There’s no rulebook, really, on how to love. We’re all just learning as we go.
But from my experience (and the experiences of many friends), I can tell you that some things absolutely shouldn’t happen in a real relationship.
A fantasy relationship is exactly what it sounds like: a relationship that isn’t real. It’s just something you’re in and going through the motions of.
But there’s no real connection, love, or even official tie keeping you both together.
Think you might be stuck in a fantasy relationship? Check out these 9 warning signs that something isn’t genuine with the person you’re dating.
1) You don’t actually have a label on things
“Let’s not put a label on things”.
“Let’s just see how things go”.
“I’m not ready for a relationship right now, but I like you and want to keep seeing you”.
These are all things said by someone who doesn’t see the relationship in the same way that you do.
“Not putting a label on things” is something people do when they don’t want to commit to you.
Usually, it’s because they want to see other people, but want to keep you around until they find someone “better”. Or because they’re lonely and you offer them comfort, but you aren’t someone they want to find long-term comfort in.
It’s heartbreaking, but it’s true. Because when you find someone real, nothing in their life will stop them from committing to you. And they’ll find no issue at all with calling you their girlfriend/boyfriend.
2) You’re currently on a break
If you’re constantly going on “breaks” in your relationship, or are on one right now, this isn’t a good sign.
In my experience, a break is a breakup.
A friend of mine was dating a guy who recently told her he needed a break to “sort himself out”. He said not to wait for him, to which she decided to wait for him.
When he started dating someone else a couple of months later, she was crushed.
To her, it was just a pause. To him, he was breaking up with her without having to actually say the words.
If you’re not really together, or your relationship is on a cycle of ending and starting back up again, I think you already know that something isn’t right.
3) You break up and get back together again
Sure, some couples break up and get back together – and everything works out way better than it did before.
But I’ve certainly never known any that have lasted that long.
If you keep breaking up and getting back together again, something’s very wrong.
For me, I’d never break up with someone unless I was serious.
Being in a cycle of breaking up and getting back together with the same person isn’t a good loop to be in.
And it’s a surefire sign that the relationship has run its course – and neither one of you really wants to let the other go (even though you know you should).
4) You don’t communicate consistently
Consistent communication is important in a relationship. When you’re together with someone, it’s very normal to speak to each other every day.
Some couples constantly talk over messages when they’re not together. Others rarely text but make time to see each other or speak on the phone daily.
This is completely normal behavior.
What isn’t normal behavior is if you go days without speaking to the person you’re dating.
If they rarely reply to your text messages or only get in touch with you once or twice a week, this isn’t a real relationship.
You’re either in the very early stages of dating or you’re just not that into each other.
5) You’re waiting for them to commit
I had a friend who dated an older guy who was still married (a red flag for obvious reasons). He wasn’t living with his wife, she knew that for a fact.
But he kept saying the divorce was going through and once it was done, he could commit to her fully – and they’d finally be a “proper” couple.
She ended up dating him for two years waiting for that to happen. Understandably, she loved him and didn’t want to let him go.
But this noncommittal relationship with a guy who was still married wasn’t a real relationship. Being with him was a fantasy.
And if the person you’re dating won’t commit to you – whether that’s because they’re still married, waiting until they finish college, going through a rough patch, or just “aren’t ready for a relationship yet” – they need to be cut loose.
Because they aren’t committing – and the relationship you have with this person is (heartbreakingly) all in your head.
6) You’re in love with the person they used to be
People change and that’s just a normal part of life.
But it can be heartbreaking when someone you love grows away from you – especially when you’ve grown into them.
When someone you love changes, they may no longer be the person you fell in love with. And that can be a hard thing to see.
My ex changed significantly during our six-year relationship. Toward the end, I’d often think about the person he used to be and fall in love with that version of him.
I’d wish we could go on dates like we used to. I’d even try to recreate old memories with the hopes the old him would come back again.
But it didn’t. And the sad truth was that I was in love with the person he used to be, rather than the person he was now.
It wasn’t a real relationship by that point. It was over, and we just hadn’t come to terms with it yet.
7) You like them for their potential, rather than who they really are
I’ll never forget something my friend said to me when I was going through a bad time with my ex. She said:
“You can’t stay with him because “one day” it’ll be good again”.
And she couldn’t have been more right.
Because staying in a bad relationship because “one day” they may treat you better again, or “one day” things might go back to normal” just isn’t right.
If it isn’t good now, the harsh (and perhaps pessimistic) truth is that it isn’t ever going to be OK again.
And if you’re staying with them for their potential, rather than the person they are right now, it isn’t a relationship based on fact – but fantasy.
8) They run hot and cold with you
I hate to break it to you, but when someone runs hot and cold with you all the time, they don’t really like you that much.
Yeah, they may just be someone with an avoidant attachment style (who feels so overwhelmed by emotions that sometimes they shut down completely).
But chances are they just aren’t that into you.
As someone who’s truly been in love, you don’t do that to someone you really care about.
Your care for them doesn’t suddenly stop the moment you go out with your friends or when you’re tired.
You always love them, no matter what’s going on in your life. And even when you’re in a bad mood, you don’t hate them one minute and love them the next.
If that’s happening in your relationship, it isn’t right.
9) Their love for you feels materialist
Another sign you’re in a fantasy relationship is if their love for you feels materialistic.
You get the sense that you tick all their boxes of what an ideal person is for them – rather than actually being the perfect person for them.
Their love for you is based on a materialistic list of things about you that they like.
Like your hair, your popularity status, your job, your income, your body shape, your family name, or something else that’s “physical” about you.
A friend of mine has a somewhat famous dad. Her ex kept breaking up with her but would quickly rekindle things again.
She later found out that he kept getting back with her because he wanted to be known as the boyfriend of her dad’s daughter.
Not because he actually liked or missed her. He just wanted the status that came from being associated with her.
And if that’s how you feel or your partner feels about you, it isn’t a real relationship based on love.
Dealing with a fantasy relationship is frustrating at the best of times. Realizing that you’re in a fantasy relationship is even worse.
Because deep down you know there’s more to love and intimacy than what you have with this person.
But before you give up on love, I have one final suggestion.
It’s something I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê – and his words stayed with me forever, helping me find the best (and realest) relationship of my life.
He taught me that the way to find love and intimacy is not what we have been culturally conditioned to believe.
As Rudá explains in this mind-blowing free video, many of us chase love in a toxic way because we’re not taught how to love ourselves first.
If you want to break the pattern of falling from one fantasy relationship into another, hopefully, you’ll find solace in his words – just like I did.