Why Some People Believe Love Is an Illusion

And Why It's Important to Know That It's Not

couple holding hands by a river

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Some people believe that love is an illusion. It’s understandable if they were in a relationship that they thought was a long-lasting one based on true love, but the reality ended up not aligning with their perception. Or if they’ve witnessed friends and family members get hurt when it came to love, so they come to believe love does not exist.

This article explores why love seems like an illusion, why love can hurt, how this belief negatively impacts your mental health, how love is not an illusion, and the positive effects of love.

Why Love Seems Like an Illusion

When we watch romances unfold in the movies, people seem to know quickly they just met “the one” or they overcome obstacles in the span of an hour or two and live happily ever after. That is often an illusion.

At the beginning, we are excited about our new relationships. We believe we’re falling in love. Some of us get lovesick and lust for our new partner. Sometimes we are in the throes of infatuation.

Then, we may begin to struggle. We are figuring out our partner’s habits and learning their imperfections. We begin to argue and feel the effects of conflict and stress. We try to manage the line between being independent and spending time as a couple. We are at the same time learning about this person’s past relationships, current interests and what they want for their future.

As relationships progress, conflicts over politics, finances or values may arise. Frequently there are differences based on two different people’s cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Then conflicts appear about how much sex each person desires.

Over time, one person may deal with the other’s betrayal and disappointment may set in. Or one person feels like their partner doesn’t appreciate them. Sadly, it is not uncommon for one member of the couple to feel lonely even while being in a relationship.

How This Belief Impacts Your Mental Health

Believing that romantic love isn’t real and that it’s a deception can be quite depressing. While it’s unsettling and upsetting to be let down when a relationship ends, that doesn’t mean love is an illusion.

With a closed or fixed mindset, you don’t expect things to change. Becoming bitter and believing that love is not real will lower your motivation in seeking and maintaining another romantic relationship. It can lead to your losing confidence and to a variety of feelings arising like:

Becoming pessimistic means you’ve adapted a negative outlook when it comes to the romance department. Pessimistic thinking can be unhealthy. Positive thinking, however, can help you live longer, become more resilient, improve your immunity, and decrease your risk for heart disease. If you are cynical and expecting the worst to happen in your newest relationship, know that you can actually reduce pessimism and learn how to have a positive outlook.

Instead of clinging to the idea that love is a negative illusion, for example, why not replace that idea with a positive illusion which can actually improve your relationship? A 2019 scientific study found that a positive illusion, namely perceiving your romantic partner and relationship in a positive light and having a positive bias, has great long-term effects.

The study showed that elevating this type of positive illusion resulted in higher relationship satisfaction, fewer doubts and less conflict within the relationship. Thus, it enhanced the longevity of these romantic relationships.

Here’s Why Love Is Not An Illusion

People require social interaction, friendship and community. While romantic love isn’t a necessity, if you look around you, you’ll find romantic love truly exists. It’s far from a fantasy. You’ll see couples who have been together for years and married couples who still love one another after celebrating 50th year anniversaries.

Love and affection are essential for human development. People need to love and be loved. Oxytocin, often called the love hormone or cuddle hormone, is released when a mother bonds with her baby and in romantic relationships. It is connected to social bonding. Oxytocin is important for sexual arousal, recognition, trust and human connection.

If you believe romantic love is merely an illusion, then it’s important to find out more about real romantic love—a love that is healthy and long-lasting. Hallmarks of healthy romantic relationships include commitment, trust, intimacy and passion.

According to John Gottman, a leading psychologist on marital stability and relationship endurance, sound relationships are defined as having shared meaning, managed conflict, positive outlook, turns toward one another instead of away from one another, and a sense of shared fondness and admiration.

One study analyzed the protective factors in long-term marriages globally through a systematic review. Scientists wanted to learn more about what makes marriages stable and prevents dissolution. Findings showed that commitment acted to preserve the pillar of marriage in tough situations while intimacy helped a couple build identity and satisfaction.

By identifying specific aspects of marriages that contributed to their steadfastness, scientists hoped to better understand how to improve happiness in marriages and lower the rate for divorce.

The Positive Effects of Love

Love greatly influences our quality of life. It’s not only an emotional thing either.  Love impacts both our physical and mental health. Links have been found between love and lower levels of stress and depression. Our risk for heart disease and diabetes decreases and at the same time our longevity increases. Love increases our happiness, self-esteem and resilience. It also encourages healthy habits and lifestyle choices.

While you might have been hurt in past relationships, it’s important to recognize the benefits of love. Relationships and marriages aren’t for everyone. But it might not be too late to find a loving relationship if that’s what you want. Look for one that is marked by sharing, caring, respect, empathy, open communication, trust, and kindness.

Journal, meditate or talk with friends as you delve deeper into deciding for yourself whether love is illusory or real. If you’re still struggling about the issue, reach out to a trusted psychologist or mental health counselor.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lee, L. O., James, P., Zevon, E. S., Kim, E. S., Trudel-Fitzgerald, C., Spiro, A. 3rd, et al. (2019). Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiologic cohorts of men and womenProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 116, 18357–18362. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1900712116

  2. Song H, Zhang Y, Zuo L, et al. Improving Relationships by Elevating Positive Illusion and the Underlying Psychological and Neural Mechanisms. Front Hum Neurosci. 2019;12:526. Published 2019 Jan 11. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00526

  3. Karimi R, Bakhtiyari M, Masjedi Arani A. Protective factors of marital stability in long-term marriage globally: a systematic reviewEpidemiol Health. 2019;41:e2019023. doi:10.4178/epih.e2019023

By Barbara Field
Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.