You’re in a relationship. Struggles and high points throughout your romance with your partner are only natural, but during the tough times, do you find yourself thinking obsessively of what lies ahead? What is the future of your relationship? What will it look like in a year, 5 years, a decade?

I call this phenomenon Cupid’s Timeline, a deceptive trap that threatens the harmony and longevity of romance.

Esteemed philosopher Martin Heidegger proposed that each of us live “ahead of ourselves.” We exist in a joint state of presence in the moment and projection into the future. Heidegger believed people infuse their lives with purpose by creating a narrative covering the totality of their existence, best defined as “My Life Story.”

Time, for Heidegger, was best understood “not as ‘clock time,’ but as the way through which we live and thereby make meaning.” This subjective experience of time is one I relate to. In each moment, as I appreciate where I am, I’m aware of life’s journey, a forward trajectory of the next stage.

I believe Heidegger’s theory of time, and “ahead of ourselves,” correlates with falling in love, providing a valuable lesson about our relationships.

Cupid’s Timeline results in codependent future projection

In an earlier article, I explained how to fall in love without losing independence. Remaining independent involves distinguishing between romanticized love — as myth, chemical addiction, and codependency — and true love. Cupid’s Timeline is a byproduct of the former — the meeting point of codependency and Heidegger’s theory of living “ahead of ourselves.”

Making future plans with a partner is exciting, wholesome, and fun. Plus, a shared vision creates a sense of assurance. I’m not here to dismiss this. However, Cupid’s Timeline is the unconscious melding of two individual future projections. Both partners’ mental timelines fuse together and become inseparable — “My Life Story” becomes “Our Life Story.”

Living “ahead of yourself” now includes a plus one. Whether imagining the upcoming weekend or five years’ time, your vision of the future is conjoined. This may sound harmless — desirable, even — but genuine independence requires each partner to retain healthy detachment from the other. Fused “life stories” can result in a number of relationship problems.

Expectations and attachment increase pressure

Couple-embracing

As Cupid’s Timeline unconsciously forms between you and your partner, so does attachment to its outcome. The fruition of this imagined future becomes more relevant than the unfolding of reality. This is a recipe for disaster in your relationship.

The nature of Cupid’s Timeline means that it forms without our awareness. Both partners will form their conjoined future from their own perspectives, desires, beliefs, and conditioning.

Conflicting timelines will thus cause conflict; what if one partner views a future full of travel and the nomadic lifestyle, while the other envisions a quiet future full of Netflix, tea drinking, and early nights?

Expectations and attachment add unnecessary pressure on a relationship. They cause stress, disrupt flow, and transfer attention from the relationship as it is, to your idea of where the relationship is going. Many relationship fall at this hurdle, despite having lots of potential.

The perfect fantasy over the present reality

toxic relationship couple strategy

Have you experienced a relationship that is mostly conceptual? Where most of the relationship takes place in the minds of each partner, formed by ideas, shared dreams, and speculation — rather than the reality of your shared experience?

One of my most intoxicating relationships followed this structure. Without realizing, I became attached to the concept of what the relationship could be, rather than the reality of what the relationship was. Our words and visions were syrup, adding sweetness to my craving for “The One.” Before I knew it, I’d become more attached to the idea of the relationship. I was living a fantasy.

This attachment was a denial of reality — our relationship was destined to end. Desperate to manifest the fantasy, I overlooked red flags, made irrational decisions, and caused myself an abundance of unnecessary and extended suffering, thanks to my blind belief in Cupid’s Timeline.

The most painful part of the breakup was the separation of “Our Life Story” into “My Life Story.” I had to grieved a conceptual death.

Not today, Cupid!

Young-couple-talking

Becoming conscious and empowering yourself isn’t about changing thoughts or impulses; it’s about choosing the way we respond. It’s understandable for Cupid’s Timeline to affected you; I get it, I’ve been there, done that, I’ve got a wardrobe full of the t-shirts. However, bringing awareness into your timeline, and choosing to step back, is key.

When noticing a joint vision for the future, ask yourself — is this a conscious, empowering shared vision? Or this a default vision, powered by my own needs, desires, and social conditioning about the concept of romantic love? The choice is then yours to choose to pry apart your timelines or to relinquish control.

In any relationship, this isn’t a solo project. Find the time and place to discuss the concept with your partner, and be clear and honest about the visions your mind’s eye has created. Pay attention to how much time you and your partner invest in future projection.

Life is lived in the present, yet planning ahead can be addictive. Aim for balance. Agree to find the sweet spot between being “ahead of ourselves” and simply being together.

Invest attentiveness, love, and energy into where your relationship is right now. Nurture the relationship, be present with the one you love, more often than you nurture your future vision. Choose to consciously co-create visions, give them the attention they deserve and the awareness of their impermanent, dreamlike state.

Time will take care of itself. Years down the line, hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart, you and your partner may reflect on time passed and moments shared, where your timeline was a reality nourished through a succession of affectionate nows, not lost in fantasy.