Will an Imaginary Lover Ruin My Future Relationships?

Reader’s Question

I’m from Bangladesh, female, 25 years old, unmarried. I live with my parents. We have a healthy environment in our family and always have. I was brought up with my other 4 siblings, 3 of whom are married now. Recently, I think I’m getting depressed, but I couldn’t find why and don’t know how to get rid of it.

All the time I feel that there is someone whom I love immensely and I lost him or he went far away from me. Which is not true actually. Because I never fell in love in my life with anybody. I never had any boyfriend or even male friend. In our society it’s not unusual. None of my friends have boyfriend and almost none of them have male friends either. I never had any direct regular contact with any guy other than my relatives or close ones of my family. The guys that I ever liked or had crushes on, I never let them know, because most of the time they are not from the real world. Most of them were either TV personalities or movie personalities. But now when everyone in my family is trying to find a suitable husband for me, this feeling is bothering me a lot. I’m having a feeling that no one can fulfill the space of my love. And I think it’s also made me uninterested in getting married with someone I don’t love.

I’m feeling this imaginary lover from more than 2 years ago, while searching for a husband started only a year ago. Sometime I feel like crying, sometime feel too depressed and lost. I’m doing my Master’s now, and don’t want to do usual jobs. My interest is in entertainment, and in our country I don’t have any access to do anything which interests me. I’m not too ambitious. But I have dreams which may never come true. Because then I’ll have to hurt my family or go against them, which I can’t do, and I never have. It won’t give me mental peace if I do anything against their will. I love them a lot.

Please tell me what’s wrong with me. I really want to get rid of this problem. I’m a quite strong person; I think I can sort out this problem if anyone just shows me some light. I’ll be really grateful if anyone can help me. Thank you.

Psychologist’s Reply

While men and women tend to have predictable rates of physical development, other areas of our development may be strongly influenced by our family, our environment, and our culture. As a graduate student, your educational and intellectual development is above average. By your description however, your sexual/romantic development may be moving at a much slower pace.

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In our sexual/romantic development we typically first experience pre-teen and early-teen romantic feelings toward distant and unobtainable individuals — often the movie stars, musicians, television personalities, etc. of our culture. This is a safe way to have fantasies about romance without the risk of an actual relationship. Over the next few years, into the pre- and mid-teens, we often develop romantic fantasies about adults in our environment — typically people we can see yet who remain at a safe social and cultural distance such as teachers or adults in the community. In the USA this is called having a “crush” on an adult.

In mid-teens, in most countries, we explore romantic interactions with others and begin dating and friendship relationships. Those relationships teach us about interacting with other people in a personal, romantic and sexual manner. With all this fantasy, training, and gradual learning about relationships, we are then ready for marriage or a serious relationship as a young adult. This training also teaches us about feelings of love, grief, rejection, depression, happiness, etc.

When you mention that you and your friends have no romantic relationships, this suggests to me that your imaginary lover is part of the normal introduction to romantic and sexual relationships. This imaginary lover allows you to experience real romantic feelings, preparing you for those feelings you will also encounter in the future. It is actually normal and healthy to have those imaginary lovers. Your worry about finding someone as good as your imaginary lover is also very common. Romantic feelings about movie stars and celebrities don’t hinder the development of future relationships.

There is nothing wrong with you. The feelings created by your imaginary/fantasy lover will easily transfer to a real-life partner. Over the years, all the men and women who had romantic feelings for movie stars and famous people gradually transferred their affection and romance to their real-life partner. You will not have a problem transferring your positive feelings to a good partner.

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