What is the fantasy bond?

The fantasy bond is a term used to describe an imaginary connection formed originally by the infant with the parent or primary care-giver. It also describes an illusory connection to another person that adults attempt to establish in their intimate associations, a process that leads to deterioration in the relationship.

Isn’t a “bond” a positive attachment?

It’s important to distinguish the specific use of the word ” bond” from its other uses in psychological and popular literature. It is not meant to describe “bonding” in a positive sense nor does it refer to a secure attachment between parent and child or a relationship that includes loyalty, devotion, and genuine love. In contrast to these positive meaning of the term “bond,” the fantasy bond acts as a painkiller that cuts off feeling responses and interferes with the development of a true sense of self. The more a person comes to rely on fantasies of connection, the less he or she will seek or be able to accept love and affection in a real relationship.
What is the function of the fantasy bond?

The fantasy bond is the primary defense against separation anxiety, interpersonal pain and existential dread. It alleviates pain and anxiety by providing partial gratification of the infant’s emotional or physical hunger. Infants have a natural ability to comfort themselves by using images and self-soothing behaviors to ward off the anxiety of being temporarily separated from their mother and to help reduce their feelings of hunger and frustration. When parents are often unavailable or inconsistent in meeting their infant’s needs, the infant increasingly turns to an image of being connected to them. In other words, the fantasy bond is a substitute for the love and care that may be missing in the infant’s environment. See “A Concept of the Primary Fantasy Bond: A Developmental Perspective.”
So fantasies alone can relieve pain?

The power of the human imagination to relieve pain is extraordinary. For example, research studies conducted during World War II found that daydreaming and fantasizing about food actually reduced physical hunger pangs in people who were near starvation.

In addition, children support the fantasy of connection with behaviors that relieve tension, such as thumb-sucking or rubbing a blanket, which are elaborated into other self-soothing behaviors such as drug abuse. People develop a sense of pseudo-independence, a feeling that they can take care of themselves and don’t need other people. These dynamics are described by Robert Firestone in The Fantasy Bond Video Supplement.
Does everybody develop a fantasy bond in their intimate relationship?

To varying degrees, all people have tendencies to make these imagined connections with significant people in their lives. In fact, destructive fantasy bonds exist in a large majority of couple relationships and are apparent in most families.

Most people have a fear of intimacy but at the same time, they are terrified of being alone. Their solution is to form a fantasy bond – an illusion of connection, love and closeness, – that allows them to maintain a certain emotional distance while relieving loneliness. However, the process of forming a fantasy bond reduces the possibility of achieving a successful personal relationship.
What are the signs that partners have formed a fantasy bond in their relationship?

People may notice a loss of spontaneity and playfulness in their relationship, and be less interested in talking and listening to each other. They may develop a routinized, mechanical style of lovemaking and experience a reduction in the level of sexual attraction and desire. They may begin to withhold the desirable qualities in themselves that attracted the partner. They may begin to sacrifice their independence and individuality to become one half of a couple. They tend to substitute form for substance. For example, everyday routines are used to replace the real companionship, love, and affection that existed at the beginning. People’s capacity for self-deception enables them to maintain an internal image of closeness and intimacy, while they act in ways that contrast with any recognizable definition of love.


Fantasy Bond Resources