Are you stuck in a 'delusionship'? Here's when the innocent phenomenon can turn toxic, according to dating coaches

Plus, the pros tell you how to work through any 'delusionship' difficulties and get your head out of the clouds

What is a delusionship'? Pictured: Girlfriend and boyfriend looking up while lying on bed at home
(Image credit: Getty)

We hate to break the news, but you've been in a "delusionship" at some point throughout your romantic journey—we all have. 

Whether it's pining over an old flame or endlessly admiring a nearby stranger on the train, it's easy to build up a connection in our minds that doesn't necessarily exist. Yes, there's a hopeless romantic in all of us, even if we don't care to admit it. 

"It is very easy for people to romanticize their crush, and it's a natural thing," insists dating coach Nelly Sudri. "You start going down this rabbit hole and envisioning what it could be like to be in a relationship, and I think that's where [delusionships] stem from."

Although it's a seemingly innocent and common phenomenon, a delusionship has the ability to become harmful if we're not careful. Here's how to avoid falling down said rabbit hole à la Alice. 

What is a 'delusionship'?

Similar to a simple crush, a "delusionship" is building up a relationship with someone we don't necessarily have a connection with, whether it's a stranger we've interacted with a handful of times or a former partner we're no longer connected to—not an ex we're still friends with

"If it's someone you're admiring from afar, then make a move," suggests matchmaker Julia Bekker. "You just have to go for it. What's more important to you: having the opportunity, or not having the opportunity? Are you going to choose fear over possibility or possibility over fear?"

We love the feeling of love. The excitement! The anticipation! But what's so wrong with a delusionship if you're not harming anyone? 

When do 'delusionships' become problematic?

An innocent crush is one thing, but a complete obsession takes things to another level, especially when what we conjure in our minds isn't close to reality. 

"The problem is where you start fixating in your mind, and not acting on it in reality, in a sense you're not living authentically and you're not really manifesting it," Sudri says. 

Likewise, Bekker sees red flags when singles don't get to know someone first or disregard previous bad behavior; how we think someone behaves might not be the case IRL. We have to separate fact from fiction.

"You’re obsessing over an idea, not an actual person or connection and you’re creating something in your mind that doesn’t exist," Bekker adds. "I'd say that's toxic because you're holding onto someone who is not reciprocating and why are you wanting someone who's not wanting you when you could be spending time with someone who is into you?"

How to move past a 'delusionship'

1. Approach things realistically

Yes, you're entitled to admire from afar but do keep things in perspective if you're serious about getting to know someone. 

"I think the first step is to be realistic and honest with yourself before you dive in emotionally and put all your eggs in that basket," says dating coach Jacqueline Fae. "Make sure that it is a real romantic relationship and be realistic about it, and sometimes it's not and it might not really go anywhere—and that's OK. Make sure you're on the same page before you invest your time and energy."

While dating this summer, take the time to really get to know someone and don't rush something that feels inorganic. It might take three months or so before you're truly comfortable with a partner, Fae says, so don't profess your love after date #1—that's not enough time to get to know someone.

2. Start with a friendly approach

There's a reason we love a friends-to-lovers romance in the book world, and it's even better in the real world. 

"It doesn't have to be this goo goo gaga thing, it can be organic and use something in common to start a conversation with," Sudri says. "You can follow them on social media and respond to their stories in a friendly way. If you start friendly, it's easier to step into something romantic."

3. Consider the outcome

Getting back with an ex isn't something to take lightly. Sure, it's a possibility, but if you're expecting behavior to change that likely won't, there could be a problem—and that's when the delusionship takes over. 

"The underlying issues that were there previously may be a forgotten memory now, but it is likely that they will resurface when you take that step to get back together," Michelle Begy, Managing Director and Founder at Ignite Dating, previously told us. "Sometimes it is better to have loved and lost rather than put yourself through the heartbreak all over again.”

Don't forget about what you endured, and realize that it's possible to go through those hardships all over again. 

If you are looking for love this summer—a connection that's authentic and exciting—here's the one thing you need to do when dating this summer, according to an intimacy coach.

Jacqueline Fae headshot
Jacqueline Fae

Jacqueline Fae is the CEO & Founder of I Deserve Love and author of several books, including her latest, Attracting the Love of Your Life: 30-Day Manifestation Guide, as well as The Faery Matchmaker. As a celebrity matchmaker and love expert, she services clients from their 20s through their 80s in the pursuit of love. Boasting 85,000 followers on Instagram, Jacqueline, a former actress from LA, is also a hypnotherapy expert and ultimately found her passion as a love manifestation expert. (Photograph courtesy of Ken Burden)

Julia Bekker headshot
Julia Bekker

The founder, matchmaker and dating coach of Hunting Maven, Julia Bekker has been in the business for 15+ years. Her goal is to connect with her clients and help them find real love and compatibility.

Nelly Sudri headshot
Nelly Sudri

Nelly Sudri was catapulted into the world of date coaching after her “how to” dating videos on social media went viral. After 3 years of date coaching, she launched her business and is currently focused on proving herself as a matchmaker with one-on-one clients. Nelly understands what her clients are looking for and makes no qualms about getting it—with her "NO BS" approach, Nelly tells it like it is and doesn’t beat around the bush. In addition to matchmaking, Nelly also offers personalized coaching and support to help clients improve their dating skills and build their self-confidence.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.