Are you in love or in love with the idea? 10 ways to tell

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Have you ever found yourself daydreaming about someone special?

Feeling all fluttery and excited when you think about them?

It feels like love, right?

But hold on a minute.

Is it really love for that person or do you just love the idea of being in love?

It’s a tough question, isn’t it?

I’m going to help you figure it out.

In this article, I’ll share 10 ways to tell if you’re really in love or just in love with the idea.

1. Checking Your Motivations

The first step in figuring out whether you’re in love with a person or just the idea of love is to check your motivations.

Ask yourself, why are you attracted to this person? Is it because of who they are – their personality, their values, their goals?

Or is it more about what being with them represents – perhaps companionship, approval, or a status symbol?

If you find yourself more attracted to the idea of having someone to go on dates with, post pictures with on social media, or just to feel less alone, rather than being genuinely interested in the person themselves and getting to know them deeper, you might be more in love with the idea of love.

This doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t real, but it might mean they’re directed more towards the concept of a relationship rather than the actual person you’re supposed to be in a relationship with.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s an important distinction to make for the health of your current or future relationships.

2. Your Focus is on the Fantasy

The second sign to look for is where you’re focusing your thoughts.

Are you more caught up in daydreaming about the future, or are you enjoying getting to know them in the present?

It’s absolutely normal (and fun) to imagine a future with someone you’re attracted to. But if those daydreams take over and you start focusing more on your imagined life together rather than your actual experiences with them, this could be a sign that you’re in love with the idea, not the person.

Here’s a tip: Try to ground yourself in the present. Pay attention to how you feel when you’re with them right now. Enjoy the conversations, shared experiences and the process of genuinely getting to know them.

If you find yourself constantly drifting into a fantasy world where everything is perfect rather than appreciating who they truly are, flaws and all, then it might be the idea of love that’s got you hooked, not the person themselves.

3. They Can Do No Wrong

Number three on our list is something I’ve personally experienced. It’s when you see the person you’re attracted to as absolutely flawless – they can do no wrong in your eyes.

I remember when I met Alex, I thought he was perfect. He had this charm about him that made him seem like the most amazing person in the world. I was so in love with the idea of us being together, that I ignored all the red flags. He would often cancel plans at the last minute, and he never seemed interested in what I had to say. But I brushed it all off, attributing his behavior to him being “too busy” or “just being a guy.”

But here’s the thing – real love sees and accepts flaws. When we’re really in love with someone, we acknowledge their shortcomings because we understand that no one is perfect.

If you find yourself making excuses for their poor behavior or neglecting to see their flaws entirely, you might be in love with an idealized version of them, not who they truly are.

Looking back now, I realize that I was more in love with the idea of Alex, than Alex himself. It was a tough lesson to learn but an important one nonetheless.

4. You’re Rushing Things

Another key sign that you’re in love with the idea rather than the person is if you’re trying to rush the relationship.

You might feel an urge to say “I love you” too soon, or push for a commitment before you both are ready. This often stems from a desire to secure the idea of love and relationship that you’ve been fantasizing about, rather than taking the time to let your feelings for the actual person develop naturally.

Relationships that rush into commitment early on are less likely to be successful in the long run. Taking time to form a deep connection before committing to a serious relationship leads to stronger, more successful partnerships.

If you find yourself in a hurry to label or define what you have with someone, take a step back. It’s crucial to give your feelings and connection time to grow at their natural pace.

5. You Feel a Sense of Loneliness

Sometimes, even when you’re in a relationship or deeply attracted to someone, you might still feel a sense of loneliness. This could be a sign that you’re more in love with the idea than the person. You see, when you’re genuinely in love with someone, they make you feel understood, valued and connected.

But if you’re just in love with the idea of being in love, this connection can feel shallow or even non-existent. You might be physically close to them but emotionally distant. You may find yourself feeling alone even when you’re together because the connection you’ve been longing for isn’t truly there.

This feeling of loneliness can be a hard thing to admit to yourself.

6. You’re More in Love With Their Potential

This one is something I’ve had to grapple with in the past. It’s when you’re more in love with who the person could be, rather than who they actually are.

I remember when I was dating Sam. He was a talented musician, but he struggled with motivation and commitment. Instead of recognizing this, I found myself falling in love with the image of who Sam could be – a successful artist, committed and driven. I loved the idea of him reaching his potential and me being there to support him.

But over time, I realized I was ignoring the reality of who Sam was at that moment. The truth was, he wasn’t ready to commit to his music, or to our relationship. I was in love with his potential, not the person standing in front of me.

Loving someone’s potential is like loving an idea of them, not their reality. It’s important to separate these feelings from true love, which accepts and loves a person for who they are right now, not just what they could become in your dreams.

7. You’re Avoiding the Tough Stuff

Love isn’t always sunshine and roses. It can be messy, complicated, and sometimes downright hard. If you find yourself avoiding or dismissing the tough stuff – like arguments, disagreements, or challenges – you might be more in love with the idea of love than with the person you’re with.

When you’re truly in love with someone, you’re willing to face these difficult moments head-on because you know that working through them together strengthens your bond. But if you’re only in love with the idea of being in love, these hurdles might seem like too much trouble. You might prefer to live in your perfect, conflict-free bubble where everything is easy.

But here’s the thing: that bubble isn’t real. Real relationships require work, compromise, and sometimes, uncomfortable conversations. So if you’re shying away from the tough stuff, it’s time to ask yourself if it’s really them you’re in love with or just the idea of a perfect, problem-free relationship.

8. You’re Constantly Comparing

Another sign you might be in love with the idea rather than the person is if you find yourself frequently comparing your relationship to others. You might be looking at friends’ relationships, celebrity couples, or even fictional relationships in movies or books, and wishing your relationship was more like theirs.

This constant comparison can signal that you’re more in love with the idea of what a relationship should look like, rather than appreciating the unique connection you have with your partner.

Did you know that people who make these kinds of comparisons often feel less satisfied with their own relationships?

This suggests that focusing on the reality of your relationship, rather than idealized versions from others, can lead to greater satisfaction.

9. You’re Trying to Fit a Square Peg into a Round Hole

I’ve learned this one the hard way. Sometimes, we want to be in love so much that we try to force a relationship that just isn’t right.

A few years back, I met Rachel (I’m bisexual in case you were wondering). She was kind, funny, and we had a lot in common. On paper, she was perfect for me. So, I decided we should be together. I was so focused on making it work that I ignored the fact that something vital was missing – a deep, emotional connection.

I spent months trying to fit this square peg of a relationship into the round hole of my ideal love story. But no matter how hard I tried, it just didn’t feel right. That’s when I realized I wasn’t in love with Rachel – I was in love with the idea of being in a relationship.

If you find yourself trying to force a relationship to fit your idea of what love should be, it might be time to take a step back and reassess your feelings. It’s crucial to remember that real love shouldn’t feel forced or contrived – it should feel natural and easy.

10. You Feel Restless

Last but not least, restlessness. This is a hard one to admit, but it’s crucial in determining whether you’re in love with a person or just the idea of love. You might be spending time with the person you’re seeing, sharing laughs, and creating memories, but something doesn’t feel quite right. There’s a nagging feeling of restlessness, of wanting more.

This feeling can be a hint that deep down, you know something is missing. You might be in love with the idea of love, chasing an elusive ‘perfect’ relationship that you’ve built up in your mind, rather than truly being in love with the person you’re with. It’s a harsh reality to face, but it’s better to be honest with yourself than to lead yourself or someone else on.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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