A woman I know has been trying to decide what she should do about her marriage. She has a love of family and a commitment to the long history she shares with her spouse, but she has a pervasive sense that the relationship has become toxic and destructive. Her ambivalent feelings, tidal in nature, push and pull her this way and that, until overcome with fear of financial uncertainty and gripped by an emotional undercurrent, she kicks herself free and thrashes, breathless, back to the shore of status quo.
This has been going on for almost 10 years.
People get stuck in the inertia that they call “decision making.” We erroneously think of this as an activity but nothing is actually happening except a lot of contemplation and self-flagellation. People get stuck in “Should I stay or should I go?” which often stymies and disables forward movement – primarily because the prospect of leaving triggers overwhelming fear of the unknown. Fear often acts as an impediment to rational thought and the clarity required to move forward.
Relationship expert and PhD, Barbara D’Angelis, says in her book, Are You the One for Me?, “Ambivalence is a negative.” That is, indecision, in and of itself, should not be regarded as half positive, half negative or neutral – it counts as a negative. We can get stuck in analyzing the quality of our ambivalence and negative column and move on.
Identify what you are afraid of and what support you need to care for that fearful part. This need must be addressed first. Once you are in a more balanced place, you can better address the choices around the relationship.
The following are some questions for self-inquiry that may be helpful:
- What are my goals and expectations of the marriage?
- Does this relationship bring out the best in me?
- What are my needs and expectations of my partner?
- Does she/he support my goals and dreams? Is my well being among his/her priorities?
- What do I need to be happy in this relationship, and is my partner willing and able to provide that?
- What does my partner need to be happy in this relationship and am I willing and able to provide that?
- What would need to change for the relationship to be repaired and restored?
- If it were repaired, could I move forward with this relationship, being content, and feeling good about myself and the other person?
Please share what helped you reach resolution when you had a difficult decision to make.