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Are you in love with someone who doesn’t exist?

Relationships involve two people coming together to experience life together. Having a partner to walk next to is one of the many joys of the world. It’s exciting to share things with someone who understands you and wants the best for you.

But every person is different, and great relationships require compromise from time to time. You will not agree with your partner on everything, and that’s okay. Sometimes, when we fall in love, we create an idealized version of our partners that does not exist.

You’ve heard people come up with a checklist:

Tall. Dark. Handsome. Or six-pack. Six figures. And six inches? For the men: petite, thick and homely.

This helps explain why people are so reluctant to give up what they have, even if what they have isn’t the best thing for them. It’s called the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ This is when ‘a prior investment in one option leads to continuous investment in that option, despite not being the best decision.’

Sunk costs determine people’s insights about relationships. You don’t want to let the other person go because you feel like you’ve spent so much time, effort, and resources to build your relationship. You think you are wasting time. Have you ever noticed that people would sit through a terrible film at the cinema just because they’ve paid for it?

The key to a healthy relationship is communication. When you create an idealized version of your partner, in your mind he/she/they are perfect. You don’t argue, you just get each other. But this rarely happens in real life. You should always watch out for red flags in a relationship.

When we have invested resources and time but have not yielded the expected result, we double down. Try harder. Invest more. This leads us to waste more time and resources trying to correct a mistake. Self-confidence becomes a shield. You start doing things to support that bad relationship and make it look good.

By sticking with this unhappy relationship, I will prove that I was right all along. I didn’t waste my time. Let’s pretend and make it look good to everyone else. At least my ego will be soothed. But you are only hurting yourself.

How to move on

  • Realize that past investment is exactly that. Time once spent cannot be recovered. 
  • Would you choose this person again, if you started it all over?
  • What does the future look like with this person? Is that what you want?
  • Think about a past relationship you left. Is that a relationship you want back? Maybe not.


By admitting that the relationship is over, we can stop wasting years of our lives doing things that actively make us unhappy. Moving on is not easy, but nothing worth having comes easy.

Relationships are never perfect. Failure is always a possibility. It can be our best teacher, but only if we are listening.

Are you in love with someone who doesn’t exist?

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LoveMatters Africa

Blush-free facts and stories about love, sex, and relationships