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When we first enter an intimate relationship we are hoping to gain something from it: that our partner will bring out the best in us, that our past disappointments will be soothed or healed. That romance will last.

We begin the relationship with an idealized view of the other. So by design, getting deeper into a relationship will always involve the process of disillusionment.

Disillusionment is a form of loss. We’ve lost the hope that nothing threatening or dangerous will come our way. We lose confidence that this time things will be different. And with this loss, more fear and pain are triggered than what we’ve already experienced in the past.

Many people are afraid to commit to an intimate relationship in the first place, maybe in part because of an unconscious fear of loss and disillusionment. There is more safety in longing for something that has yet to transpire, than facing that deprivation that comes with disillusionment.

In this case, we become attached to that sense of deprivation because it seems to protect from future loss.

The loss of dreams is extremely painful for us. It’s just as painful as a more tangible loss – say of a parent or a job.

In this age of delayed family building, many people face the loss of not having children. Others face conflict about job opportunities and geographic flexibility.

It is important for couples who face the loss of a dream, to acknowledge the underlying pain. Of course it’s much easier to pick a fight and to blame your partner for what he or she isn’t living up to.

But there is always a deeper layer of hurt and disappointment about the loss of a dream, and it has to be uncovered and acknowledged.

Letting go of a dream is hard to do. When your dream of owning a house one day is shattered by economic hardship, the pain of giving up on this dream is difficult to bear. So we hold on to it and hope that one day it might still be possible.

In the meantime, there will be ongoing arguments about how to keep the space clean, how and when to get repairs done, how to spend the money you do have and so on.

Couples need a break from the tension that the loss of dreams automatically creates and need to be acknowledged that all parties involved are doing the best they can.

Giving up the hope that unrealistic fantasies may never be fulfilled is the hardest thing to do.

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