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Monday, May 1, 2017

Wishful Thinking Often Leads to Poor Relationship Choices

When unrealistic wishful thinking gets in the way of your using good judgment about a relationship, chances are you're setting yourself up to make poor choices and to experience a big disappointment (see my articles:  Emotionally Unhealthy Relationships: Bad Luck or Poor Choices?,  Falling in Love With "Mr. Wrong" Over and Over Again  and  Relationships: Learning to Make Better Choices).

Wishful Thinking Often Leads to Poor Relationship Choices

Wishful thinking about a relationship, as I'm defining it in this article, is a form of denial and self deception based on what you would like to believe as opposed to reality.

Let's look at a fictionalized scenario that illustrates these points.

Before Ginny met Ron at Cindy's party, she was lonely and unhappy because she had not been in a relationship for several years.  She feared that she would never get married and have children, which she really wanted more than anything.

From the moment she met Ron, she was swept off her feet.  She realized that she never laughed so much or had so much fun with anyone else.  Not only was he a lot of fun, he was handsome, charming and witty.

The first time they made love, Ginny's experience was beyond what she had ever experienced in any other relationship.

Wishful Thinking Often Leads to Poor Relationship Choices 

And when Ron told Ginny that he loved her that first night they made love, she felt like she was so happy that she would burst.  She told him that she loved him too, and they remained in each other's arms for the rest of the night.

Soon after that, Ginny told her friend, Cindy, that she was sure Ron would be the man that she would marry.  She knew she had never felt this way before and she was sure that Ron felt the same way about her.

Cindy listened to Ginny gush about Ron, and she hesitated before she responded because she didn't want to disappoint Ginny, "Ginny, I'm glad you're having a great time with Ron.  I feel badly saying this, but I've known Ron for a long time, and I think you should know that he has a reputation as a womanizer.  He doesn't remain with anyone for long.  I don't want to see you get hurt" (see my article: Could It Be That Your Friends See Things About Your Lover That You Don't See?).

Wishful Thinking Often Leads to Poor Relationship Choices

Ginny felt like ice water had been thrown in her face.  Initially, she was shocked and then she felt hurt and angry.  She thought that Cindy was jealous and wanted to ruin things between her and Ron, "I can't believe you're saying this to me!  He told me that he loves me and I believe him.  What we have is real, and I'm not going to let you spoil it."

Ginny continued to see Ron several times a week for the next few months.  Even when she wasn't with him, she spent nearly all of her time thinking about him and what their future together might be like.

When Ginny suggested to him that they go away for a long weekend, Ron told her that he loved the idea, but he would need to check his schedule because he knew he had a business trip coming up.

Ginny hoped that they could go away for his birthday, which was coming up in a couple of weeks.  But when Ron got back to her, he told her that, unfortunately, that was the weekend that he had to go to a business convention in California, and he couldn't get out of it.

He also didn't know when he could get away from work.  He assured her that he really wanted to spend a long weekend with her, but he suggested that they wait to plan it.

At first, Ginny was disappointed that she wouldn't be with Ron on his birthday. But then she had an idea--she would surprise him by showing up at his hotel.  Then, they could, at least, spend some time together on his birthday.

So, Ginny found out the name of the hotel, and she made her plane reservations for the night of his birthday.

Wishful Thinking Often Leads to Poor Relationship Choices

She felt giddy with how happy he would be when he opened his door and saw her standing there.  She was sure it would be the best night they had ever had together.

A week before Ron left, Ginny bought him an expensive watch that he had been eyeing while they were window shopping.  It cost a lot more than Ginny could afford, but she wanted Ron to know how much she loved him.  Besides, it would be worth it to see the look of joy on his face when she gave it to him on his birthday.

All the way on her flight from New York City to California, Ginny closed her eyes and imagined seeing Ron.  She imagined him taking her in his arms and kissing her, being so happy that she surprised him on his special day.

She also imagined that Ron would realize this weekend that they were perfect for each other, and he would propose to her.  Just the thought of his marriage proposal made her smile to herself.  Only a few months ago, she was worried that she was in her mid-30s and that she would never get married and have children.  Now, she was happier than she had ever been in her life.

When Ginny got to the hotel, she could feel her heart pounding as she became increasingly excited about seeing how surprised and happy Ron would be.

When she got to the door, she hesitated for a second and then she knocked.  When Ron opened the door, Ginny leaped into his arms, "Surprise!  Happy birthday!"

But when she looked at Ron's face, she was shocked to see that he looked confused and annoyed. Then, from the corner of her eye, she could see there was a woman in his bed.

Wishful Thinking Often Leads to Poor Relationship Choices

At first, Ginny froze and she barely heard Ron say, "Ginny, what are you doing here!?!  You shouldn't have come without telling me."

Then, he closed the door in her face, saying, "We'll talk about this when I get back to New York."

