“Ambivalent about Love?” REPOST from MMA by Shirley Vollett
Do you long for love, yet fail to take decisive steps to make it happen? Do you procrastinate on taking action to meet people and date?
Ambivalence may be the cause of your stop-and-start approach to finding love. Hidden, unconscious ambivalence may be sabotaging you and side-lining your determination to have a loving relationship.
In her book, If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?, Susan Page identifies ambivalence as one of the underlying causes for singles who want to be in a relationship and still aren’t. Says Page, “If you have no doubt that you want an intimate partner, there are plenty of things you can do to find one. If you aren’t doing them, chances are you aren’t altogether certain you want one.”
The dictionary defines ambivalence as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings” and “uncertainty or indecisiveness as to which course to follow”. Do these mixed feelings sound familiar?
• I’d like to share my life, but what if I lose my independence?
• I want a rich personal life, but what if my career suffers?
• I want to share myself intimately, but what if I get hurt?
• I want a relationship, but is it worth the risk?
According to Page, there are two types of “involuntary singles”.
The first type wants a relationship and hasn’t met the right person yet. This type is probably taking decisive action towards their goal.
The second type is ambivalent, either consciously or unconsciously. The ambivalent person wants a relationship, however they may secretly value (or fear) something else more. When they say they want a relationship, says Page, “what they really mean is: ‘I want a relationship, but equally or more important to me is:
• Not having to take risks
• Progressing in my career
• Hanging on to my great lifestyle
• Avoiding pain
• Keeping my secrets to myself
• Proving I’m right that the opposite sex is the problem’.”
Hence, their efforts to have a relationship may be sabotaged from within.
If you suspect ambivalence is slowing you down, here are some pointers for moving beyond it:
1) Pay attention to your ambivalence.
Ambivalence will only control you if it remains unconscious. Once you are aware of it, you have some choices about whether you allow it to call the shots.
Notice if you feel justified or righteous about all the things you’ve done to find a relationship, that haven’t worked. Ambivalence can sometimes take the form of looking like you’re trying, while secretly hoping you don’t succeed.
2) Don’t judge yourself negatively.
Don’t berate yourself for having ambivalence. It is a self-protective mechanism, often rooted in fear. Be compassionate towards that aspect of yourself that would rather dither and delay than risk failure or hurt. It is a very human tendency and you are not the only one who has it!
3) Understand your ambivalence and design your next step.
Your ambivalence may be pointing to an important value of yours OR it may simply be a guise for your fear. What action you take will depend on which it is.
When your ambivalence points to an important value of yours, it needs to be honored. For example, if you’re afraid that a relationship will cost you your independence, it may be that independence is an essential requirement for you. You may need to select a partner who respects that requirement and enjoys having an independent mate. Your ambivalence needn’t cause you to stop your search. Instead, it can help you to refine it.
If your ambivalence is a “cover” for fear (fear of rejection, fear of trying something new, fear of disappointment, etc.), it’s important not to get stuck in the fear. I recommend taking small steps towards your goal, at a pace that you can handle. This means stretching beyond your comfort zone, without overwhelming yourself in the process.
Small steps lead to the same destination as large steps, as long as you keep taking them in the desired direction. Most fear is manageable if we can slow the process down into do-able steps. Determine what next small action you will take – and do it.
If you are truly STUCK and feel unable to take action, then give yourself the gift of support.
Talk to a pro-active friend (not one who will agree with you that it’s hopeless), read a good dating self-help book (see Page’s book above) or talk to a counselor or coach. Seeking support may be your next best step.
Take action toward your goal and you may find that your ambivalence decreases as your pro-active behavior increases. I have witnessed the empowerment that comes when my clients stop waiting for love and start initiating. Their confidence increases, their courage and optimism grows, and things happen!