How Do I Know if I Have a Fantasy Bond?

fantasy bondThere are ways to uncover how and why a genuinely loving relationship can forego passion for routine. How often do we find ourselves going from a vital sense of love for another person to a weighted feeling of complacency or dissatisfaction? Why does this occur? Is it something in us or is it the person we chose?

“Most people have fears of intimacy and are self-protective and at the same time are terrified of being alone. Their solution to their emotional dilemma is to form a fantasy bond. This illusion of connection and closeness allows them to maintain an imagination of love and loving while preserving emotional distance,” wrote psychologist and author of The Fantasy Bond, Dr. Robert Firestone on his PsychAlive blog.

What is a Fantasy Bond?

The fantasy bond exists when the reality of a deep, loving feeling is replaced by a more robotic form of going through the motions of an intimate relationship. Many factors including childhood experiences, the repeating of past patterns and a fear of being alone can drive people to a fantasy bond.

As children, one of the primary ways that we adapted during those times when we were hurting or lonely was to form an imagination that we were loved. In a sense, we fantasized that we were with someone who loved us and would never leave us. This adaptation, the fantasy bond, happens at such an early age that it is basically an unconscious process. Nonetheless, it is still operating in most of us even though we have grown up and are no longer suffering from the pains of childhood.

Today it shows up in our close relationships. When love between two people grows deeper, it becomes more frightening. In the beginning, we enjoy being in love but as the relationship becomes more intimate and more important to us, we start to feel vulnerable. Not only are we then far more susceptible to loss and hurt, but we are now being seen as truly lovable by someone else. This new identity might challenge an old self-image, which although we might not like, has become comfortable to us over the years. In an effort to preserve this identity and protect ourselves from potentially painful outcomes, people are often willing to sacrifice a meaningful relationship in favor of a more routine, less vulnerable existence. This is the point at which we often revert to the fantasy bond. In the place of our real feelings of love, we substitute a fantasy of being in love. We have gone from being vulnerable and relating with another person to being safely involved in an inward process that excludes anyone else.

the-fantasy-bondSo, how can you tell if you have a fantasy bond? It’s difficult because it is largely an unconscious process. But the fantasy bond brings about specific changes in a relationship, so you and your partner can be alert to those changes and identify them as symptoms that indicate you have formed a fantasy bond.

For one thing, symptoms of a fantasy bond often begin to appear following significant events that indicate the seriousness of a relationship. Living together, marriage and starting a family all signify a commitment that is an expression of two people’s love for each other. It is the depth of the love that is being expressed with these events that often causes us to retreat and form a fantasy bond. So even though you would expect to be thrilled by such wonderful changes in your life, this is a good time to be on the look out for signs of a fantasy bond.

Symptoms that indicate you and your partner are relating less

Since the fantasy bond takes the place of genuine relating with your partner, look for indications that you are relating less than before.  Even if you are spending the same amount of time together, has the quality of the time changed? How much of that time is spent actually sharing life, enjoying each other’s company and feeling close?

Less eye contact

Eye contact is an important form of relating with another person.  One of the most compelling signs that two people are in love is the amount of eye contact they make. Are you and your partner making less and less eye contact over time? Do you look into each other’s eyes when you are talking or do you just talk at each other?

Deterioration in communication

Almost everyone who has fallen in love reports: “When we first met we stayed up all night talking…we had so much to talk about.” Has your communication with your partner deteriorated into small talk, superficial chit-chat or practical conversations? Has it been a long time since you have taken the time to speak personally to each other?

Less affection and more impersonal lovemaking

When two people fall in love they can hardly keep their hands off each other.  They love being affectionate.  This shows up in the playfulness of their casual contact as well as in the tenderness and intimacy of their lovemaking. Are you and your partner less affectionate? Are you as intimate and tender in your lovemaking as you used to be?

Symptoms that indicate you and your partner are relating as a unit in a ‘Fantasy Bond’

Since the fantasy bond gives you the illusion that you and your partner are one, look for indications that you are relating as a unit, not as separate individuals.

Loss of independence

When two people fall in love, they experience themselves and each other as separate individuals with distinct identities, independent ideas, unique interests and different friends. The individuality of your partner is probably what drew you to them in the first place. The more you surrender that separate identity, the more that feeling of appreciation will dissipate. Have you given up any important interests since becoming involved in your relationship? Have you given up any meaningful friendships since becoming involved in your relationship?

