Ask A Dude: Should I Break Up Over a "What If"?

Dear Dude,
Let me start my story a year and a bit ago. I was away for a summer, and I hooked up with a guy the last night of my trip. We were drunk, and I didn’t think much of it then, because, well, we were drunk. The thing is, the whole time I was on the trip, I had a huge crush on him. Because he was super cool. Like SUPER cool. Like, if I could design a perfect boyfriend, it would be him.
Anyway, I went home, normal life resumed, that was the end of that. He lives on the other side of the country, so it’s not like I was worried about running into him or anything. I tried to contact him once out of curiosity to see how he was doing (after all I stayed in contact with everyone else from the trip), but he never replied. Clearly, he was happy with it being an overseas-one-night-stand.
Fast forward to a little over six months ago, and I met a guy (Let’s call him R) who is really sweet and cute and funny, and we started dating. We’re exclusive, but it’s not exactly the most serious relationship, partly because I won’t let it be. I mean, he’s a great guy, and I really like him. BUT. In my head, this stupid little part of me keeps going “He’s not perfect for you. He’s not overseas guy!”
Now, I’m not madly in love with overseas guy or anything (no crazy fb stalking, promise!). I just have traces of lingering feelings, and every once in a while I get caught in a moment of wistful ‘what if’. That’s all; nothing more, nothing less.
Even so, the reason I’m iffy about R isn’t because R is a sub-par boyfriend. It’s because I’ve found myself thinking (not very often, but it has dawned on me once or twice), R isn’t overseas guy. WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY BRAIN, DUDE. I haven’t seen/heard from overseas guy in a year, and I’m using him as a yardstick for all future relationships! And lets set something straight: Overseas guy was not my first. Hell, he wasn’t even my first one-night stand! And I have NEVER had a problem with casual hook ups before. Usually, I’m a fan of them. So it’s ridiculous for me to be thinking about a guy a year after a drunken night AT ALL, right?
(Oh right, the question… I’m getting there, promise)
My question is this. I kind of feel like a horrible person for being in this relationship with poor R, when I’m still thinking about overseas guy. I know that if the circumstances presented themselves, and all things were equal (i.e., if both of them were strangers in a bar) I’d definitely choose overseas guy over R. Am I leading R on for nothing? Should I break up with him because I’m still not completely over someone else?
I like R, I really do. But I feel badly about comparing him to someone else.
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dear Minister of Foreign Affairs,
“What ifs” are the deadliest and one of the most common affliction to present relationships. EVERYONE, and I mean everyone, has “what if” feelings about at least one phantom from their pasts. It’s just the way human beings work. We think about “what ifs” in regards to correcting mistakes we made, or erasing regrets and even as just nagging bits of neuroses reminding us of the issues we’ll never get rid of no matter how much therapy we pay for! Breather. Hold on. Yes, good…and then there are the “what ifs” that keep us hopeful. The question we need to identify is: what type is yours?
Clearly, overseas guy left a humungous impression on your psyche. Whether you like it or not, and there’s no point or reason to judge this, you’re using overseas guy as a measuring stick for all future relationships. And hey, don’t we all use the best and worst experiences as measuring sticks?
Comparison is a circumstance of living that we all live in. Whether its boys or shoes or Doctor Who episodes, everybody does it and is going to do it. So save yourself a trip to Guiltville for acting like a human being.
Should you break up with someone because he doesn’t match up? Depends. If you feel like you’re leading R on then, yeah, you should probably end things. Because you probably are. Damn if you’re not about to start going down a slippery slope, though!
See, you’re about to set a possibly dangerous precedent. You can’t save yourself for an idea of a man. You also can’t let the idea of a man become a crutch that you use to justify closing yourself off to every guy you go out with. You can compare overseas guy to everyone else, but you can’t let this memory dictate your entire dating life.
This particular instance it seems like you’re kind of indifferent to the relationship you’re in. You don’t not like R but you’re not exactly wowed by him either. Overseas guy is a convenient way of getting yourself out of this spot. And that might be okay as a one time deal but, again, be careful!
What happens overseas stays overseas. Keep the memory but don’t let it become baggage. We can have all the “what ifs” we want but we can’t let them poison the “what’s happening.”
Good day, Minister.
The Duke of Dudedom

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