“Some form of fear and confusion holds us back from making the decision to leave our unhappy relationship. We second-guess ourselves or we hold on to the thread of hope that things will change. And eventually, we settle, and we accept acquiescence as our only reasonable option.” -Monique Allison [From ebook: Releasing That Relationship: Gaining Clarity from The Heartbreak of a Breakup or Divorce that Nearly Broke Your Spirit]
A simple definition of “Confusion”: the state of being bewildered or unclear in one’s mind about something. In other words – a state of not knowing.
Picture this: I just asked my boyfriend to move into my house with me; shortly after, I got pregnant. Half way into my pregnancy I found out that another young lady was pregnant with his baby, too. She was due 6 months before me. Hold on. I’m not done. Also, while pregnant, after he came back from visiting his country, I found pictures of him with a woman wearing his shirt in a hotel room. Then he had to take a trip to New York. I was terrified that he would behave inappropriately again. He expressed how sorry he was and made gestures to reassure me that he wanted to be together despite his actions. While he was in New York, a good friend of his stopped by the house on his behalf to convince me to work things out. That was out of the ordinary for him (to have someone speak for him) so in my naive and confused mind I thought that meant something good, not that I was being manipulated. Nevertheless, it was even harder to make a clear-cut decision to leave him.
If you are saying to yourself, “Why didn’t she leave him? How could she stay after all of that?” I totally understand. That’s the thing; when you are deep in it (in love, blinded by love, a fool in love, etc) you have blind spots. You’re so emotionally caught up, you don’t know how to balance logic with your emotions, so it’s just easier to stay and adapt while you mask the confusion.
Even the most level-headed person goes through this. She knows how to make decisions pretty easily; however, when it comes to matters of the heart she’s not able to think with her usual level of clarity, especially when she’s uncertain about where her relationship is headed. This is when it’s really easy to fall into a state of confusion. Overcoming that confusion is an important part of knowing which next step to take.
We’ll explore a simple process that will create space for your own sense of clarity to emerge. This is a guide for doing the process on your own. In two simple steps you can shift from a state of confusion to mental clarity.
There’s no doubt that all relationships go through stages and changes. At some point, you get to a crossroad and a decision has to be made about moving forward or ending things. There’s also staying together out of obligation and not because you sincerely want to be there; you feel like you should stay because of all that you’ve invested in each other (time, kids, house, merged finances, etc). Then there’s the state of a relationship where things are toxic and unfulfilling yet it’s still not an easy decision to leave.
We ended up getting married when our son was three years old. However, a year later I left the marriage for more than one reason but it took seven years for me to break my unhealthy relationship patterns.
I was in a state of confusion on so many levels but I eventually figured out how to make healthier choices. I got really clear about what wasn’t working, why it wasn’t, what I wanted to experience instead, and what choices I needed to make to create a better experience. Fear did play a big role in being confused. I kept thinking I didn’t want my son to miss out on having a two-parent household – even though our relationship wasn’t the healthiest. I didn’t want to take that opportunity away from him, so I fought much harder to stay.
There were three fear-based thoughts that added to my uncertainty but eventually I gained a clearer perspective.
Thought: This relationship really broke me down, I feel so defeated.
Reframe: I made choices that didn’t work out as I hoped. Now I see that what was important to me years ago is not the same, so I have another chance to redefine my choices. I may feel defeated, but I’m not dead! Today I get to rediscover what I really want in life and set values-based goals around those things I want.
Thought: I’m breaking up a family!
Reframe: I’m creating space for a healthier me and that will benefit my family in the long run. When I’m in a better space emotionally and mentally, I can be present and happy with my family.
Thought: My child won’t have his father.
Reframe: We won’t be under the same roof and adjustments with visitation will have to be made. They will still have access to each other. His father is still fully responsible for maintaining his relationship with his child, and I can help facilitate and support that process.
“Oftentimes, just contemplating the end of a relationship feels unbearable. It’s not easy because it stretches you beyond your comfort zone. That stretching brings about confusion and fear during a time where you feel forced to explore different options you didn’t even want to consider. However, in that same space, there’s room for personal growth. Stretching ourselves can lead to powerful reminders that there was a “me” before there was a “we.” Exploring that space of confusion helped me to eventually realize that a lot of what was happening wasn’t about my partner anymore. Instead, it was about me, and what I was going to do to make my bad situation better. -Monique Allison
If you are having a similar internal conflict you’re probably not sure what to do next.
Start here. Assume a different perspective around the word confusion. Allow it to be the catalyst for gaining clarity about how you truly want to experience your relationship outside of the consistent negativity and uncertainty.
Two Simple Questions Will Help You Gain Clarity
Now, grab a journal, a composition book or a single sheet of paper and complete this exercise. It all starts with exploring how your relationship makes you FEEL.
Question #1: What doesn’t “feel” good about my relationship experiences? (Examine what’s not working. You can describe an entire scenario or just one-word feeling).
Write a list of those experiences. (Do this without self-judgment or blame.) When you only rely on holding your thoughts to memory, experiences can run together and seem blurred. Writing things down will stimulate the clarity process.
Question #2: What would you like to experience instead?
Write down a revised version of those experiences or feelings you listed in response to question #1. Put a positive spin on it reflecting on what you want to experience. (You can describe an entire scenario or just one-word feeling.)
Bonus Step: I want to encourage you to go a little further. Brainstorm and write a list of all the options and resources available that will get you closer to what you want.
Now, you have a clear description of what you desire to experience in contrast to what you are actually experiencing. It’s up to you to dig deeper and determine the barrier(s) keeping you stuck in an unsatisfying relationship and remove them.
Clarity Tip: Take steps to close the gap between what you don’t want to experience and what you hope for instead.
Whether it’s being honest with yourself, having a difficult conversation about what you’ve discovered, or creating an exit strategy to release the relationship always remember that you have options.
Take some time to sit with how you’re feeling. You don’t have to figure out all the answers right now; however, the more you slow down and pay attention to how you’re feeling the more authentic your life and your relationships will become.
Always know what you want and need from your relationships and ask yourself are you getting it.
Have additional questions about the clarity process? Don’t hesitate to contact Monique at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
About the Contributor
Monique Allison is a Relationship Clarity Coach. Her personal experience, observation, and insight gained over the years allows her to help women release unhealthy relationships and heal from broken ones in order to love again from a more self-loving and authentic space. She is also the mother of 10-year-old son, Pharaoh. Monique’s background/experience is in the nonprofit sector working for United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta (UWMA) for 13 years; holding the position as the Quality Assurance Manager. She has achieved a B.A. in Psychology from Clark Atlanta University, is AIRS Certified as an Information & Referral Specialist, attained a Creative Writer Certificate from Kennesaw State University. Monique has also taught life skills to young adults for two years. Learn more about Monique’s work helping women build healthy relationships HERE.