It’s Not Black and White: Making Hard Decisions

“If you don’t know where you are going,

you will wind up somewhere else.”

– Yogi Berra

No matter what decisions we face, each of us feel our own specific amounts of trepidation, misgiving and excitement.  Change is a big deal.  Change mobilizes us, deters us, frightens us and flat out knocks us on our butts. Change can be good, hard and bad. We have to know what we want and where we’re intending to land if we have any hope in getting there.  I promise that just because you board a train in Boston, you will not wind up in New York.  Not all roads go the way we’re dreaming of….can you live your life without fulfilling your dreams?

Personal note:

A reader wrote in about her long term extra marital affair with a now separated man last week – reader, I lost your email into that black hole knows as “why the hell is my email messed up?”  If you’d like an answer, write again and I will answer you.  I have your details in my head, and no, I won’t betray you here.

I must admit that there are a wealth of decision making articles on the web, and to be honest, there are some excellent writings on Psychology Today with advice on this topic. Click through and read all the blue highlighted articles that will help you with life’s tough choices.  This week was no exception in the THM world: people in pain and change write in. Making decisions – one decision – is really tough to do.  Holy Moses there is a lot riding on getting it right….or so it feels.

How do you make decisions that hurt?

How do you see past the pain of where you are to where you’re going?

How do you begin to enjoy life again amidst tough circumstance?

In most cases, change is not clear cut black and white. You’re not sure if you’re doing the right thing.  When you make a change that you’re not committed to, you’re actually just enacting drama on yourself.  Here are some basic indicators that change in looking on your relationship horizon.

  1. “I feel like something isn’t right.”  Long before change happens, we begin to detect that something is amiss. It’s up to you if you want to acknowledge it.
  2. “I’m violating my principals.”  I am not big on absolute right and wrong – other than those biggies of don’t kill, don’t steal, etc.  At the same time I was trained by the Army to do just that, so….moral truth is relative to the culture you’re in, and principals are unique to you.  What you inherently believe is right and wrong matters.  Please note that is not the word “should.”  If you feel something is right but you “should” not do it, there is the real source of conflict.  Here is a real world example of how what is important to us drives our decisions: This week I heard from a man who is a business owner in a nearby city – he calls himself “stuck.”  He’s in a miserable marriage. If he divorces his wife,  he loses half his company.  She, also miserable, indicates that she’ll require him to liquidate everything. The divorce isn’t his moral issue – destroying his company is.  He cites his many employees, the economy, his clients, his responsibilities.  He also recognizes that being in a different relationship isn’t as important to him as his success in business.  At least he’s honest…and not all that uncommon.
  3. “Something has to give.”  We begin to feel the pressure of necessary change when you know that you have to do something.  The other shoe is hanging and will drop – it’s just a question of when.  When my former flame and I began to go our separate ways, we were drawn back into our relationship like moths to flame.  Moths die in the flames, and yet they’re still mesmerized by the light.  It took a while to see it, but being in that kind of dysfunction is addicting.   I eventually pushed through the hardness of withdrawals and set my eyes on the future.  What had to give?  I had to be willing to give myself permission and a good swift kick in the posterior region to say “you’re not good for me.”
  4. “But you’re my best friend and soul mate.”  Make decisions based on your real life and needs, not on emotionally cloudy labels.  Do you have any idea how many times a week I hear that? The person saying it is normally defending an emotionally horrible relationship. People, if you were really best friends and soul mates, I would not be hearing from you.  I know several of those folks – and they fight, make love, trounce each other, play, and largely shop at Costco.  (That last one was me.  I love Costco.)  They have well established networks of support, spend healthy time away from one another and love actually living life together….and they do live life together.  If your “best friend and soul mate” is confused, departed, otherwise engaged to/married to/in love with someone else –  your BFF/SM position is officially open.  A soul mate is a higher form of love, one that encourages the best possible for you.   Soul mates make and live out tough moments in love.  They give – not take.  They willing receive, but will not allow you to deplete yourself.  They care for your well-being above all.  Soul mates are few and far between.  Take care to honor that person in your life when and if they do come along….and note that they will not always just stay in your life.  Sometimes, the most honorable thing that you can do is say “I am out of your life for good,” and remove your chips from the game.  Remember, the Butterfly Effect.
  5. “I can’t go on this way.”  Your faced with a life/love situation that cannot endure forever.  Maybe it’s been days or years that you’ve been in this pain.  This week, I have heard this from a married of 14 years, dating 7.5, dating 2, dating 5, married 1, married 23, extramarital affairs of 10+, 3 & 4 years plus a lady that has be the OL for ten months. Yes, we know that something has to give. I’d love to say that we really change as people – and we can.  Will those that we love?  Most people will not.  I am all for talk therapy, love counseling, and love psychology.  I am living proof that this stuff works.  Still, I have known people that sit in that therapists chair year after year with more of a professional rent-a-friend than a real therapeutic relationship.  They’ve seriously go a hold on the problem that has gotten a hold of them.  How do you know if your situation is going to honestly change.
  • The person in question (other man, woman, boyfriend, etc.) changes his methodology of his/her own free will.  Being left or kicked out doesn’t count as voluntary change.  The divorced lover actually explains his love for the other person to the disenfranchised girl/boyfriend/finance/spouse becasue he/she is telling the truth, not confronted.  They talk it though. He/she indicates that they’ve chosen to leave the relationship.  You’re not really the reason – you’re just the last reason.
  • You see growth in their personality and depth of character.  They lighten up/stop drinking/stop addicting, etc.  Please note, this can’t be an emotional decision based on you.  It has to be because of them, and them alone.  This is painful.  You’re part of the support system – PART of the support system that helps change it.  Avoid making huge life changes when a person is in growth phase.  Talking is important.
  • You are not relying on concepts like “fresh start” to change you or them.  Yes, change can be beneficial this way.  I removed myself from my former “world” and left it mostly behind.  No matter how far I go, though, I am still there.  Packing up and moving across country only works when you’re willing to work out your issues.  If you’re a porn addict in Maine, you’ll be a porn addict in California, too.  The change isn’t a place – it’s a mindset.
  • You are not helpless, do not conceive yourself as helpless and are empowered by the person – not controlled.  CHANGE BEGINS WITH YOU. Contact a real therapist and start the hard work of making yourself better by laying it all out there and seeking real solutions.
  • Remember – all things being equal, a situation in motion consistently moves in that motion even if the path will degrade – and it usually will.

Every time I have faced major change in my life, it began with one of the above emotions that indicated I was in the wrong place for me.  It’s ended long term careers, marriages, relationships, friendships ~ it also kept my marriage to Brian alive and intact, stronger than ever.  Start by being real about what you want and need in life. When you’re looking for change in your life, it’s time to get real honest and let the emotions set to the side.  If you’re in a deeply painful, conflict filled situation…it’s time to realize that this may be the way it just is.  The variables of our lives are a complex pattern of things that really make an impact on our psyche.

I often revert back to my business model when I am posed with a tough emotional decision. So how good are you at making decisions?  Take this test and get a general idea.

Taking yourself back from an emotional equation will also help you make a more rationale decision.  Read this article on decision making basics to feel stronger and more confident about how to proceed.

So can it change?  Yes.  Will it?  It will change when something about the humans involved changes, makes a decision and sticks with it.  If you are really ready to make a difference in your life and get out of pain, it’s time to start taking your own mental health and well being seriously.

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