How do I know if he or she is right for me?
Dating involves lots of decision-making. From choosing whom to message online, to wondering whether to go on date two or three, to choosing whether to commit to a long-term relationship or get married, there are so many choices to make. So how do we know when to say ‘Yes’ and when to walk away?
Firstly, a confession. Decisions aren’t my strong point. In fact, you could say they’re my weakest link. I struggle to trust myself or to know what’s right for me. And once I’ve made a choice – generally after a good deal of procrastination and analysis-paralysis – I battle with self-doubt and regret.
It’s something that’s plagued me for years, ever since my childhood.
I’ve spent hours wondering whether to buy the black boots or the brown ones, sometimes ending up with both. I’ve spent weeks trying to figure out where I should go on holiday, what time I should fly and from which airport.
So you can imagine how hard I found it to choose someone to date, let alone to marry.
When I first met my fiancé, I was drawn to him. He had broad shoulders, an aura of stability and peace and a kind face. We dated but then I broke it off. I didn’t think we were right for each other. I thought I was meant to be with someone else.
A while later, we gave dating another shot. Again, I was unsure. What about that man I’d met online a while back? And more importantly, what about all those perfect men I was yet to meet (by which I mean the ones that don’t actually exist!).
For me, choosing was fraught with danger. What if I changed my mind? What if there was someone better out there?
I began to assume that the relationship must be wrong for me if I was so uncertain. Surely I should just know that it was right, like they do in the Hollywood romcoms.
But then I realised, I’d never felt certain about anything, so how could I possibly expect to feel sure about such a life-changing choice? If I was torn between the brown boots and the black and wanted the black after buying the brown, of course I was going to find this process of choosing whom to commit to excruciating.
So how come I’m sure I’ll be marrying the right man this June?
Well, to get to this place, I had to go on a journey. I had to get to know myself. I had to understand why I found decisions so difficult.
I looked back into my childhood. I understood that I had lacked what psychotherapists call a secure base. I had emerged into adulthood with a poor sense of self and a deep lack of trust in myself, in the world, and even in God.
In order to be able to walk through my fears and make big decisions, I needed to rebuild my connection with myself, re-parent myself, and build a relationship with God that made sense to me. I needed to spend time with myself, in stillness, meditation and contemplation. I needed to journal in order to get my feelings out. I needed to connect with my intuition in an intentional way, in order to find my truth. I needed to find my courage (which I often find at the beach, under big skies) in order to trust that I’d be OK even if my choices weren’t the right ones for me. And I had to accept that there was no perfect choice.
I also had to explore my attitude to relationships. I was scared of committing because my experience of my parents’ marriage had been a negative one. Arguments. Divorce. Depression. Financial difficulties. Why would I want to do that?
I had to work on those negative beliefs about relationships and form new ones. I had to look for evidence of successful marriages and happy partnerships.
And then, I had to tune in to my feelings. How did I feel when I was with this man who said he wanted to be with me? I tried to turn the volume down on my thinking (because my thinking always puts obstacles in my path) and turn up the volume on my feeling. And it felt good. It felt right. I felt like I’d come home.
After that, it was a question of mustering all my courage and choosing to put two feet into the relationship (rather than one foot in and one foot out, which had been a pattern in the past).
I’m delighted that I did.
Are you struggling to choose? Are you plagued with self-doubt? Are you waiting to just know that he or she is right for you? Are you waiting to be hit by a thunderbolt or to experience love at first sight?
That wasn’t my journey and it might not be yours. Like me, you may have lacked a secure base. Like me, you may struggle to trust yourself. If so, can I encourage you to go on the journey that I went on? Connect to yourself and your intuition; journal, pray and meditate; explore your past and the reasons why you might find decisions or relationships difficult, and spend time connecting to your courage.
There is no perfect choice but there are good choices, and we make them by knowing ourselves and by tuning in to our inner voice and to God.