Love is Magic: Truth and Illusion in Relationship

The two of you meet— check

Energy flows—check

Eye contact —check

Smiles—check

Conversation—check

The dance begins—check

 

Ah, the beginning of a relationship. The exciting, tingling, high of love’s emotional roller coaster. Being on our best behavior, putting our best foot forward, allowing others to see our good side…This is ME we confidently radiate to our newfound love.

 couple 2

 

Are we really who we present ourselves as?

 

Is what we display (of ourselves) in the beginning of a relationship merely an illusory projection of ourselves? Does this presentation include only that  which we want the other to experience of us, or is it the bold truth of who we really are?

 

And, by the same token, is what we see in our newfound partner really who he/she is, or do we only see that which we need him/her to be?

 

At the start of a relationship, do we see the real person at all?

 

Who is the illusionist and who is the fooled?

 

I believe we are both…we magically trick ourselves into believing that this is THE ONE, the one person who matches our internalized fantasy, while at the same time, creating the same illusion for our newfound partner. We fool someone and we also get fooled at the same time.

 

But if we happen to get fooled, it is not by the real person in front of us but by the description and image of that person we hold inside our head. And many times we reject the real person in front of us for this ideal or fantasy image which we hold near and dear.

 

How do we create this fantasy description of the perfect partner? How is such an image formulated?

 

 heart 3 D (1)

 

According to excerpts from the Yoga Vasistha, “Creation(of the mind) is but agitation in consciousness; and the world exists in the mind! It seems to exist because of imperfect vision, imperfect understanding. It is really not more than a long dream.”1

 

Going with this interpretation, if we create the perfect relationship and partner in our minds, then perhaps it is created from imperfect vision and understanding…a dream state. Perhaps it is created from illusion or fantasy, and not from truth.

 

Eve Hogan,PHD, seems to agree with this line of thought. “We often see our relationships through the lens of what we are hoping the relationship will become rather than the truth. We may hope for a romantic, monogamous relationship and a happy family, or that the other will put us above all else, but when we take a real look at what is happening, it quite often doesn’t match our fantasy.” 2

 

However, isn’t fantasy part of love? Isn’t love an illusion, capturing our hearts, taking us far away from the harsh reality of aloneness that is inherent in life. Going further, isn’t love’s illusion and allure another name for charm?

 

Or is love truth? Truth of who we are, what we stand for, and the undeniable truth of the feelings between two people.

 

Writer Thomas Moore quotes classicist Marcel Detienne as saying that, “…truth is always edged with forgetfulness and lined with illusion.”3 Using this with respect to relationship and love, could we safely say that while most do their best to stand in their truths as best their consciousness permits, most likely illusion, fantasy, and forgetfulness will be present.

 

And could that be the charm and seductiveness of the whole dance of romance?

 

Thomas Moore goes on to say about truth, “ To keep our idea of truth alive and humane, it may help to use the word always in the plural. There are many truths. If you happen upon one, it may be comforting. But don’t dwell too long there,or you will miss the next truth, which will be equally important.”4

 

An interesting view of truths in relationship comes from Lisa Firestone, PHD. She contends that, “When two people fall in love, they’re very often the most simultaneously open, vulnerable, interested, and independent versions of themselves. They are on their own side, going after what they want, and consequently showing the best aspects of themselves. In this respect, one might say people are the most themselves when falling in love. In the early stages of a relationship, people are interested in getting to know someone for who they are separate from their relationship to them. Thus, when a couple meets, they are typically more independent and respectful of each other than they will be as their relationship develops.”5

 

Ms. Firestone is saying that people are the most honest, the most truthful, at the beginning of the relationship—the falling in love part. It’s not necessarily so that they are creating an illusion of themselves in order to attract another. In fact, according to Ms. Firestone, it is the opposite.

 

Ms. Firestone’s interpretation begs the question: When, then, does love sour? If illusion is not present at the beginning of love’s dance, then when does it appear? According to Ms. Firestone, it is more after the initial falling in love phase. “Once people start to form an illusion of coming together as one, they begin to lose the sense of being together as two. This process soon diminishes the excitement that first drew them together. Over time, people forego the spontaneity and openness they had when they first met and replace the sense of adventure and uncertainty with routine and security. In other words, a couple shifts their reality from being two free people in love to being two dependent people in a “Fantasy Bond”.6

 

Ah, there’s that word again…fantasy. Is this fantasy bond something we created in our minds—the perfect partner able to complete us, satisfy all our needs, and leap tall buildings at a single bound?

