Lovers are often blind to the beloved's negative traits and tend to create an idealized image of the beloved. We often love the idealized object rather than the real one. Are we then blind when we fall in love and when we maintain it?
In a surprising number of cases, people fall in love with their idealized vision of their lovers, or with the idea of being in love, rather than with the actual reality of their lovers. Indeed people often say that they are living out their dreams with their beloved. Positive illusions are in fact central to romantic love. Lovers do not see clearly, if at all, their beloved's negative traits and tend to create an idealized image of the beloved.
One reason for idealizing the beloved is that we tend to evaluate positively that which we desire. Our inclination toward something often leads to its positive evaluation. The idealization of the beloved may also be considered as a kind of defense mechanism, enabling us to justify our partly arbitrary choice. A similar defense mechanism is typical of people who have recently bought a new car and subsequently spend a lot of time reading its advertisements and avoid reading those for other cars they might have bought instead.
Men seem to idealize women more than women idealize men. For example, a survey of love songs has found that females were more often described as "heavenly" or "angels" than males.
The idealization of the beloved is more typical of love at first sight and the initial stages of love when a spontaneous evaluation, made on little information, has an important role. If the person fits into the schema underlying the spontaneous evaluation, then the person is evaluated positively. When more information is available, this evaluation must also take into account negative aspects. The initial ignorance of the person's characteristics, which is expressed in idealization, is later replaced with a more realistic picture based upon new and more detailed information. Many divorcees testify that they cannot understand how they could have been so blind to their partner's characteristics. The lover's blindness is not necessarily due to misperception of the beloved's traits; it may also be a matter of distorted evaluation in the sense of focusing on positive qualities only.