intimately connect with the people she's with because she is unconsciously loyal to the stories she has contrived. For Niki to ever feel really loved, she will have to rescue herself from her allegiance to fantasy.

(Excerpted from The New Intimacy, Health Communications. Inc.)

About The Author
Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski share the secret of life-long romance. Be sure to get your copy of their FREE 1-Hour teleseminar "Keeping Romance Alive." Just go to and find out how.

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