Then, as she stood there frozen holding the gift bag with his watch, Ginny heard Ron and the woman in his room laughing, and she felt like she was having a nightmare (see my article: Relationships: Falling For Charisma Instead of Character).

When she was finally able to move, Ginny ran out of the hotel, took a taxi to the airport and got herself on the next flight back to New York.

All the way back to New York, she couldn't believe this was happening.  She couldn't get the image of that woman out of her head.  She cried quietly to herself throughout the entire flight.

When she got home, she tried to reach Ron on his cellphone several times, but the calls went straight to voicemail.  And by the next day, he had not responded to any of her messages, so she kept trying him, but she couldn't reach him.

She felt desperate to speak to him and get some explanation, so she called the hotel and tried to reach him through the hotel operator, but the calls went to voicemail.

Wishful Thinking Often Leads to Poor Relationship Choices

Then, she thought she might be able to reach him on the convention floor, so she asked the hotel operator to put her through to the convention floor, but the operator told her that there was no convention at the hotel this weekend.

Stunned, Ginny hung up the phone and sat still for a long time.  All she could think was: There must be some explanation for this.  Maybe he was drunk and he made a mistake that night.  I could forgive him if he apologized and made a mistake.

But then, she thought:  If he made a mistake, why did he look annoyed to see me?  Why didn't he just tell the other woman to leave when he saw me standing there?  Did I really see a woman in his bed or was it my imagination?  Why did he tell me that he was attending a convention?

The next few days were agonizing for Ginny.  She didn't hear back from Ron and he wasn't taking her calls.  She knew that he was back at work, so she tried him there, but she kept getting his voicemail.

She debated back and forth in her mind if she should go to his apartment and confront him there.  She started walking to his apartment and turned around and walked back home several times before she decided that she just had to see him and talk to him.

As she rang his buzzer, she feared that she might see him again with another woman, but when Ron opened the door, he was alone and let her in.

As she sat down on his couch, he stood peering at her with his arms folded across his chest.  She had never seen him look so angry before.

After an awkward silence he told her, "You shouldn't have come without telling me.  What happened was your own fault."

While Ginny tried to get an explanation from him, Ron talked over her and said he didn't want to see her anymore and she should leave.

Then, he turned his back on her, walked into his bedroom and closed the the bedroom door, leaving Ginny standing there alone.  She had no choice to leave but to leave (see my article: A Relationship With a Narcissistic Partner Can Ruin Your Self Esteem).

During the next few weeks, against her pride and better judgment, Ginny pleaded with Ron to talk to her, but he ignored her messages.

Soon after that, Ginny started therapy to deal with her hurt and anger.  She also began to feel despair again that she would ever meet anyone else, and she was sure that she would never get married and, at her age, she might never have children.

Without the possibility of having closure with Ron, Ginny talked to her therapist to try to understand what happened (see my article: Coping With a Breakup When Closure With Your Ex Isn't Possible).

Over time, she realized that her friend, Cindy, was right--Ron was a womanizer and couldn't be trusted.

Worse than that, Ginny allowed herself to get caught up in wishful thinking, which prevented her from using the good judgment that she usually had in most situations.

She realized that her doubts about ever meeting someone who would love her and would marry her blinded her from taking it slowly with Ron.  She allowed herself to be swept off her feet from the start before she even knew him well (see my article: Dating vs Being in a Relationship: Taking the Time to Get to Know Each Other).

In hindsight, she realized that there were other times when Ron made excuses and he was probably seeing other women all along.

Getting Help in Therapy to Choose Healthier Relationships

Ginny and her therapist worked on her low sense of self to build her confidence so that she felt worthy of being treated well and she wouldn't fall into that trap again.

Gradually, she felt more confident that she would meet another man who would treat her well.

It's very easy to fall into a trap where wishful thinking leads to denial about a relationship.

This is especially true when you're not feeling good about yourself and you have doubts about whether you will ever be in a serious relationship again.  When you feel this way, you're more likely to allow yourself to get swept up by someone new.

When you're lonely and unhappy, you're more susceptible to fooling yourself.

There might be obvious signs that others might see where you're turning a blind eye.

Getting Help in Therapy
There's nothing wrong with wanting to love and be loved, but when you develop a blind spot about someone you've just met, you're setting yourself up (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

If this has happened to you, rather than being hard on yourself, be as compassionate and forgiving towards yourself as you would be to your best friend (see my article: Psychotherapy and Compassionate Self Acceptance).

If you haven't been able to work through your sadness about a relationship that hasn't worked out, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

You're not alone.  A licensed psychotherapist can help you to overcome the emotional pain that you're going through and also help you to overcome the self defeating patterns that resulted in the pain.

With help in therapy, you can become more confident and learn have healthier romantic relationships.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

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