I Love *The Idea* Of You

How to tell if you're in love or in love with their potential.

Hey fellow romantics,

A very coincidental (and reassuring) thing happened the other day.

I was reading a book by one of my favorite philosophers, Alain De Botton. No, he’s not an old philosopher with sculptures of him residing in the Louvre. He’s very much alive. Very much a modern thinker.

I recently started his book, The Course of Love. The narration opened amidst a young boy’s vacation with his family. While in (I think) France, he lays eyes upon one of the most beautiful girls he’s ever seen. The boy is captured by her presence and begins fantasizing about a relationship with her.

The catcher? He never even talks to the girl. Not a single word.

How is this coincidental? Well, the foreword of the book I’m writing is a story about me meeting a boy at an ice skating rink in 4th grade. We flirted, held hands while circling the ice, and I gave him my number at the end of the night.

But he never called. I never saw that boy again.

At the time, I was young. I held out hope he would one day call. In the meantime, I fantasized about a relationship with him. I imagined he would be an amazing boyfriend who wrote me notes and held my hand during movies.

I thought about what it would be like to have my first kiss with him and call someone my boyfriend.

I fantasized. A lot. And over a boy who I barely knew.

While that might’ve been acceptable, and perhaps even cute for a 4th-grader, it didn’t translate well into adulthood. I continued meeting boys and imagining our future wedding together before we even got to the third date.

I guess I loved the idea of love, even at nine-years-old. But that’s all I was holding onto. An idea. Not the person in front of me.

As a result, I ended up dating a man who verbally abused me. I quickly forgot the mean words he’d yell at me, in favor of the potential I imagined the relationship to have. And on more than one occasion, I dated people who showed clear, waving red flags, but they slipped past me because I was too focused on the future.

This tricky bastard of a habit is called romanticizing; putting an idealized spin on something rather than taking what’s given to you at face value.

I don’t blame people who do this (my younger self included). It’s natural to want to focus on the positive. Normally, I’d say that’s a healthy trait.

But when it’s at the expense of your true happiness or even physical or emotional safety, romanticizing isn’t OK.

So this week, I want to talk about aspects of relationships and traits in people we need to stop romanticizing; for the sake of our own happiness and not letting people get away with crappy behavior:


Fighting as passion.

Arguing is healthy in a relationship. Fighting occasionally? Still not that bad. But fighting regularly, and to the point that you call each other names and tear one another down? That’s in no way healthy.

I recently re-watched Sweet Home Alabama, and wow, that movie did not hold up. The way Jake treats his high school sweetheart, Melanie (Reese Witherspoon), is cruel and abusive, not that she’s much better.

Yet they end up together because, somehow, that fighting and treating each other horribly must mean they’re destined to be together.

I call BS.

Dating friends.

I’m adding this one in here because I’m guilty of it. Not once, but twice, I romanticized the idea of dating a friend. I thought it would be romantic to be able to say, “we were friends, and one day, I looked over and saw something more in them.”

But what I really ended up doing was ignoring red flags that both men were selfish and weren’t ready to be in a serious relationship.

I’m not saying to never try dating a friend. But I am saying, be cautious. A lot of times, it won’t work out. And that’s completely OK.

The bad boy.

There’s nothing romantic about a person who acts like they’re not into you, puts your life at risk while going too fast on their motorcycle, and smokes cigarettes like they’re a life source.

I used to think it was cute, dating the guy who went against the law and didn’t need to rely on anyone. But that also meant they put me in danger, too. And their independence was so firm, they were willing to drop me quickly, just like everyone else in their life.

Marriage.

While I’m not married, I’ve read articles and talked to enough married (and divorced) people to know that it’s not this happily-ever-after milestone RomComs make it out to be.

Marriage can be a beautiful thing; personally, I hope to get married one day. But I know that life will continue on, very close to the way it had before. And my partner and I will have to continue to work on our relationship, just like we did before we tied the knot.

Possessiveness.

Jealousy and acting like you’re “theirs” might seem romantic and flattering, but it’s a sign of an unhealthy trust issue. It’s a primal instinct to feel threatened when something we want might be taken away.

But in a loving relationship, there’s trust. Trust you won’t cheat. Trust you’ll keep your promise. And trust that your partner will do the same. While I understand some people suffer from deep insecurities, possessiveness is something to work on. Not something to aspire to have.

Flashy displays of love.

Basically, everything in a romantic comedy. Running through the airport to say “I love you” is actually a crime. Stealing you away from your boyfriend is messed up. Stating you love someone in front of a crowd is kinda performative.

And believing you need flashy gestures for someone to love you perpetuates an unhealthy need for grandiose expression when, really, love is shown in the smallest gestures.

Like when your partner gets you a cup of water. Or they hold your hand while walking to the store. If you look too much for the big moments, you’ll completely miss the small ones.


Maybe you thought of more traits in relationships that you wish weren’t romanticized. If so, let me know! It’s wild how many behaviors and beliefs we think are healthy, but actually aren’t, just because we’ve been told, over and over, that’s what romance looks like.

Rather than focusing on your partner's future or potential, take what they say and do at face value. Your heart will be better off.

Until next week, friends! I’ll see you in your inboxes on Friday.

All the love,

Kirstie


Content I Loved:

Modern Love: ‘Humility Is What Drew Me to Him’

‘Empathic Concern’ Can Lead To Empty Promises—Here’s How To Avoid its Pitfalls

These 5 People Met Their Soulmate On Instagram

‘Most of My Friendships Were Toxic, But Now I’m So Lonely!’

Dear Therapist: My Boyfriend Wants Me to Destroy My Precious Scrapbook From My First Marriage

Articles I Wrote:

Ask iris: "How do I break up with my boyfriend but keep our friend group intact?"

How Accepting You’re Not Special Can Make You Happier

5 Habits Of A Deeply Insecure Partner

7 Hurtful Ways to Argue With Your Partner


Book Update:

*If you're new to this newsletter and my work, I'm currently writing on a book, What I Wish I Knew About Love, that's set to come out early 2021 with Thought Catalog Books.*

Last week, I added a chapter about what boundaries are and how to create them. From what my beta readers wrote, people want to read more on that.

If you want a sneak peek of this chapter, reply to this email and let me know!