“You live a rich fantasy life”

Somehow that phrase crept into my repertoire many years ago. I don’t remember if someone said it to me or I made it up. But it keeps coming up as I hear someone say something that illustrates their view of reality is very different than mine. And of course, I sometimes get hit on the head with the realization that my interpretation of an event or relationship is totally different than someone else’s.

For example, I was totally shocked when my ex left as I felt we lived in a loving, supportive, nurturing, passionate marriage. He, however, said we were like roommates. I couldn’t understand how we could have such a huge disparity of experience. Then a dear friend told me, “You have a high capacity for delusion.” Ugh!

CinderellaI realized that I had viewed our relationship through a Disney-like lens, where I was the happy princess, singing merrily as I picked wildflowers along a beautiful stream on a sunlit day. My prince/husband was lounging nearby, smiling at me admiringly, and I skipped back to his loving embrace. When my ex announced he was leaving, that rose-colored lens was shattered and I saw for the first time the reality of the black-and-white image of our marriage, with shriveled, nearly dead plants on a cloudy, chilly day and him off on the other side of the mountain doing his own thing without a hint of thinking of me.

How could two people have such different views of a relationship? How could two people interpret the same events with such different visions? I think it happens all the time, yet we don’t acknowledge it’s occurred until something makes us.

So you think the date went well, but the guy never calls back. Or you are politely listening to your date drone on wondering how quickly you can say you need to leave, and when he walks you to your car, he tries to passionately kiss you. Or you’ve dated a guy a few times and you are ambivalent about seeing him again, and he asks if you’d be willing to be exclusive.

How can you both interpret the same date so differently? You both live in different worlds. And one of you lives in a rich fantasy life!

How do you avoid living in fantasy? I wish I knew the definitive techniques, as I still find myself interpreting events differently, then being disappointed when I realize my guy’s reality doesn’t at all match mine. But here are some things to consider.

  • Ask. Periodically check in, especially if you’ve dated him a few times. I know guys aren’t always fond of talking about the relationship, but you can couch it like this, “I have a tendency to misinterpret a guy’s interest. I know this is hard to discuss, as we’ve only been going out X weeks, but I’m feeling close and connected to you. Can you honestly describe how you’re feeling for me so I can check out if I’m off base?”
  • Get input from a trusted friend. I can’t tell you how many times a dear friend has helped me see that I am perhaps putting more import on something a guy says or does than is warranted
  • Work on staying somewhat detached. At least until you’ve had a chance to discuss your view of the relationship with him.

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