We love our celebrities. And sometimes we loooove our celebrities. There are countless articles one can read to catch up on the lengths to which people go to profess said love.
Some of the incidents are cute and others are just plain frightening. I just read, for instance, that a celebrity stalker named Dawnette Knight was obsessed with Michael Douglas to the point that she threatened to cut his wife up and feed her to dogs.
Here is the exact quote: “We are going to slice her up like meat on a bone and feed her to the dogs.” Come again? Does Ms. Knight know Michael Douglas? I mean, does she really know him? Of course not. So what is the source of her obsession besides a surface attraction based on fictitious characters he plays and a public persona that is calculated to draw admiration? I ask these questions not because I have an issue with Michael Douglas, but instead to point a light at the reality that her vision of love is a rather surface one. Focusing on just the surface and not getting to know someone is one difference between love and infatuation.
I thought about writing this article after receiving an email from a former client of mine. It was at one point an email of appreciation for the dark cloud I helped her get out from under, and at another point her professing her love for me and a desire that we “try things out and see where they go.” I politely declined, at which point she told me that I didn’t understand what I would be missing.
My reply was fairly swift and it read: “Do you know what you’d be getting?” We don’t know each other. You know me as a relationship coach that you found relatable and helpful because of that dark cloud I helped you escape. Outside of that, you do not know enough about me to love me. You might love the idea of me, but that is rather different.”
What could I tell her that would make her understand that she has placed me on a pedestal that is rather invisible, for she does not know me well enough to articulate or defend that placement. In the film “You’ve Got Mail,” Meg Ryan’s character (Kathleen) is breaking it off with Greg Kinnear’s character (Frank), and they have an exchange that goes like this:
Frank: What about you? Is there someone else?
Kathleen Kelly: No. No, but… there’s the dream of someone else.
In this exchange, Kathleen is talking about the idea of love, and in her head and heart she knows that Frank is not the one to make that idea a reality for her. My client likes the idea of me because I represent that understanding, sensitive and open soul that she craves. Whether or not I am these things in real life, she does not know. So while it may be a flattering pedestal by which she places me, it’s an invisible one nonetheless.
This is the same pedestal that exists when we talk about love at first sight. Real love requires physical, emotional and intellectual intimacy; three things that two people cannot know about one another through the short lens of a first sighting, let alone a first date. This is a certainty and one that is highlighted when two people that fell “in love” quickly find out years down the road that they have little in common.
At some point, each of them placed the other person on an early yet invisible pedestal, only to hold the pedestal up with duck tape for so many years to avoid the reality that it never truly existed.
Joshua Corbett is the 39-year old man that scaled the fence of Sandra Bullock’s Beverly Hills mansion, only to come face-to-face with her. Police found several letters in his pocket in which he professed his love for her.
Danielle is a 32-year old client I had two years ago. She was severely beaten by a man that was stalking her after being served by her at a local restaurant. All he knew about her was that she was physically attractive and did not judge him for his weight problems and stutter. But he loved her and knew he could not have her.
These represent extreme examples of how dangerous invisible pedestals can be, no question. In the more common world of dating, however, our inability to see a situation for what it is and not what we want it to be can truly inhibit our ability to ever be in a healthy relationship. Whether it is our crave for love, the fear of being alone, or simple misguided feelings, premature feelings for someone can stifle our own exploration of our real feelings, not to mention our needs and wants.
Getting hung up on someone we don’t know but are physically attracted to can make those physical features front and center in our list of desires. Falling in love with someone because of what we think we know about them can make what we do not know about them a moot point in our heart.
To drive this last point home, I will share one more quick story. Marlon saw Janine at a Busboys and Poets and he quickly fell “in love” with her. Her presence was undeniable and she talked about a struggle with drugs that he could relate to. Marlon fell for Janine very quickly and specifically because of those 15 minutes she was on stage.
Nothing else she said or did after that mattered because the pedestal was already in place and she sat firmly atop it. Three years later, they broke up because he caught her cheating. Unfortunately, he later discovered that she had been unfaithful for the past several months and the evidence pointing to such things was not hard to see. Marlon just wasn’t looking. Better said, he was seeing what he wanted to see.
I crave love and the idea of love. I truly do. But when we become infatuated with someone because the idea or dream we have of them, in the immortal words of Yoda, love it is not. Do we recognize this difference between love and infatuation? Can we distinguish between our fascination with someone, the desire to get to know them, and the visible and demonstrable love that is complete with physical, intellectual and emotional intimacy? For if we cannot, we will continue chasing something that seems real but is rather, well, invisible.
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