You might be guilty of what TikTok calls a “delusionship” if you’ve ever idealized a whole existence with someone after just glancing at their dating app or social media profile or even if you were willing to give it all up for the hot person you regularly see sitting outside at a cafe you frequent.
A “delusionship” is a fun imagined courting with a crush, similar to the kind of relationship that involves a shared attraction and infatuation between two or more people.
It may be a cutie you see on your everyday train commute or somebody you flirt with at a party and give an affectionate nickname to in your group chat; either way, you can’t help but try to get a peek at their phone to check the content that their TikTok “For You Page” feeds them.
Before writing this, I had no idea that I, too, am in a delusionship and have been for years–Tom Hardy and Jamie Dornan are both my BFs in this hallucination, even though they have no idea I exist and never will (plus, they are both happily married with children, which further complicates my fantasy).
Delusionships tend to be totally safe and quite a bit of fun, particularly when you’ve had a few glasses of wine with your girls, and you’re contemplating DMing that person for a giggle.
If we find ourselves obsessing over a person, whether it’s a celebrity, a stranger, or even someone like Jonathan from accounting, does that imply we can do so without feeling guilty? Should we be worried that our delusions will turn toxic? Or that acting on a crush/delusionship is being put off because you’re afraid that the reality won’t live up to the fantasy?
Learning how to recognize the signs that your “situationship” (another TikTok term, thanks, Millennials) may, in fact, actually be a “delusionship” (what??) and everything else you need to know about your fantasy romance.
What on Earth is a ‘Delusionship?’
A delusionship is a romanticized obsession with someone, to put it plainly.
What is the operative term here? The connection is way more romanticized than real.
TikTok defines a “delusionship” as a romantic partnership in which one partner has an extremely skewed perception of the relationship’s significance. Contrast this with a situationship, in which both people involved are aware that they are not in a serious relationship (even if one of them secretly wants one). The “delusional” partner in a delusionship is the one who falsely believes that their significant other gives more time and energy than they actually do.
It’s a harsh word for a typical situation–who among us hasn’t put on the rose-colored glasses when we truly liked someone, blind to the fact that they really just aren’t that into you?
Who is Most Likely To Be in a ‘Delusionship?’
Lessons from the world of heterosexual female dating suggest that women, in general, invest a greater amount of mental resources in pondering the meaning of their relationships than their male counterparts do.
So, when we hear about a delusionship, it’s frequently from a female perspective, such as when a woman takes to TikTok to sing about the hot repairman who repaired her washing machine or to describe “delusionships” in her dream dating roster.
Men do, without a doubt, daydream about being in relationships–it’s just not as widely talked about or reported.
“Delusionships” are more common in women’s lives because they think initiating a conversation when it comes to romantic relationships is stigmatized (it has been) and feel shame about making the first move.
Most women would rather live in a harmless, romanticized relationship than act on their emotions, as 41% of women have worried about appearing desperate, and 25% said they’ve worried about being viewed negatively for openly requesting a serious relationship, per a study by the Bumble dating app.
Is There a Difference Between a ‘Delusionship’ and a Crush?
Whether it’s daydreaming about what you’ll both eat on the first date or taking a step further and imagining what your potential partner would be like romantically, there’s always a component of imagination at play whenever it comes to dating, particularly online dating.
There is a fine line between a crush and a “delusionship”–when you’ve got a crush on someone, whether they’re a stranger or a friend, chances are you’ve fantasized about kissing them or going on a date with them.
In a delusionship, you take it a step further by incorporating the other person’s characteristics into your own intricate web of fantasies. If you don’t know anything, you make it up, and that’s when the delusion kicks in–by imagining a different romantic, sexual, physical, marital, or other type of relationship between you and this person, or between many people, you build an alternate reality.
Most crushes are harmless and go nowhere unless you actively pursue them. The danger of a “delusionship,” especially in the age of social media, is that you might become too invested in it and begin to communicate to the wrong people about it.
Are ‘Delusionships’ Toxic?
When the boundaries between dreams and reality blur, the “delusionship” may become toxic. While it’s totally natural to harbor a romantic fantasy or two, you need to ground your relationship in reality at all times.
Setting unrealistic expectations for a potential partner on dating apps is not only unfair to them, but also to yourself, as you risk being let down if their real-life personality or intentions fall short of what you imagined.
Make sure your crush doesn’t grow into an infatuation that prevents you from meeting new people, or, you could work up the nerve to ask them out and see what happens! It’s also crucial to never cross the lines set by the other person in any relationship– delusionship or IRL.
They may be completely unaware of your ideas and feelings, or they may have completely different ones. To get more out of our dating lives, we have to learn to accept rejection as an inevitable part of the process.
How Do Dating Apps Play Into ‘Delusionships?’
Indeed, the rise of online dating and social media has contributed to the prevalence of the “delusionship.” Online dating is filled with empty promises and ghosting. They have hope. They want a romantic relationship. All are serious about meeting new people.
It’s easy to misinterpret a slow drip of attention from a stranger on a dating app, so it’s understandable if people start reading too much into it. People tend to assume romantic feelings when there are none–they rationalize why the other person isn’t paying them enough attention.
Are they playing games? Are they even into me? It can be confusing!
A little advice from a dating expert: If you are confused about what is happening between you and your romantic partner, it may be time to move on. In healthy relationships, both parties are on the same page and communicate their feelings to each other. If that isn’t happening, you may be in a “delusionship” or a situationship (we don’t know which one is better, TBH).
When to Let Go of That ‘Delusionship’
There’s also the risk of an unhealthy obsession developing into a serious mental health crisis.
One of the main distinctions between infatuation and a psychological issue is the extent to which one’s thoughts and actions revolve around the other person, the duration of the infatuation, and the measures taken to sustain the infatuation, such as obsessively checking the other person’s online activity, following them around IRL, and altering the way one lives to have greater access to them.
Think About It This Way:
Is your obsession getting in the way of your daily life, to the point that it’s all you are talking about when you’re around others?
Is your productivity suffering as a result of your preoccupation with your “delusionship?”
Is your fixation so overwhelming that it’s preventing you from sleeping or eating?
In a nutshell: Daydream all you want, but be careful it doesn’t develop into an actual nightmare.
For the most part, people appear to be sharing stories of unrequited love on TikTok with a lot of humor, but it can be difficult to get over a “delusionship.” If you find yourself having a hard time letting go, you should talk to a professional–there’s no shame in that!
Just as there is no shame in being in a harmless delusionship with someone you’ll probably never meet in person, as I am with my partners Tommy Hardy and Jamie Dornan.
You should keep entertaining your harmless “delusionships” and fantasies as long as they aren’t interfering with your relationships with IRL people–just be sure you can distinguish between the two and that you can tell fact from fantasy.