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Gina Florio
May 03, 2017 3:21 pm

We’ve all had our own rich history of dating. Maybe you keep in touch with your exes. Maybe you swore them all off. Whatever the case may be, and whatever your current relationship status is, you might have a “What if?” person in the back of your mind. What do we mean by that? Let’s dig into that for a second.

A “What if?” person is someone you’ve always thought about being with. If the timing was right and the circumstances were difficult, you and this person would probably be together happily ever after. But life gets in the way. Your “What if?” person might be an ex that narrowly slipped through your fingers. It could be a crush you were too shy to approach. It can even be a good friend with whom you’ve always had something special, but it was left unspoken.

Some people spend quite a bit of time fantasizing about their “What if?” person, while others only think about this individual from time to time. We can’t help but wonder whether this is a healthy habit people have, or if it falls into the destructive category. That’s why we spoke with Wendy Strgar, relationship expert, founder of Good Clean Love and author of forthcoming book SEX THAT WORKS: An Intimate Guide to Awakening Your Erotic Life. She gives us her professional opinion on the subject.

Why do people have a “What if?” person in their mind?

If this sounds like a familiar scenario to you, you’re definitely not alone. Strgar believes the “What if?” person appears in our lives because we have trouble facing the decisions of our past.

"Although we hang onto the idea of that person, really it is an inability to let go and forgive yourself for what you couldn’t accept in your past," Strgar tells HG.

Maybe you weren’t so sure about what you wanted back then, so you beat yourself up for not making certain decisions with that person all those years ago. Strgar reminds us that the “What if?” scenario doesn’t just happen in relationships. You might apply that same thinking to job opportunities, travel adventures, education, etc.

Is it ok to have a “What if?” person in your life?

Ah, here’s the million-dollar question, and Strgar has a few important things to say, so listen up.

"I believe the 'what if' scenarios that we spin in life are the way that we often keep one foot out the door in our lives," Strgar tells HG.

Although it may be fun to daydream about what could have been, Strgar says this is a “popular mechanism to not truly be present to the life that you are in and the person you are with.” Rather than wasting your time fantasizing about somebody you wish you could be with, Strgar recommends putting your attention into the people who are around you each and every day. 

“I think that ruminating on what could have been is a terrible waste of time and energy,” she says. 

What should we do if we can’t shake the “What if?” person in our lives?

It depends on your relationship status. If you’re single and not tied to anyone, and your “What if?” person seems to also be available, Strgar recommends speaking up. Be honest with them about your feelings, but also be prepared for the possibility that they won’t meet you in the same place. It’s definitely a risk, but it’s one worth taking, just so you don’t have to wonder what would have been.

However, if you’re in a relationship and your “What if?” person is not your partner, then we’ve got a problem. Strgar says this is “the most damaging place of all,” and holding onto this individual will destroy your current relationship. And that’s simply not fair to your partner.

"Cultivating a fantasy life about a choice that was never made prevents you from living the choices right in front of you," Strgar says.

Even if you were to chase after this “What if?” person, Strgar reminds us that the collateral damage that would ensue from such a destructive choice probably wouldn’t be worth it.

“I say wake up to who and what that is in front of you, and learn how to live fully inside that life,” Strgar advises. Sounds like pretty sound advice to us. As fun as it is to dream, it’s best to embrace exactly what you’ve got in front of you—and not throw it all away on a passing fantasy. 

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