Why Ambivalence in relationships isn’t the kiss of death.
Back in July, Mark Manson wrote a blog post that achieved internet breaking kind of buzz; Sexy felon Jeremy Meeks, meets Kim Kardashian’s butt, kind of buzz.
In this article, he introduces the Law of F*ck Yes or No, an edict that provides one clear directive for how to simply our screwed up lives.
His advice goes as follows: If you’re thinking about getting involved with someone new, they should inspire a full blown F*ck Yes, in order for you to move forward. The other person, must then reciprocate with an F-yes of equally mammothproportions, in order for you to proceed with them.
When I first read his post, I agreed hands down.
“Why would you want to convince someone to be with you?” You shouldn’t. “Why would you buy a dog who keeps biting you?” You shouldn’t!!
If the girl you like ignores you 97% of the time except for when she’s ovulating, dump her.
If the dude you’ve been dating for 10 months insists that all you’re doing is “hanging out,” even though you’ve met his parents and he carries a baby picture of you in his wallet. You’re not hanging out. You should probably go.
These describe states of codependence, or at least conditions that make your otherwise placid life way more difficult than it has to be.
But then Manson said this:
If you’re in the grey area to begin with, you’ve already lost.
So I thought about all the grey areas in my life.
Jobs I despised, but for either the paychecks, or access to laser copiers.Family ties that felt more like nooses. Endings that dragged on for years after time of death. Love affairs, that left me confused, satisfied, happy and horrified all at the same time, sometimes all in the same night.
When I look back, there seems to have been more grey matter than black or white.
Had I already lost? F*ck no! At least I don’t think so.
All of that time spent in limbo, suspended between choices, gave me something much more useful than clarity. It gave me experience.
In other words, the F*ck Maybe’s taught me more about who I am than any F*ck Yes or No ever could.
The allure of the F Yes or No Movement is undeniable. What if life actually was that simple? What if a state of permanent and unequivocal sureness was within our reach? What if Robert Durst hadn’t belched his way into a confession?
But things don’t actually work this way, do they?
Much of the time, we’re treading water, hanging in the balance of our ambivalence.
Ambivalence: the coexistence of opposing feelings and desires toward an action that creates uncertainty and doubt.
…Uncertainty, doubt, and sometimes, dry heaving in the bathroom of a restaurant because you just ran into your ex and his wife. (Even though you’re perfectly happy with your new, much hotter, boyfriend, thank you very much.)
Dry heaving. Uncertainty. Doubt. All primary human emotions.
C. G. Jung, Swiss psychiatrist and pioneer of the mind, wrote about holding the tension of opposites when you’re just not sure what you want. He suggested allowing yourself to feel your desire for one choice as completely as you can. Sitting with one choice often prompts consideration of the other choice, which you can then explore with the equal intensity.
In this way, your conscious and unconscious minds meet, have a drink, talk about old times, and reconcile. As a bonus prize, your ability to tolerate inner conflict grows.
Another way of understanding ambivalence is to see it as a reflection of unrecognized parts of you, that are begging for air time. Begging for wholeness.
As a gestalt therapist, I encourage you to sit with these opposing parts. Pay attention to them. Move them into your guest room. Borrow their clothes, and speak in their voices, until you can’t take it anymore.
What's more dangerous than being in a grey area is to pretend there is no grey area.
When we shun parts of us, they inevitably start to leak out all over the place, without our consent. We become Exxon Valdez spills of ambivalence, covering our relationships, our homes, our pets and our prized possessions with icky crude oil of unintegrated shadow.
We all get to choose the level of uncertainty we’re willing to face.
I won’t deny that ambivalence is uncomfortable. And when it’s about a relationship, I consider it torture. A chronic or permanent state of ambivalence is painful and damaging to our relationships. But we’re not aiming for a lifetime of clueless head-scratching here.
If what you want is real clarity — the kind that tucks you in at night, the kind that lets you sleep — then don’t be scared to engage with your ambivalence.
This is how to move beyond the maybes. This is how to get to yes.
Originally published at lonelyforever.wordpress.com on March 28, 2015.