Speaking as one person

One of the most obvious signs that a couple has merged their identities is when they speak as a unit.  Do you and your partner speak as “we”? Do you complete each other’s sentences? Do you speak for each other? When someone is addressing your partner, do you step in and answer?

Routinized lovemaking

When a passionate relationship becomes less exciting and the lovemaking becomes routine, most people say that this is just what happens over time. But it isn’t; what has happened is that the partners have taken each other for granted.  When two people develop a fantasy bond and view each other as extensions of themselves, they kill the excitement between them. Has your lovemaking become less passionate and mechanical? Has your lovemaking become routine?  At the same time, in the same place, involving the same actions?

Symptoms that indicate that form has replaced the substance of real relating and closeness in your relationship

In a fantasy bond, fantasy takes the place of reality.  Props that support the fantasy of closeness take the place of real relating.  The form of a relationship is substituted for the substance of a relationship.  Look for ways that you are using props to support your fantasy bond.  Look for ways that form has replaced the substance of real relating and closeness in your relationship.

Utilizing everyday routines as symbols of closeness

Everyday routines can easily be used as props to support your fantasy bond. Are there certain activities that you and your partner originally enjoyed that have become routines that now only symbolize closeness? Do you go to movies together the same evening every week? Do you always go to the same restaurant when you go out to dinner? Do you go to bed at the same time every night?…with the same TV show on?

Utilizing role-determined behaviors as props in a fantasy bond

Many couples turn to role-determined behaviors as symbols of closeness in their relationship.  These behaviors can be as simple and ordinary as the man opening the door for the woman or the woman tidying up after the man.  They can include the man handling the practical affairs and the woman dealing with the emotional issues.  They can go on to involve the man being the breadwinner and the woman being the caretaker. Do any of your behaviors relate more to the role of being in love than to actual loving behavior? Do any of your mate’s behaviors relate more to a role of being in love than to the actual act of being in love?

Utilizing customs and conventional responses as substitutes for real closeness

Society has provided us with many opportunities that we can use to strengthen the form of a relationship rather than the substance.  Some examples of these are Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays and anniversaries.  These are occasions when we are called upon to offer symbols of our love, regardless of how we are feeling in our relationship at the moment. Are you using any of these conventional occasions as symbols of a relationship in the place of expressing real closeness at those times that you feel it? Is your partner using any of these conventional occasions as symbols of a relationship in the place of expressing real closeness at those times that you feel it?

However, if we can identify the patterns of behavior we act out in place of real acts of love, we can better understand whether we are in a fantasy bond with our partners. The following are some means of identifying these behaviors. Once we identify them, we can better understand the nature of our relationship: why did we choose who we chose and are they the highest level choice for us? We can then begin to examine the source of our defenses against intimacy, challenge destructive behaviors and enjoy a closer, more meaningful relationship.

Learn how to break free from a Fantasy Bond in our eCourse, The Fantasy Bond: The Key to Understanding Yourself and Your Relationships

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This is all very well but you don’t tell us what a non fantasy bond is. We’re all dysfunctional to a degree so please let us know what makes brilliant intimacy. Can any of us get our needs met 100% of the time?


I know a couple who has a “fantasy bond”, the husband is always saying ‘we’ in reference to his wife and himself. But his wife is verbally and emotionally abusive towards him in public, and he either takes it or pretends its not happening. I always got the feeling while watching them interact, when they were on their best behavior, that it–their marriage–was a show or performance of ‘our marriage is so good’ and ‘we are so great together,’ but that it was just an illusion. It seemed fake to me. As for the ‘we’re all [are] dysfunctional’ comment by the previous commenter, that is not true. I read an book by a psychologist that that said not everyone is dysfunctional (not even a little bit), that there are emotionally healthy people in the world with no dysfunction.

Husband in Distress

Going through a tough time in my own marriage, I felt a distancing from my wife over a number of years. I started to develop feelings for someone else (no further) and when I confessed it to my wife we began a cycle of arguing, restoration, doubt, arguing, uncertainty etc… that we are still living through. I am afraid to leave the family home, but can’t seem to bring my feelings of love back. It’s as if I had a fantasy bond and started to see that my wife and I didn’t have a proper ‘connection’ and so I looked elsewhere.

Now, I’m not sure if the love was there originally, so I’m trying to get something back that might have been ‘manufactured’ and ‘imagined’ that’s why those feelings of love and intimacy are evading me. Did I break out of that Fantasy Bond? What do you do when that happens?


