Leaving Space in Your Relationship for Hesitation and Confusion
The scariest punctuation in a relationship is the question mark.
We are so deathly afraid of it. Whether we’re the one questioning the relationship or the one who has to deal with a confused partner, the situation is a ticking time bomb. When a question mark shows up in our relationship, we sit in limbo, suspended in anticipation of where things are going. But if, instead of fearing it and trying not to notice it, we give space in our relationship for the question mark to exist, it has the potential to deepen our intimacy and anchor our relationship on solid ground.
It’s true many cafés and park benches have witnessed the aftermath of the cliché, “I love you but I don’t know if I’m in love with you.” They are famous last words after all but they don’t have to be. Of course, if you or the person who is saying them has already decided it’s over, there’s really nowhere to go from there. But if you’ve experienced some version of this cliché and either you or the person speaking those words was simply expressing his/her genuine confusion then it’s not as scary as both of you may think.
The question mark is your friend – even in a relationship. It’s an invitation to pause and get curious about what’s really going on. In order to give it space though, you’ll need to call out the question mark’s sneaky compadre… FEAR.
Fear will give all kinds of meaning to the question marks in your relationship.
If you are the one who is feeling confused and wondering whether or not you are in love, fear will make you wonder if the person you’re committed to is really meant for you after all. It will have you wondering if you’re losing out on something with more er…something sexier maybe or something a little brighter or perhaps someone a little deeper. Whatever you think you’re missing, once the question mark pops up, you’ll think the problem lies with your partner. If you keep company with the question mark long enough, you’ll eventually pull out the old microscope and examine every reason to stay and weigh it against every reason to leave. This can go on for years. The funny thing is, if you are the one trying to decide whether or not your partner is for you, you will have most likely put the wrong specimen under the microscope. It’s not your partner you should be scrutinizing, it’s you.
The answer to your unhappiness lies within you.
Change the direction of your looking and use your relationship as an opportunity to point inward and contemplate the real root of the problem. Not all relationships are destined to last but the day you refuse to blame someone else for your unhappiness is the day the potential for a life-long commitment takes root.
If, however, the shoe is on the other foot and you are the one who has to hear the heart wrenching words, “I’m not sure about us”, watch out because fear is going to come at you lightning fast. Fear is going to throw shit at you like rejection and the past and every memory of heartbreak. You’ll need to know what to do with those memories and all your old stories so you don’t either spring into angry warrior mode or shut down and collapse into turtle pose. Your first instinct may be to run or fight before it gets any worse but hopefully you can take a moment to breathe and remember it’s a much different thing for your partner to admit they are confused than it is for them to declare it’s over. If they don’t want to end things but are sincerely opening up to you because they have been struggling, pay attention to that difference.
It’s not easy to be honest.
If they were brave enough to voice it then you owe it to the relationship to be brave enough to hear it.
Take another breath and remember this isn’t about you. You’re not the problem. Your partner is struggling with his/her own demons and the best thing you can do is encourage him/her to figure it out. Then step away and lick your wounds. Remind yourself that you are an incredible person and you are worth loving… just as you are. Your mistakes, flaws and annoying habits are part of the magnificent package that is bundled in the mystery that is you. No one is perfect and don’t let your partner get away with blaming you for his/her unhappiness. You can be guaranteed that you are not at the root of someone else’s misery and if they are dead set on painting you as the problem, it’s really not the healthiest match for you anyways.
Question marks in relationships are never easy to deal with but they are manageable when you have the right tools.
If you don’t feel like you know how to navigate the muddy waters, you’re not alone. It’s naturally so much easier to solve other people’s problems than it is to solve our own but there’s beauty in that. It forces us to reach out and connect.
If the task of handling the question marks in your relationship seems daunting…
Instead of struggling through it on your own, consider asking for help. Whether you seek professional help or go it alone, remember this is an opportunity to create the relationship of your dreams because every problem carries the seed of a happily-ever-after. And if you are married with children, you family deserves that you at least try to become friends with the question marks in your relationship.
If seeking help to get through the question marks in your relationship sounds like a great plan, you may want to check out my 12 week program. I’ve worked with couples or with just one of the individuals in the relationship. It depends on your unique needs.
If you have any questions or would like more specific information, contact me!