When you’re in a relationship, it can be hard not to constantly think about how perfect your partner is. But what if they’re not?
Idealising your partner is easy to do, but it’s also dangerous. It makes you feel more inclined to forgive certain things that perhaps aren’t so forgivable. That’s why it’s important, at the beginning of relationships and throughout them, to stop and ask yourself whether your partner really deserves that pedestal time. If they’re cheating or abusive or anything of the sort, then there’s probably something wrong with that person and not with you. And if they’re the perfect partner and your idol, then you might need to stop idealising them. If you feel that it’s not worth it, then it probably isn’t.
Your relationship is not meant to be perfect always
But this is one of those things that are hard to do when you’re in a relationship. You don’t want to be the one who ruins the pedestal, didn’t you? So… how do we stop doing it?
This article has been written by Dr Phoebe Howe, an Everyday Psychology blogger. Let’s face it, sometimes relationships can be a bit complicated and breaking up is never easy. When things are going wrong or just not working out as well as we’d like, many people try to figure out why. It’s natural to want to find answers and ways to fix things. It’s also normal to be worried about whether or not you should stay with your partner or if it would be better to end things.
When we’re in a relationship, it’s easy for us to idealise our partners. We want them not just look good on the outside, but be good people too – nice, caring, thoughtful (and all the other niceties of the world).
But sometimes idealisation can become a problem – we might think that our partner is perfect and then we expect them to meet every single one of our expectations. If this doesn’t happen, we might then start overemphasising the things that annoy us. We begin to over-notice their flaws compared to their good points, which makes us no longer want them on that pedestal.
Why do people idealise their partners?
Liking your partner is important and it’s nothing bad – in fact it’s fundamental for a good relationship. However, it can be taken too far if you put them on a pedestal. At first, this kind of idealisation is normal – you’d be bored and unhappy if you liked everything about your partner and they liked everything about you. It’s important that the person you have chosen can also like you for who you are.
This kind of idealisation is different to the kind that, in effect, puts you on a pedestal. It’s when you think that they’re out of your league, that they’re perfect and that they’re going to stay this way forever. “When a person in a relationship becomes too dependent on their partner for positive regard and self-esteem it can lead to an unhealthy pattern of behaviour,” says Dr Rhonda Freeman, Clinical Psychologist at The Harley Street Clinic. The fear of losing this idealised partner and having them no longer like you can increase your dependency on them even more.
It can be hard to stop idealising your partner. One study showed that it’s common for people to see a partner as the ‘ultimate’ person, which is very attractive to other people. Unfortunately, when the person who has this ultimate attribute leaves the relationship, they leave a gaping hole which needs time to heal. “Even though you know logically that your relationship is healthy and reasonable, your brain will continue to process its demise in a childlike manner,” says Dr Freeman. So how do we stop this unhealthy behaviour?
How could idealising your partner be bad for you?
The more you idealise your partner, the more you’re likely to let their faults go. “In romantic relationships, idealisation allows us to minimize negative behaviour in our partners and accentuate their positive aspects,” says Dr Freeman. This is dangerous for a number of reasons. “Faults – such as being argumentative or not pulling their weight financially – will probably lead to an eventual breakup,” says Greg O’Neill, Clinical Psychologist at The Manor Clinic. “However, if you ignore these faults and focus on the idealised parts of your partner, you may be more willing to tolerate them,” he says.
This isn’t only bad for your relationship because you’re ignoring the faults. It’s also bad for you because it’s bad for mental health. “Idealising your partner makes it more difficult to get the support you need during a break up,” says Dr O’Neill. “You’re more likely to view the positive aspects of your relationship as unique, special and irreplaceable, which may leave you feeling isolated and miserable after the breakup,” he says. In short, that idealisation might be making things worse in your life.
How can I stop?
Firstly, don’t pressure yourself too much or it will become harder to do this. It’s more important to be kind to yourself and take these steps gradually. “It takes time for your brain to process a loss, so try not to rush it,” says Dr Freeman. “Give yourself permission to feel sad and struggling for a period of time.” Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that it’s okay to feel this way, because you ARE feeling sad!
Focus on the things you don’t like about your partner – no matter how small the problems are. There are always going to be flaws, so just start right now. You can become dependent on your partner and that’s not good for you in the long run. Thinking about those imperfections might make it easier for you to leave or realise that they’re no longer perfect in your eyes (once again, remember that relationships change).