THE ROMANTIC: He has to be tall, dark, handsome, rich, emotionally available, wants marriage and kids sooner than later, and he has to be super funny, get along with my family, support all of my career endeavors, and we need to want to tear each other’s clothes off 24/7. Oh. And we will not be meeting on a dating app. I’m thinking on a plane or at a wedding…
THE REALIST: He’s a good person. We share the same values. He works hard. Wants the same things I want. We have a solid friendship. He’d make a good dad. He’s not the type I’d have to worry about going astray. I don’t really need fireworks—fireworks aren’t sustainable for a lifetime anyway, so this is good enough for me.
Editor’s note: Although this article uses male pronouns, the advice applies to all sexual orientations and gender identities.
The lack of realism in the romantic and lack of romance in the realist make this heartbreak coach’s heart BREAK.
The realists are missing out on passion and excitement, and the romantics are missing out on so many great catches right before their eyes.
I coach my clients on being the creators of their love lives.
Not to believe that what’s in front of them is the best option (the realist) or to think that the only way they’ll be happy is if their knight in shining armor checks off all 50 boxes on their list of traits they “need” in a partner (the romantic).
Instead, I encourage everyone looking for love to become a romantic realist!
Here’s the deal:
Life can be hard. Sharing it with one person, forever, can be harder. This is the realist in me talking.
But the romantic in me believes that if you want to have a relationship with passion, fun, commitment, and stimulation, this is also totally possible … amidst the hardships that life throws at you, of course. (I’m looking at you, 2020.)
So how do you strike the balance and step into the shoes of a romantic realist?
The romantics need to get real with what qualities really matter in their ideal partner, without believing they have to settle if they change a few of their over-the-top standards that ultimately aren’t working for them.
And the realists need to dream bigger with the understanding that settling is not only boring for a lifetime, but doesn’t have to be their only option.
As a recovering romantic to the extreme, one of the qualities I was attached to my ideal person having was he had to be super attractive to me, right off the bat.
I couldn’t fathom the possibility of the chemistry building—it was either there or it wasn’t.
Yet, I found myself writing off really good available men, and clinging to really lame good-looking men.
I finally recognized that the change had to come from me, and stayed open to men who I’d find mildly attractive (roll with me on the superficiality of this example—I believe we all deserve to be attracted to our partners) but didn’t necessarily want to jump their bones right away.
This was one of the most profound growth lessons for this black-and-white thinker on my search-for-love journey.
I ended up totally being into a guy who was just shy of my height (former major deal-breaker) and another guy who was so nerdy, my old self would have immediately said HARD NO, but there was something that intrigued me, so I stayed curious, got to know him, and the physical connection ended up really pleasantly surprising me.
Neither ended up being my guy, but I proved to myself and the universe that I was willing to bend, explore, and grow on my search for love, which, ironically, led me to the love of my life, who was so dreamy upon meeting him, this Chatty Cathy lost her words.
But what I wasn’t prepared for were the four kids he told me he had, on our first date.
And later learned he was done having more.
I felt sucker-punched. And torn.
On the one hand, I had this perfect man right in front of me on all the levels—physical, emotional, and spiritual—telling me that he’s into me, but won’t share a huge part of the life I had planned.
And on the other, I was thinking of so many moms who’ve told me that the love you feel for your child is something that cannot be explained until you experience it yourself.
But ultimately, it didn’t take long at all to decide that the love I receive from Larry is a love that my decent writing skills still find trouble describing—the kind of love most realists would say either couldn’t be real, or couldn’t sustain itself at this kind of heightened level, for a lifetime.
PLEASE NOTE: I’m not saying it’s unrealistic for a romantic to want children. I know that many women in my position would have walked away, because they know they were put on this earth to be a birth mother.
I’m merely offering this personal anecdote to those romantics who are so attached to the outcome of their ideal partnership needing to look and be a certain way, there might be a situation that doesn’t seem ideal at first, but could end up looking and feeling more perfect than what you initially imagined it to be.
I now feel more in love with my partner because of the amazing dad he is, and feel even more honored that he wants me to be a part of their lives, while the realist in me knows there will inevitably be challenges ahead.
It’s not what this natural-born romantic would have dreamed of.
I was supposed to be a famous actress, married to some show-biz guy who “got” me, have three of my own babies, and live in NYC or LA.
Now I’m a heartbreak coach, madly in love with a man with four kids, living in Santa Barbara, and I honestly couldn’t have written my story better myself.
You’re worthy of over-the-top romance.
You’re worthy of having it all … it just might not look like what you thought it would be.
Don’t settle for less if you’re a realist, and don’t immediately bounce if you’re a romantic.
The more you’re willing to dig into the uncomfortable growth work, based on your type, the more astounding your love story will turn out to be.