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Fantasizing about what could have been

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  March 16, 2011 09:00 AM

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Chat day.


Q: Hi Meredith,

Three years ago I met a guy through an internship. Nothing really sparked until after the job was over. We started exchanging e-mails and texting a lot, all leading up to a romantic kiss when he came back to town for a few days for work. By then he was living and working out of state. I visited him a few times and he came to visit me. No solid relationship was ever established but he was the only one on my mind.

I was very emotionally invested. He was quiet, kept to himself, and never really shared his feelings. He finally revealed his feelings two years in and then a month later decided he needed "space" because the distance was just too much for him. Needless to say, I was heartbroken.

I regrouped and met a man who has been nothing but a prince to me. The problem is that this other guy popped back up through e-mail to say that while he understands that I am happy and in a stable relationship, he does wish he had done things differently and still cares about me. He doesn't want to be that thorn in my side and get in the way of my current relationship, but did say that if ever given a chance, he'd be completely different.

I don't plan on leaving my current relationship to take a chance on what could have been, but I can't lie and say that I haven't been thinking back to old times and wondering exactly how things would have turned out. I am in love with my boyfriend -- but how do I get the other guy out of my head?

– Needs to Stop Thinking About What Could Have Been, Waltham


A: It could be great with the internship guy, NTSTAWCHB. It might even be better with the internship guy than it is with your boyfriend. But you know what? It might also be amazing with about 1,000 guys you've never met. That's life. As we get older, we're forced to choose a path -- and that means missing out on an infinite number of others paths. Pretty paths. Exciting paths. We just have to cross our fingers and hope that we're getting something good from the path we're on.

It'd be one thing if you were telling us that you were on the fence about your current relationship, but you've made it clear: "I don't plan on leaving my current relationship to take a chance on what could have been."

So that's that. It's fine if you want to fantasize about the what-ifs, but remind yourself that if you picked the other guy, you'd be having the same fantasies about your current boyfriend.

Go watch "Sliding Doors" or "The Adjustment Bureau" or any of those "What would my alternate path look like?" movies and remember that you can only live one life. The fantasies are part of that life. They're totally normal. Try to balance them with memories of the years of uncertainty you had with the other guy and you should be fine.

Readers? Is she not as sold on her relationship as she says she is? Is it normal to keep thinking about an old flame? Why is this old flame messing with her head? Are these fantasies OK? Should she cut off communication with the other guy? Discuss.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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