The difference between falling in love with the idea of someone and the person themselves is the way you think of them right before you fall asleep. Instead of latching onto the wonderful date the both of you just had, you think of your life together spanned out over the course of a few decades. Instead of thinking about the way his eyes light up when he talks about his love of non-profit work, you think about the family house he mentioned his family owns in San Francisco. You picture summer vacations and Christmases spent together, completely disregarding the fact you've yet to learn their favorite color or secret ambition. Because when you fall in love with the idea of someone, every word they've said is placed in your mind before they've said it, every move you've carefully calculated to match the perfect person they are in your mind.
The pain we feel when we fall in love with the idea of someone is complex and difficult to place. You have them standing right before your very eyes, something you can touch and hold, and yet they will always appear like a mirage. You fall in love with them so suddenly it feels as if you've missed a step along the way. It will feel as if you've finally found the one you're looking for. When you fall in love with the idea of someone you're so ready to fall in love that any person vaguely fitting your ideal suitor's bill will do.
When we fall in love with the idea of someone it is easy to look over their flaws. We see the life we want to live with them, so it is easy to allow the rest of the cruddy things to slip away into the mist. Who cares that they're easily enraged or that they're snarky to food industry workers when all you can see is their habit of reading The New York Times every day; to you they represent the apex of intelligence and everything you think you want out of a partner. When you fall in love with the idea of someone, little fights are glossed over, you consider it growing pains, you truly believe you know this person inside and out because you spend your days deconstructing their personality and only latching onto the parts that you want to notice. When you see something that doesn't align with your idea of them, you release it because it doesn't help the fantasy grow.
When you fall in love with the idea of someone you can never feel fully fulfilled. For some reason no matter how many late night chats you have with them, you never truly feel connected. When you make love you feel a disconnect as if you're floating above your own body, waiting for it to feel exactly like you daydreamed it would. You never feel satisfied because when you love the idea of someone, you forget that they're only flesh and blood and the one you dreamt up can never exist in the physical world.
And when you fall in love with an idea, even you know that you can't keep it forever. Eventually the idea that you want to be in love with will shift, you'll want to find something new to make you happy. You'll wake up one day and suddenly you'll realize that the idea of who you thought someone was is not who is waking up to you. You'll finally be able to see them as the fully realized human being they are, dazzling in their humanity and polarizing in their complexity. In this moment you must decide whether to conceit, to fall in love with the person who was once just an idea to you, or watch them disappear like a plume of smoke; because you can never own an idea, and it can never call your heart home.