Fantasy Bonding

In the world of dating, it’s easy to be attracted by the charm of a new relationship. The excitement of meeting someone who seems perfect can create a powerful emotional high. However, this excitement can sometimes cloud our judgment, leading us to form what’s known as a “fantasy bond.” This term, coined by psychologist Robert Firestone, describes an illusion of connection and closeness that we create with another person, based on who we want them to be rather than who they truly are. Below we will further examine this concept, understand why it happens, the consequences, and how to move forward when reality sets in.

The Attraction of Who They Seem to Be

At the start of any relationship, we often put our best foot forward and see the best in our partner. This initial phase, often called the honeymoon phase, is filled with excitement, optimism, and a sense of possibility. However, in the case of fantasy bonding, this initial attraction becomes a filter through which we view all interactions. We may overlook red flags and warning signs, choosing instead to focus on the qualities that fit our idealized image of the perfect partner.

For instance, your partner may exhibit behaviors that you initially dismiss as quirks or isolated incidents. They might consistently be late, dismiss your feelings, or avoid discussing their past. In a fantasy bond, these behaviors are often rationalized away. You might think, “They’re just busy,” or “They’re going through a tough time,” rather than recognizing these as potential indicators of deeper issues.

Differentiating The Reality vs. The Fantasy

The heart of fantasy bonding lies in the gap between the person we want to see and the reality of who they are. This gap is fueled by denial, hope, and fear. We might fear being alone, hope that our partner will change, or simply refuse to acknowledge their flaws. This discrepancy can lead to disappointment and disillusionment as the reality of their behavior clashes with our idealized image.

Over time, maintaining this illusion can take a toll on our emotional well-being. We might experience increased anxiety, insecurity, or a sense of unfulfillment. The fantasy bond creates a barrier to genuine intimacy because we are not fully engaging with the real person but rather with our idealized version of them.

The Desire for Emotional Comfort

A significant driver behind fantasy bonding is the desire for emotional comfort. Relationships have the potential to bring immense joy and satisfaction, and the idea of being with someone who makes us feel special and loved can be incredibly appealing. However, when this desire becomes our primary focus, we may prioritize short-term emotional gratification over long-term compatibility and mutual respect.

In essence, we may choose to date someone because of how they make us feel rather than who they are. This temptation can be especially strong if we have experienced loneliness or rejection in the past. The immediate validation and comfort provided by the fantasy bond may seem like a remedy to our emotional wounds.

Grieving the Loss of the Fantasy

When the reality of the relationship becomes undeniable, it can feel like a profound loss. We not only grieve the end of the relationship but also the future we imagined with this person. This process can be deeply painful, involving a reckoning with the fact that the relationship we invested in was built on an illusion.

Moving Forward

Recovering from a fantasy bond requires a deliberate effort to see people as they are, rather than as we wish them to be. Below are some steps to help you move forward:

  • Take time to reflect on patterns in past relationships. Consider whether there is a tendency to idealize partners and overlook red flags.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you need and want in a relationship. Setting realistic expectations and understanding that no one is perfect can help.
  • Establish clear boundaries and stick to them. This helps protect you from becoming overly enmeshed in another person’s life before truly knowing them.
  • Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist. They can offer objective perspectives and help navigate complex feelings.




PsychSolutions provides services for trauma, motor vehicle & workplace injury, bipolar, anxiety, depression, insomnia, suicidal prevention & bereavement, and relationship and parenting difficulties.