I’ve got a new guy in my life and I can’t stop thinking about him.
Ever since we met I’ve felt a storm of emotions inside that have overwhelmed me.
At first, I was sure it was love, but now I’m starting to second guess myself. I’ve had false starts in romance before where I thought I’d found love but it was just me tricking myself.
That’s why the new guy has me asking myself…
‘Do I like him or the idea of him?’
I want to know.
What I’m talking about is our tendency as human beings to build somebody up into an idealized person who doesn’t actually exist.
I’m talking about the pattern of getting so high off the dream that the reality ends up smelling like a pile of manure.
I want to know if what I have with Ryan (his name) is real, or whether it’s me watching too many Hallmark movies and fitting him into a category deep in my subconscious.
I want to know, because I want real love, not a cookie-cutter version of love cooked up in a corporate boardroom.
Five things I love about my idea of him
1) He’s a successful and confident man
Ryan is a lawyer. He works in corporate law and he’s built up a fairly successful private practice over the past five years.
I admire it.
In my mind, he’s like a young Tom Cruise in that movie The Firm.
He’s uncovering corporate corruption and standing up to injustice. He’s a brave truth-teller who happens to be making a lot of money while also doing some real good for our world.
Sometimes I get turned on just thinking about it.
Ryan really knows how to dress, and when he leaves for the morning in his Audi with his silver tie I sometimes feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
This guy is kicking ass and taking names. I feel lucky to be along for the ride.
My idea of him as this successful and confident lawyer has gotten me through many rocky periods in our relationship when I otherwise might have headed for the hills.
He’s just so much more impressive and directed than your average man.
I can’t help but admire it and be in love with it. But it is mostly just an image, not a reality.
There are a couple things that give me pause here though. For one, why is material success the defining factor of success?
Like Mo Waja says, seeing life as a competition “creates a materialistic perspective of the world, where our gains can be measured in zeros and objects.
“Moreover, it creates a world where the very idea of happiness or success can only be determined by one’s material wealth.”
2) He’s got a great family that supports him
Ryan comes from that classic all-American type family.
They’re rich (as far as I know). I mean, they have a summer house in Cape Cod for God’s sake.
They dress like they’re from some 1950s catalog and they have that kind of patrician accent that sounds vaguely British but is still American.
I fell in love with his family when I first met them. I liked the style and the classiness of the whole affair.
Ryan is less enthusiastic about his folks and his background, but I took it in stride, since I figure all of us usually don’t like our own roots as much as others do when they look at them.
The grass is always greener, and all that…
The idealized idea of Ryan’s family is really part of what sold me on him.
Seeing him around his picture-perfect parents and siblings is part of where I saw the kind of great upbringing he had.
I just imagined the lasagna dinners and games of Yahtzee and the family had me head over heels – not just for Ryan, but for all of them.
My own background as a child of divorce is far messier.
I fell in love with the idea of a stable traditional family that was idealized in Ryan’s folks.
3) He doesn’t get hung up on his emotions
Ryan is one of those old-school stoic types. He doesn’t get hung up on his emotions.
He takes it in stride, takes it like a man, and all that…
Call me old-fashioned, but I like this.
I find it refreshing in a world of sensitive squirmy guys that I am with a guy who’s more of a John Wayne type.
Being stoic isn’t just about repressing emotions or the kind of stuff you’ll hear in buzzy listicle blogs.
It’s more of an ancient philosophy than that and is more about accepting what we can’t control and learning to maximize our power and influence with what we can control.
It’s the opposite of being apathetic or not expressing emotions.
It’s about not overreacting to emotions or situations when doing so won’t accomplish anything.
It’s more about how “when one is utterly powerless, then, and only then, acceptance becomes a wise option.”
I’ve always found Ryan’s stoicism so inspiring and invigorating for me.
As a more flighty and anxious person, it’s grounding and stabilizing for me!
Nothing can shake this guy. Even last year when he thought he might have cancer the guy was like an unshakeable tree.
How can I not love a guy like that?
4) He looks like an Abercrombie & Fitch model
Ryan is hot as hell.
He looks like a cross between Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds, but even hotter.
I know, pics or it never happened, right?
Really, though, the pics are private between him and I, especially the special pics.
But seriously, this guy lit my world on fire from the first moment he walked through the door of where I work at the bank.
I practically wanted to commit or expose corporate fraud of some kind just to get him on my case and be able to start trading emails with him.
