We had been married for eight years when the struggles in our marriage became more and more apparent. I wanted a closer, more loving, and more affectionate relationship; my husband thought we were fine. I convinced myself that my husband – who was a really good man – had enough other good qualities that I should simply learn to live without connection and affection in my marriage.
The disconnect doesn’t magically vanish
The disconnection between us didn’t magically get better while left unattended over time; as a matter of fact, it got worse as my resentments grew. And during that time, I started to question my marriage. Could I make this work forever? Would it ever be any different? Is this enough?
Questioning the marriage
And as I questioned my marriage, I began to worry, What if I make the wrong decision?
That one question, What if I make the wrong decision? Is the very thing that kept me stuck in indecision for years, confused about whether to stay or go. The fear of regret kept me in indecision for another three years. Maybe this sounds familiar and you’re also in a place of questioning your marriage, scared of making the wrong decision and regretting it later.
Here are the 3 questions you should ask yourself
1. Is fear keeping me from making a decision?
Let’s be honest. It feels easier to stay stuck in indecision than it does to make a decision. That’s because indecision requires nothing from us. We don’t have to take any frightening new steps – such as either attempting to reconnect with a distant partner or take steps to release the marriage. It preserves the status quo between you as a couple and even though it doesn’t necessarily feel good, this is a pain you know how to endure because you do it every single day.
I speak to people all day long struggling in their marriages and the one word I hear them say more often than any other word is stuck. And the thing that keeps most people stuck in some form of fear: fear of regret, fear of hurting our partners or ourselves, fear of not having enough money, fear of being alone, fear of disrupting our kids’ lives, fear of judgement; you can call it by many names, but at its core it is some form of fear that keeps people paralyzed. We cannot change what we’re unwilling to see, so in order to move past the fear, we need to be willing to see it and call it by name. What is the name of the fear that is keeping you feeling stuck right now?
2. What is the cost of remaining in indecision
We remain in indecision because of the perceived risk, but in doing so, we ignore the risk and the very real cost of remaining in indecision. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, no decision is a decision. That’s because it’s an unconscious decision to stay stuck. But because we’ve not made that decision consciously, the questions continue to spin around in our minds each day for months or even years, as was my experience. This clearly adds to our stress levels, making us less focused, less patient, impacting our health and our sleep, but it also inhibits our ability to actually make a sound decision.
There has been quite a bit of research on what is referred to as decision fatigue that proves the more decisions you have to make in a finite period of time, the more depleted you feel mentally, the quicker you will give up and therefore, the less equipped you are to a decision that will impact the rest of your life. And by unconsciously not making a decision and remaining stuck in the “maybe,” your mind is attempting to make that decision every time all the questions begin spinning. How is remaining stuck in indecision impacting your life?
3. What one action can I take to bring more clarity?
When we can’t make a decision, in addition to overcoming our fears, we might simply need to gather more information. We might need to see if there’s a way to connect with our partners in a way that we have not before (or in a very long time). We might need to try communicating and even arguing in a way where both people feel heard and validated. We might even need to spend some time apart so that we can see if we miss one another or if it feels like freedom.
When we don’t have clarity, we need more information. But if you attempt nothing, you learn nothing. If you continue the same patterns, you will continue to produce the same results. And therein lies the perpetual cycle of being stuck in indecision. When we are willing to take even one new, the small action we give ourselves the opportunity to move closer to clarity and ultimately come to a decision that we can trust is right for ourselves. What’s one action you can take this week to help you get a little more information about whether or not the marriage can feel good again?
The final call
I had ultimately made the decision to leave my first marriage, but it took me years to make that decision. For some of my clients, it’s been decades in indecision. At some point, the pain of staying in indecision – never moving forward and never fully re-committing to the relationship – becomes too painful and they’re finally ready for real clarity. Maybe taking the time to truly answer these three questions will help you no longer feel stuck in indecision and move closer to your answer, for your marriage and your life.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
More by Sharon Pope