Romantic love can be characterised by idealisations and positive illusions. Divorce is becoming more prevalent and this may indicate that the love is blind adage is not so simple, that the idealised view is not permanent- or is it for some.
Research has shown that there is evidence to support both blindness and accuracy impacts on love. Meaning that both accuracy and bias play an integral role in love and romantic relationships. We like our partners to see us in a more positive and favourable light, which is consistent with our self-perception. That is we want our partners to see the parts of self we consider positive, not the negatives.
Idealisation is when we have a strong bias towards more positive traits in our partner. We cognitively we are more attune with positives traits, giving them greater emphasis over the negative. For example when you are with someone and they seem short tempered with others in public, perhaps a little rude with a waiter in a restaurant or bar, but they are always considerate and attentive to your needs, we often focus on the positive aspects and ignore the negative. We place little weight on the short tempered actions on brash treatment they display to others as the way they treat us overshadows the bad. This idealisation is higher in the initial stages of a relationship; we may not know our partner well so we fill in the unknown gaps with positive assumptions. Love may not be fully blind but rather a little blurred. We idealise our partners by focusing on the positive traits and attributing them to internal factors and equate negative traits with external. The brash or rude behaviour to the waiter was because they were inexperienced, overworked; overtired etc. concluding that it was external factors that influenced our partner. If the waiter were not so inexperienced then my partner would not have been angry. They were provoked by external factors, as they aren’t really like that.
Idealisation has a life span and does not last forever. It declines exponentially with relationship duration. In the romantic realm idealisation is high. We find ourselves wanting to spend more time with this person and in doing so get to know them better, it then becomes increasingly difficult to ignore facts. Hence disillusionment sets in.
Disillusionment has negative consequences for marital relationships. Thus marital disillusionment is a powerful predictor of divorce. Disillusionment according to research was highest between engagement and marriage. It was also found that couples that had been together for more than seven years, then divorced, frequently exhibited disillusionment. The beginning of the whole process of disaffection begins with feelings of disillusion, and as expected a reduction of idealisation. The reality that the partner was is not living up to their dreams, fantasies and expectations. Consequently partners often felt disappointed or even deceived. However what has happened in reality is that their perception of their partner changed rather than their partner’s behaviour.
So- how do we combine both idealisation and accurate knowledge?
We know that some kind of idealisation in relationships is always present and seems to be an essential element in creating a new and loving relationship. We should be therefore careful to asses traits by evaluating the general framework of a partner rather than specific traits. Also being aware that we do idealise initially and that some rosy glass assumptions are present- but being aware that a degree of disillusionment is normal allows us not to be too disappointed. As one may say- the hallmark of a great relationship destined for longevity, is one where both partners really see each other for who they are, but through the rosy lens of love.