We all know the feeling we get when we have a crush on someone. There’s not just the feelings of excitement, passion and sometimes confusion when you think about the object of your affections. Chances are you’re also thinking that they truly are the most beautiful/handsome/intelligent/funny/wise/caring person in the known universe. Any attempts by others to convince you otherwise result in a monumental fail. People will say you are either besotted or in the grip of what psychologists refer to as ‘positive illusions’ – idealising the other person – what we used to call ‘looking through rose-tinted glasses’ (or contacts!). The usual prognosis is that once the rose-tinted glasses come off the person harbouring the illusions will come down to earth with a bump when the object of their affections is revealed as being all-too-human! However what we think we create by seeing the best in our lovers, friends and people inspires us to be our best!
However, new research reveals that far from blinding us and leading to disappointment down the track, having ‘positive illusions’ about our partners can actually contribute to long term relationship success.
Dr. Sandra Murray and her colleagues studied couples over a period of three years. In their findings which they published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, they found that the people who had positive illusions about their partners and whose partners in turn idealised them, experienced the most satisfaction in their relationships and were far happier than those who idealised their partners less or were idealised less in return. Other benefits included higher levels of trust in a partner and less fighting. When we think about the fact that our thoughts shape our world and our experiences, it appears to follow that when couples idealise each other more, the relationship changes so the other party becomes even more like their ideal. In other words, the more you think your partner is fulfilling your ideals of what a romantic partner should be, sooner or later it may no longer be much of an illusion; they may actually be more like your ideal partner.
Obviously seeing our partners in a positive light is one thing. Turning a blind eye to bad or abusive behaviour or making excuses for this is another thing entirely. There are circumstances where positive illusions can only hurt us and if you have problems with your relationship already, then hoping that your partner will change and start to live up to your idealised vision of them will have no effect. Remember, we cannot change another person – only ourselves and our reaction to them. But this research seems to show that a certain amount of ‘healthy’ idealisation in a healthy relationship is a good thing. As with everything we do it’s important to dream big and believe in the best in our loved ones and the magic can still be there even after the rose tinted glasses come off!
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