 

Actually, it was a concept created by psychologist and author Robert Firestone, who describes it “as an illusion of connection people form to create a sense of safety and security. As a relationship becomes more intimate and more important to us, we start to feel vulnerable and afraid that things will change.”7

 

Is relationship then an illusion of connection to create a sense of safety and security? If that is the case, this fantasy bond is created out of fear: fear of loneliness, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, and dying alone. This fear then contributes to the need to control and manipulate the outcome of the couple’s journey together. The result is a constrictive, suffocating, mundane, routine, existence of half truths and half selves. Neither is receiving the best of the other, and neither is having their profound heartfelt needs remotely met.

 

Katharine Butler Hathaway is quoted as saying, “If you let your fear  of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct then your life will be, safe, expedient and thin.

 

I don’t know many who intend to lead a safe, expedient and thin life. I don’t think that is our original purpose when we begin on a relationship journey. It’ s not as if we set that as our course. However, it does take tremendous courage to follow the beckoning of Eros, and to be vulnerable to the longings of the heart. To brave taking those first steps into the unknown, unchartered territory rather than stay in the security of the known yet potentially sparse existence. The lure is so powerful to recreate what feels safe and proven, rather than to allow the couple to create their own dance as they venture into the territory of love.

 

Perhaps there is a little bit of fantasy involved at the beginning of relationship. Perhaps not seeing the other clearly, not paying attention to red flags because there is so much good and commonality present. “When the intensity of love wanes, we stop projecting and begin to see some things in our lovers we don’t like. It’s not so much that we don’t like who they really are, it’s just that it had seemed, in love’s illusion of certainty, that they were everything we really liked. This disillusionment is what couples fight about in the second year of marriage, although they think they’re fighting about money, sex, jealousy, in-laws, housekeeping, or something stupid.”8

 

This disillusionment invariably leads to resentment which typically manifests on different levels—emotional withdrawal, mentally checking out, physically absent, energetically escaping—all signs of trouble in paradise.

 

What does one do? I see the primary challenge in relationship is to maintain individuality throughout while still being in love with another. It’s a balancing act, and being completely honest and truthful all the while is imperative.

 

The concept of upon marrying, two becoming one, seems to be disproved by Ms. Firestone and her father, as well as others. What we are being instructed to do is to maintain our sense of self while being in relationship, in love, and to see ourselves and our partner as clearly and honestly as possible. This feels to me to be a truthful approach to this ancient dance of passion and intimacy.

 

To act out of love, not react out of fear, requires immense awareness of self, of one’s feelings and thoughts. Being able to process and reach a place of peace around issues. Knowing when help is needed and to seek it. Above all else, to extend compassion to self and other as well as acceptance.

 

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says that understanding is the foundation of love. I believe that understanding self is paramount and first, before undertaking the task of understanding of another. Knowing self deeply actually prepares one for understanding another.

 

In the end, we are the magician and we are the fooled audience, too. We magically trick ourselves as we fall under the enchanting spell of romance.

 

Just as long as we are aware of the illusions we create and those of others, I think we can sit back and enjoy the charm, the glamour, and the allure of love’s journey.

 Couple_01

 

© Brooke Becker, 2015

 

References:

  1. From Spark to Flame, excerpts from the Yoga Vasistha, Parabola,Volume 28, number 4.
  2. Eve Hogan, relationship specialist and author, “Relationship Illusions—       and a Practice for Reality”, spiritualityhealth.com, July 22, 2014
  3. Thomas Moore, “Songs of Unforgetting”,, Parabola, vol 28, number 4
  4. Thomas Moore, “Songs of Unforgetting”,, Parabola, vol 28, number 4
  5. Lisa Firestone, PHD, “True Love or Fantasy Bond?”,psychalive.org
  6. Lisa Firestone, PHD, “True Love or Fantasy Bond?”,psychalive.org
  7. Lisa Firestone, PHD, “True Love or Fantasy Bond?”,psychalive.org
  8. Steven Stosny, Ph.D., Love, Marriage and the Illusion of Certainty, March, 2, 2009,psychology today.com

 


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