I’d slip in a little joke one of those emails and then he’d write back, un-CCing all the other firm partners, and then we would be off to the races…
Our love would grow as the case wound down and we’d be in the Bahamas on a honeymoon by the time any of the stuffed suits around him even realized what had happened.
Conflict of interest never entered my mind, even though he did bank with my bank…
All that entered my mind were thoughts of him in the shower, running on the beach in a bulging speedo, stretching luxuriously after our night at an exclusive tropical resort…
This guy was an entire life of fantasies wrapped into one man.
He was a thousand romance novel heroes crunched down into one perfect set of abs and chiseled jaw.
I fell in love with this hunk by the time he even said “hi there.”
Like Karley Sciortino says, “it’s a widely documented psychological phenomenon that good-looking people are perceived by others as being better people overall—as being nicer, more intelligent, better at their jobs, and yes, better to date.”
5) He proves that I’m winning at life
Another thing I love about my idea of Ryan is embarrassing to admit.
But I’ll just go ahead and drop this hot potato.
I’m proud to be seen around town with this man. I blush inside knowing my friends see our posts on Instagram and feel a twinge of jealousy.
He makes me feel like I’ve made it.
I know I should be more mature, or considerate – or whatever – but this man truly gives me the confidence I felt I was lacking for so many years.
I know he’d be scooped off the market in a hot minute if he was ever single, and I just thank God he’s mine.
I have worried about cheating at times just because of how attractive a guy he is, but at the same time I know our bond is stronger than that.
Knowing I’ve got a guy who’s dedicated to me and would do almost anything for me is a huge mood boost.
It makes me feel powerful.
It puts some energy in my walk when I stride down the street.
My whole life before Ryan I felt like part of the scenery and like nobody would really notice me even if I shouted out loud.
But now I feel more important, even if I’m just filling up at the gas station or checking my phone in line at the grocery store.
I’m not just some girl. I’m Ryan’s girl. Cue soundtrack and daydream.
Reality checking my idea of him
1) Just how successful is he?
The truth is that Ryan is a successful lawyer with his firm. But how successful is he really?
He complains about work quite a bit, if I’m being honest…
He also partnered up with a young graduate from the local state college who is a compulsive nail-biter with a habit of making crucial typos on addresses.
Their office is in a depressing mid-town industrial zone next to the railroad tracks and a mini-mart.
Not exactly the stuff of legend.
Furthermore, the reality of what Ryan does is not about idealistic corporate truth-telling or any of that.
As far as I know, he mostly resolves disputes about trademarks and he mentioned a couple of cases that were actually defending chemical companies who basically pollute our rivers.
I try not to think about it, considering I’m an environmentalist.
The rosy light that makes me love Ryan even more is actually a pollution-dredged haze of waste.
He’s there standing up for Scrooge McDuck and glue factories while I sit at home imagining him as Tom Cruise?
What a crock!
2) His family is present, but deeply flawed
Ryan’s perfect family stops looking so rosy-cheeked and perfect once you get beyond the Christmas cards and introductions.
They do have a summer home in Cape Cod, but it’s actually more of a half-abandoned cottage on the edge of a landfill site. And it also seems to attract enough mosquitoes to give the entire world West Nile virus.
I don’t actually know if any of the mosquitoes have West Nile virus, but my point is that it’s far from a dream home.
Back to his family:
Ryan hates his dad. His mom is an alcoholic. His brother Pete threatened to blackmail Ryan at work once when he wouldn’t loan him money.
They have some weird toxic emotional pattern from childhood where Pete and his two other sisters compete for the parents’ attention and it’s basically an upside down Norman Rockwell painting.
The outer appearances are deceiving.
They’re not more stable than my broken family, they’re just physically together.
But from what Ryan keeps trying to tell me – and I keep trying to ignore – they’re actually bonded more by misery than by love.
It’s a pretty sad story if I’d just listen to the truth instead of my version of the golden halo I’ve put around his whole clan.
“Unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven,” says Jeanette Winterson.
May I be the first to say: yikes, man!
3) He’s far from emotionally stable
Ryan has a fairly stoic outer demeanor and he’s definitely been through tough times, including last year’s cancer scare.
I am proud of him for the way he handled himself there and countless other times.
But my idea of him as this tough and fearless man who doesn’t vent his problems is just not true.
He’s often snappy and short with me after work (and before work).
He vents his problems like crazy when work gets bad, and he often guilts me and manipulates me.
I downplay it consistently because it would wreck my idealized version of him.
My idea of him as this strong guy who doesn’t let life get out of hand makes me feel secure and good.
