Most of us have daydreamed about being in a romantic relationship. For many of us, it’s the main focus of our daydreams. And even though the relationship isn’t real – and even if the person you’re daydreaming about is completely fictional – the emotions you feel are very real. It is possible to fall deeply in love with someone who only exists in your imagination.
But what happens when the person you’re daydreaming about isn’t a figment of your imagination? What if you’re daydreaming about a relationship with someone who actually exists? And what if the real person is in a real relationship with someone else? That can bring up a lot of very complicated and unpleasant feelings.
First off, there’s good old-fashioned jealousy. You don’t want your crush to be with someone else. You want them to be with you. It’s the same feeling you’d get if your real-life partner suddenly dumped you for someone else. You’d be hurt, and angry, and you’d probably want all kinds of horrible things to happen to the other person. And if that happened in real life, you’d probably think all your feelings were understandable, even justified.
But when it’s a daydream relationship, we tend to turn all that negativity back on ourselves. We know that the person we’ve been daydreaming about doesn’t owe us anything. If you’ve been daydreaming about a celebrity, maybe they don’t even know you exist. Even if it’s someone you know, they have no idea what the two of you have been getting up to in your imagination. They had every right to start a relationship with someone else. So it’s hard to be angry with them. But all that anger and hurt has to go somewhere. So you turn it on yourself. You tell yourself that you’re the one with the problem, that you did something wrong by inventing a whole life with them in your head, that you’re somehow defective because you’ve been hurt by something that’s not real.
But what is it that isn’t real? You’re hurt because the person you’re daydreaming about is with someone else. That pain exists because you have real feelings, and your crush has a real relationship. It’s the reality that hurts, so don’t try to convince yourself that your fictional daydream scenarios are to blame.
The problems with a daydream relationship start when you don’t completely separate the character you’re daydreaming about from the real person you based them on. Because the truth is, you can’t put a real person in your daydreams. As soon as you start daydreaming about someone you know, you’re editing them in your head. You give them experiences the real person hasn’t had. And you make them react in a certain way to those experiences, when you have no idea what the real person would do in that situation. You’re never really daydreaming about a real person. You’re daydreaming about a character who represents what you want that real person to be.
So how do you deal with the heartbreak that comes from your daydream partner being with someone else in real life? You have two choices. One option is that you separate your daydream partner from the real-life person you based them on. That means you have to let your real-life crush go. Stop following them on social media. Stop looking at photographs. Stop thinking about where they’ll be at any given time or what they’ll be doing. Accept that you’re not in love with that person. You’re in love with the character you based on them. That’s OK. That’s something we daydreamers get to do. If you’ve properly separated your character from the real-life person, then your daydream relationship shouldn’t feel wrong or creepy or delusional. It’s simply the daydream plot you happen to be enjoying at the moment.
But that kind of mental separation is easier said than done, especially if you’re experiencing limerence towards the real person. If you can’t separate your character from your real-life crush, your other option is to end the daydream relationship. Healthy relationships should bring you more pleasure than pain – that’s just as true of daydream relationships as real-life relationships. If you can’t think about your daydream partner without being upset that the real-life person is with someone else, then your daydream relationship isn’t working for you anymore.
Those are the only two choices. Either separate your character from the real person and dismiss what’s going on in the real person’s life as irrelevant, or accept that you can’t separate them and end the relationship. Both those options put you in control. But if you continue a daydream relationship with someone that you’re still thinking of as a real person, you’re putting your happiness in the hands of someone who’s in love with someone else. Please don’t. You deserve better.