BRENT STOLLER

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Advice for the Modern Man: Love Doesn’t Conquer All

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I met this guy on Yahoo Messenger in 2012, and we started calling and Skyping with each other over the next few years. He told me about his passions, his work, his past relationships with women and family, and I did the same. We were in constant communication and became the best of friends.

He also shared his darkest secret with me: That he had casual sex with women he met online and on the street. This affected me, but I really did love and care about him. I told him that once we met in person, he’d stop doing those things and that we’d be exclusive. He agreed.

In January 2016, we met for the first time when he flew from Miami to see me in Thailand. Everything felt like magic, and we started dating. He was my first boyfriend, and I consider him my first love. He respected me and didn’t force me to do anything I wasn’t ready for.

When he went back to the States, we were back to long-distance. We planned on meeting again, but he got a new job a couple months ago, which prevented him from traveling to see me. Still, we would communicate, and he would reassure me that we’d overcome the distance factor and keep fighting for our relationship. I believed him. 

But two weeks ago, we had a petty argument that led him to break up with me. He said he wants to be with someone who lives in his area, because the long-distance thing wasn’t healthy for him. I pushed him for the truth, because I felt there was something more, and he confessed that he hasn’t been faithful — when he came back from Thailand, he started hooking up with other girls again. He said that while he’s getting the emotional closeness and love from me, he’s getting the physical stuff from these women. He loves me, but he feels like he can’t be faithful.  

He said he wants to settle down because he’s almost 32, and I told him that’s what I want too. I begged for a bit and told him I’d accept him because I can’t let him go, but still he wants to break up. He said he wants to still be friends, but I told him I can’t be his friend because I want something more.

I’m confused by the reasons he gave me. I feel like if he really loved me, distance wouldn’t be an issue. And if he wants to settle down, why can’t he settle down with me?  

If he messages me and asks for a second chance, I would definitely say yes, even though I know he’s caused me a lot of pain. I don’t know what to do.
–MCC; Manila, Phillipines

It sounds like you do know what to do: Let this guy go.

The problem is you’re just not ready to accept that that’s what needs to be done.

Which is understandable, considering how long the two of you were together, and how close you became. On top of that, he was your first boyfriend and your first love.

Letting go of anyone is tough, and it doesn’t get easier with experience. But it’s especially brutal when you do it for the first time. Not only do you struggle to comprehend the breakup-related emotions, there’s a feeling that, in the broader sense, you’ll never find someone with whom you will connect again. Because at this point, you never have.

But chances are you will. Or you’ll have the chance to, at least. Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to meet people, which makes it that much easier to meet the right person. This is the best time in history to be single.

Look no further than your own situation. You fell in love with someone on the other side of the planet from your desk chair. Who knows…the person you’re destined to be with could be waiting in your next chat session, or he could be next door. You just have to stay open to the possibility.

I know that’s meaningless at the moment, though. I know it’s hard to understand why you and your ex couldn’t make it work. You love each other, and that should be all that matters.

But this notion that love conquers all has duped us for too long. It’s been brought to life over and over, playing out in movie theaters and TV screens and trashy novels in checkout lanes. Yet it’s no different from the “O.J. was framed” defense — it’s just not true.

I say that not to be cynical, but practical. There are so many variables that go into a healthy, successful relationship, and the love that two people feel for each other is only one of them.

Take the variable of distance, for example. Long-distance relationships are difficult. And their degree of difficulty gets multiplied when you start factoring in how long you’ve been together, how long you go between visits and how long you’ve been apart.

You and your boyfriend were facing especially steep odds, not only because you saw each other so little, but because of the sheer distance between you. When the physical separation is so massive, it can lead to emotional separation, as well. Until eventually, there’s a metaphorical (and in your case, actual) ocean (or two) between you. That the two of you lasted as long as you did is an achievement in and of itself.

But more importantly, relationships are built on things like trust, respect, common values and shared life visions — all of which have to align. In many situations, those factors correlate to love; in others they don’t.

And let’s face it, your boyfriend wasn’t holding up his end with most of these. His infidelity disrespected you and gave you no reason to trust him. Is that the kind of relationship you want to be in?

It sounds like that behavior is indicative of a deeper issue he’s dealing with, possibly depression or sex addiction or something of the like. And while you can support him through these problems, they are not your problems to solve.

Your problem is figuring out how to move on, how to move forward. Give yourself time to heal, to be sure, but also allow yourself to think about the future — your future. What do you want that to look like? What will bring you happiness?

Given how long you were together, I know there’s a desire to dig in, to hold onto what you had, if for no other reason than to not view those four years as a waste.

But “Well, I’ve come this far…” is no reason to continue pursuing a relationship. The fact is that those four years weren’t a waste, because they allowed you to learn, and connect, and be vulnerable, and countless other things that come from being in a serious relationship.

And if nothing else, they showed you that you can fall in love — which means you can fall in love again.

What do you think? What advice would you give this reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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