It stokes the fires of love I have for him and lets me think of him in this golden light that reassures and engulfs me.
But who he really is is far different.
He’s a man struggling like all the rest of us little humans.
He’s also often unable to give me the love and reassurance that I need deep inside.
4) He sometimes has bad breath and looks bad in the morning
Ryan is a good-looking guy, for sure, but he’s not the stud to end all studs.
That’s more of my idea of him – my movie star idealized poster on the wall that I stare at and think of in my head.
The real man is flawed.
Physically speaking, he has a nasty mole on his chin. He also sometimes has bad breath that could wake the dead.
No amount of mentos can seem to cure it.
It’s practically got me gagging sometimes, and I’ve told him about it many times, but there are definitely no morning kisses happening when that breath is going on, let me tell you.
The real truth about all this is that Ryan is someone I connect with and love, but he’s not this perfect specimen of masculinity that I imagine.
He’s a guy with back problems who had a cancer scare.
He probably should get laser surgery on that mole.
And he needs to dump a metric ton of breath freshener in his mouth before I’m ever even going near him again before noon.
5) I know that he’s insecure sometimes as well
My idealized high-octane feelings about Ryan aren’t fair to him or to me.
The idea that I’ve “got it made” now that I’m with him is immature and strange.
It’s not true.
He himself has plenty of issues, just like I do, and he opened up to me about feeling like he doesn’t fit in the legal world and his body weight issues as well.
I know that our relationship needs work and that I’m hiding from it in an idealized version in order to feel better.
Like many people, I’ve spent life chasing love to try to feel more secure in myself.
But I found that it’s my foundational relationship that needs work.
Like me, maybe you need to take a different approach to fixing your relationship.
Maybe you need to work on the most important one you’ll ever have, before you can fix the others:
The one you have with yourself.
I learnt about this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. In his excellent, free video on cultivating healthy relationships, Rudá reveals where most of us go wrong in our relationships.
So why should you listen to Rudá’s life-changing advice?
Well, he uses techniques derived from ancient shamanic teachings, but he puts his own modern-day twist on them. He may be a shaman, but he’s made the same mistakes in love that you and I have.
And now he’s found the solution, he wants to share it with you.
So if you’re done with feeling less than worthy, if you’re tired of toxic relationships, and you want to cultivate real, genuine love, check out his simple yet effective advice.
My idea of my boyfriend is hurting my relationship
Ryan knows that I idealize him. He found it cute at the start of our relationship.
Now he just finds it immature.
I’m coming around to his way of thinking on it.
I know why I do it and why I cling to this ideal, but it’s just not realistic.
Ever since I was very young I’ve been this way, though. I’ve built people up into these idealized versions of themselves in order to feel like they could save me or “fix” what was wrong with me.
But this desire to be “fixed” turned out to be the original sin as it were.
Because the desire to be fixed was the main thing that was broken.
Thinking Ryan has the missing secret sauce to fix my life has plunged us into codependency.
He says I’m not there for him.
I cling to my vision of him as a guy who never needs anyone and is stoic.
The result is a lot of miscommunication.
We’re going to rebuild…
We’re going to rebuild, and my relationship isn’t dead yet.
I’ve sank love in the past by over-idealizing someone and I don’t want to go there again.
There’s a good show about how extreme idealization and obsession can get called You. It’s about a man called Joe Goldberg (played masterfully by Penn Badgley) who idealizes women and falls in love with a false glorified version of them and then gets psychotic and violent when reality intrudes.
I’m not psychotic or violent (thank God), but I can still see that same tendency of me in my romantic history.
I take someone who’s just a human being and I pin all these expectations and ideals on them.
Then I get so sad and angry when they don’t fit or end up being inaccurate.
I can see now that my idealization and falling in love with a version of Ryan I built up is my own form of escapism and fantasy.
But it does real damage.
I believe that I do love the roots of who he is underneath, but there’s more to discover.
I can’t keep clinging to the fantasy version if I ever want to get to know the real him.
Real life is so much messier and less glorious. But it’s also so much better,
Because it’s real.
The dream lives on
Something important I’ve realized about myself and my way of experiencing life:
I’m a dreamer.
I’m an idealist.
I have work to do on my love life and my relationship with Ryan. I have reality checks that need to happen and that need to be faced.
At the same time, I don’t want to lose that part of myself that’s idealistic and romantic. I just want to introduce it to the cold hard light of day and let them get to know each other.
I want to be in love with the real Ryan, not the Ryan of my dreams.
The irony is that in order for the dream to truly live on, I need to wake up.
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