In the years leading up to 2020, more dating buzzwords entered our mouths than we could throw a jibing, beard baiting, gatsby-ing ghost at. Since the pandemic swung into our lives, however, we’ve seen the Shakespeares of the dating scene ease up a little on their nouveau mots.
But now, as we slowly return to normality, we figured it’s time to throw some new syllables in the fire. Inspired by an Instagram post by artist and illustrator Samantha Rothenberg, allow us to introduce you to a phenomenon we like to call ‘pedestalling.’
Rothenberg recently took to Instagram with the following graphic.
“When you put someone you’re into on a pedestal, doesn’t it feel like ‘having’ them will make all of your problems go away? Spoiler alert: it won’t,” she captioned the post.
Pedestalling is when you date someone “unattainable” so that you can distract yourself from your own problems.
Many followers commented, feeling brutally ~seen~.
Samantha Jayne, relationship expert and dating coach, told DMARGE pedestalling is widespread.
“I commonly hear people refer to themselves as a ‘fixer’, or ‘rescuer’ where they look at the other person’s problems, they feel good trying to help other people out, when really this just avoids them looking at their own lives.”
Relationship and sex therapist Heidi Gee told DMARGE: “a lot of people don’t want to focus on their own stuff because it’s too painful.”
“I see all sorts of things in my practice – lots of clients getting on the defensive with me because it’s too painful. They don’t want to work on that stuff but in order for us to heal [we need to].”
Samantha added an example of her own: “Today I was speaking to a woman – she was gorgeous, intelligent, fit with a huge heart. She was recently seeing a guy and he was so slow to respond because he was going through his own ‘stuff.’”
“So she was checking in with him to see if he was ok when really he wasn’t giving her the validation or attention that she deserved. She said, ‘It’s ok, I’m a rescuer’ followed by, ‘I know it’s not healthy for me but I can’t help it.’”
This is a classic example of focusing on the other person: “putting them on a pedestal and putting your needs last.”
“The thing is he gave her attention previously and now that he was distancing himself she kept thinking about the connection they had, the spark when really she should have just looked at his behaviour. His pattern was withdrawing when stressed. Look at the pattern and face the reality, ask yourself is this what you want.”
“Pedestalling is living in a fantasy,” Samantha explains. “Often people do this to stay safe. If you keep someone at a distance they can never truly hurt you….well..that’s what you think. In the long run pedestalling keeps you stuck, lowers your self-confidence and makes you think that you’ll never actually achieve a real relationship.”
“You think they are superior to you and out of reach when in reality they are probably just like you.”
“If you feel extremely nervous around a person, you’re pedestalling. If you are feeling very nervous or you worry about rejection, you’re quite possibly pedestalling. If you don’t know what to say and get lost for words, you’re pedestalling. If you think they are out of your league you’re pedestalling….the more you pedestal someone the bigger the fear will get.”
“If you work on your confidence and self-worth by changing your belief systems you will stop pedestalling and see that person more as an equal and have healthier more fulfilling relationships.”
So now we know what pedestalling looks like. How do we fix it? It all comes down to being honest with yourself.
Samantha says to ask yourself why you do it. “Is it because you like the fantasy of it? Are you fulfilling your needs in your mind but not in reality? The funny thing is the subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality. So to some extent the pedestal thing might feel real for a while but it isn’t much fun in the long term.”
Heidi told us: “I say to my clients – therapy is hard, not easy. It’s not about coming to therapy to fix your problems – it’s about understanding your problems and accepting whatever’s not working for you so you can work on it and move forward.”
“We need to face our problems. When we do we attract the right people and better deal with certain situations.”
“No one wants to experience pain. But when we feel we heal.”
Heidi also says if you are unsure if you are pedestalling, “Ask what you’re getting and giving.”
“It comes down to happiness and satisfaction. Is there something missing? Have I dealt with x y and z from the past?”
Heidi also told us that you may not (necessarily) have to give up the person you are putting on a pedestal. If they are supportive you may be able to work on your stuff at the same time as dating them.
Samantha recommends you “have a reality check” and look at the facts.
“Is this person actually improving your life? Do you feel happier, have more fun in real-time, are they showing you genuine interest and meeting your needs? If it’s one-sided then go and find someone who truly is as interested in you as you are in them.”
“Putting someone on a pedestal is very unhealthy and if you are doing this it’s time to learn to love yourself. Realise what you have to offer. Start with affirmations, looking at all your strengths, your positive points and re-writing your negative beliefs and self talk when it comes up. Get help if you need extra support.”