BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

The Good and Bad of Being Realistic

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*****

I’m 43 and a divorced mother of three. Eighteen months ago, I dated a man with whom I fell in love, even though we were only together about six weeks. He was going through a divorce and wanted to focus on that.  

We have kept in touch since our breakup, and we have met in person on occasion (nothing happens physically). Late last year, he started dating other women. I was heartbroken, though I started to see others as well.  

Still, I am in love with him. I have brought this to his attention multiple times, and his response is always vague. Most recently, he said, “You have a boyfriend. He seems nice, you should give him a chance.” 

But for whatever reason, I can’t move on, even though I know it’s not fair to my current boyfriend, who I continually compare to my ex. I’m totally stuck. Advice???
–Stuck in Love; Buffalo, NY

I champion playing like a champion.

Whether it’s your career, lifetime goal or dedication to rule No. 76 of wedding crashing, I believe in doing everything possible to turn your dream into reality.

Even when the odds are stacked, and everyone else is telling you to move on, I still say you should give until you’re sure there’s nothing left to give.

It’s the only way to live without regret.

You fell for this guy, this special person who melts your heart, who you feel could turn your situation right-side up. You’re in love, and you don’t want to let go.

I get it.

So I want to tell you to hang in there. I really do.

I want to tell you to not give up, to keep ignoring the naysayers and keep holding out hope that the two of you will find your way back to each other.

But I can’t. At least, I can’t without a caveat.

*****

There are certain words in the English language I can’t stand.

“Discharge.” “Placenta.” “Urethra.”

There’s a trend here — if it’s related to pregnancy or the human anatomy, it’s likely to incite my gag reflex.

Surprisingly, I’m (mostly) OK with “moist,” a word most people hate, because my brain associates it more with cakes and brownies than something less appetizing.

But few words rattle my psyche like the word “realistic.”

It makes my skin crawl, because it stands for everything I don’t.

It stands for dismissing your dreams, for accepting your limitations, for settling for the life you have instead of the life you want.

Champions are not realistic.

Or are they?

After all, Michael Jordan recognized he couldn’t rely on his athleticism forever, so he built a championship-winning post-up game to close out his career.

Tiger Woods hit his driver off-line, so he developed a go-to tee shot that helped him win 14 major tournaments.

Both Jordan and Woods were pragmatic in identifying what was holding them back, which allowed them to turn their weaknesses into strengths — which allowed them to (arguably) become the greatest players of all time in their respective sports.

The more I look at it like that, the more I realize “realistic” has a positive side to it.

When you’re realistic, you’re honest with yourself about where you are, what you’re facing and what you need to do to move forward.

As Dr. Drew Pinsky would say, you’re dealing with reality on reality’s terms.

It’s that positive side of the word I’m going to focus on here in hopes of helping you.

Realistically, the first thing you should think about doing is making one final play for your ex, because it’s clear you’re not ready to let go. And as long as you have one foot in the past, it’s impossible to be present in the present.

You want to be with him, so you should tell him. Stop floating overtures and push all your chips into the middle. The time for ambiguity and holding back is over.

Who knows? It’s possible he’ll drop everything and jump into your arms. It could happen. But there’s only one way to find out.

That said, realistically, we already know his answer.

For a second, let’s set emotions — and all their associated irrationalities — aside and focus only on facts.

What do we know to be true?

• We know he ended your relationship so he could concentrate on the end of another.

• We know when he was ready to start dating, he did not come back to you. Instead, he started dating other women.

• We know when you’ve professed feelings for him, he’s largely avoided the subject.

• We know that when he has addressed the subject, he’s recommended you date somebody else.

This is the part I hate about being realistic. I felt like a jerk typing out those bullet points.

But as harsh as they seem, they also are true.

If we were going to put one checkmark in the pro column, it’d be that he hasn’t cut off communication with you.

But by and large, his actions speak louder than his words. His actions show where he stands on the idea of a future with you.

And at some point, after possibly throwing one more Hail Mary, you have to be willing to accept that — even though it’s not what you want to hear.

That’s easier said than done, of course. I know this from personal experience. I’ve been in your situation before. I’ve held out hope that the object of my affection would magically change her mind, despite all signs to the contrary. Anyone who’s had their heart broken has.

But everything you’re experiencing is natural. It’s natural to not want to give up. It’s natural to compare other guys to your ex, and it’s natural to believe that things could never be as good without him.

It’s also natural to feel stuck.

And really, aside from getting your emotions out, be it in a journal or with a confidant, the only cure for that is time.

How you spend that time is up to you. Maybe you hang out with friends, or go on a trip, or hang out on the couch with no pants on and a face full of Doritos.

Whatever you do, give yourself a break — and give yourself a chance to work through everything.

Because once you do, even though it feels impossible at the moment, when the time is right, one morning you’ll open your eyes, and you’ll be able to move again.

*****

This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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