I’m right there with you. Same situation as you. Our relationship has been feeling flat. Neither my wife nor myself open up to eachother. There’s hardly any banter. I feel as if she’s just been stagnant, letting life pass her by while I’m always looking to improve somewhere. I feel like I’m being trapped in a cage that’s getting harder and harder to escape from beginning from marriage, to buying a house, and having kids.
I came out with all that I was feeling. unloved, no affection, lack of intimacy from her and always being turned down for sex. How I still crave it and I constantly look at other women because that’s all I can do. Even suggesting an open marriage since she can’t keep up. Now she realizes how badly she F****d up and is trying her best to right everything that she’s been lacking.
but now I feel like it’s too late. The spark is gone, and I dont know if it’s possible to feel for her like I once did.
I dont know who to talk to about all this mess


I’m and I’m the same situation. It seems that for years I’ve been metaphorically screaming at the top of lungs about this ‘missing’ aspect to my life and our relationship. And yet, to no avail. So, now here I am feeling stuck in this relationship that I have no passion for.


Hi Billy,
Allow me please to comment on your comment. I’m sorry to hear your are going through hardship in your marriage and that it feels as if your wife the one to blame for the distance and the hopelessness that hallmark your relationship. I’m a trauma psychotherapist and from what I know, is that childhood programming/ trauma and having bad role models, parents, who sucked at intimacy and connection set the blueprint for your future relationships.
If you don’t work on your childhood issues of abandonment you can’t move on! Anyone you’ll attract will eventually become the way your wife is today, sane person but different face !!
You need to examine your part and how you played a role in creating this fantasy bond Witt your wife. It sounds like your wife suffers from depression, have you ever tried to help her With her blues? Like help her open up and dare showing her hurts and suffering. There is no easy way out or a quick fix to this. Psycho education and therapy is the first step. Meeting or dating a new woman won’t solve your intimacy problem from its root, it would be a matter of time before it all plays out exactly the same way it did with your wife, unless you start working on making the unconscious conscious.


i feel sorry for you i too know what it feels like to love someone and not know if you can get that feeling back i am in the same place as all of you.


Ask her. Ask him. Let them know you care about how you land on them. Be there. Listen to her without thought. Listen to him without thought. Consider your part. Ask yourself, “ am I projecting my own insecurity? “ Act responsibly and courageously. Seek counsel. DBT and Cognitive counseling creates awareness.

aylana december 7th 2019

hi my name is aylana and i fear i am in a fantasy bond with my boyfreind and i’m scared that he don’t love me like he used to and i fear that i might end up alone and i thought that we would be together forever but he moved away and has not been in contact with me for five years and i’m scared he has moved on. i don’t know what to do please help?


Is it possible for one partner to be inna fantasy bond? I feel like my wife and I began down this path, but that I have recognized something was wrong, which is why I am here reading this.

I have straight out said that I feel disconnected a d that I feel we need to work on this more than once and it is merely with apathy. I have started to pursue my independence again and take up old friendships and hobbies, which has been met with anger and resistance. I am at a loss. Our life has fallen into dull routine and I desperately want to break free of this and rekindle the passion, but it appears I am the only one.

I ask myself if I have fallen out of love and I search within for answers that I cannot yet figure out. Perhaps she has fallen out of love with me, or perhaps we are stuck in a fantasy bond that I too contribute too unknowingly.


I’m early in a relationship and already he is transforming the content of our connection into an empty form. He wants the form of the relationship but has come to dread holding my hand prolonged love- making, pillow talk. He thinks we have amazing communication because I bring up the problems. He loves to plan our commitment for the future while not meeting my explicit needs for physical intimacy. I miss feeling connected to myself. My therapist has encouraged us to go to couples therapy. He agreed because it is important to me. I’m tried of being the catalyst for change and truth telling against his litany of rationales for distance. I’m in it to get my emotional and sexual needs met. He also went to therapy after an abusive marriage and his therapist told him he has graduated and has no issues. What I’m struggling with is the pain this causing me. We had promise and now I feel abandoned. I would like to leave but my therapist is encouraging me to try to work with him


I’m in a relationship with another woman who stated that she is a fantasy person. Not understanding I did some research in trying to understand this relationship. I find that she is content with words of love but when I ask for physical confirmation of her love she shuts down. Will her affection become real or be seen in words only?

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