Romance in a daydream and romance in real life – two totally different kinds of love

If you’ve ever daydreamed about romance – and most of us have – you’ll know it can feel amazing. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t real. It doesn’t even matter that the person you’re in a daydream relationship with isn’t real. Your feelings are real, and that’s what matters. Because that love can be powerful. But that doesn’t mean your daydream relationship is a substitute for a real-life romantic relationship. Both are beautiful, but they’re different kinds of love.

Daydream love is perfect

Daydream love is perfect. I’ve written about this before in the context of daydreaming and limerence. In a daydream relationship, you control everything. You can be completely open and vulnerable with your daydream partner because there’s no risk. You don’t have to worry about moving too fast, or saying something that makes them doubt or reject you. And you don’t have to worry about what they think of you, because they’re forced to love you unconditionally. Even if your daydream partner is based on a real person, you can edit them however you like. You can remove all those annoying habits, or the inconvenient emotional baggage, or anything else that would be a red flag in a real-life relationship.

But when you edit out all your daydream partner’s imperfections, you also edit out all your opportunities for growth and fulfilment. You can’t learn how to resolve conflict from a daydream partner who never argues with you. You can’t become the best version of yourself when you’re with someone who never challenges you. And if you never have to put any effort into maintaining the relationship, you’ll never know if it’s worth that effort.

Real-life relationships are hard work, and therefore fulfilling

It’s the imperfections and challenges and inconvenient realities that make a real-life relationship so fulfilling. A real-life relationship asks you to compromise. It forces you to consider another person’s feelings and to see the world from their point of view. Real-life relationships aren’t easy, but that’s precisely what makes them worthwhile.

Your daydream partner loves you unconditionally, because that’s what you created them to do. It feels good that they never disagree with you, never have their own opinions, and never do anything you don’t approve of. But ultimately, it’s more validating and rewarding to be with someone who chooses to be with you. Someone who has their own life to lead and wants you to be a part of it. Someone who sees your flaws and loves you anyway. And someone who can profoundly disagree with you sometimes but is committed to working through your differences because they believe your relationship is worth it. Ultimately, it’s the messiness and complexity of real-life love that brings out the best in us and enriches our lives.

So which is better?

I’m not saying that daydream love doesn’t have its place. Daydream love is soft, fluffy, fairy-tale, happily-ever-after love. And when real life is exhausting or difficult, it can be wonderful to sink into that love as if it’s a warm cosy blanket. If you have the ability to experience profound unconditional daydream love, you should embrace it, precisely because you’re not going to find anything like it in the real world.

Real-life love is important too. It’s what brings out the best in us and shows us who we truly are. But you have to recognise that it’s a different kind of love. Where daydreamers go wrong is we think that perfect daydream love is the ideal. We think that we should look for that in the real world. And we think that if we can’t find it, we’ll never be satisfied with a real-life romantic partnership, that no-one real could ever measure up to our perfect daydream partner. And that’s rubbish.

There isn’t a limit on the total amount of love you can hold in your heart. Daydream romantic love and real-life romantic love are different things. They’re not mutually exclusive. And you can’t model one on the other.

Can you have both?

Some daydreamers don’t feel comfortable being in a daydream relationship when they have a real-life partner. It can feel like cheating to be fantasising about someone in your daydreams when you’re with someone else in real life. And if that applies to you, maybe you have to prioritise your real-life relationship, and keep romance out of your daydreams. It’s a personal choice and you have to do what’s right for you.

But being in a daydream relationship should never stop you from finding that special person in real life. You might think you need to find someone as perfect as your daydream partner before you can fall in love in real life. But I promise you, you don’t. The right person is out there for you somewhere. And when you meet them, they won’t be anything like your daydream partner. And it won’t matter. Because it’s a different kind of love.

[Photo by India Owens]