Relationship Decisions: Making Sense of Thoughts & Feelings
Many people struggle with relationship decisions, and it’s not always easy to know what to do. Questions like whether to commit, have kids, propose, or deal with different needs for alone time can be challenging. But remember, gaining clarity on where you stand is not the same thing as making a final decision; it’s just clarity. Here are some tips for gaining clarity and making informed decisions about relationships:
- Pros and Cons list: Write down the pros and cons of each choice you are facing. Take a few days to do this, as various items will come to you at random times. You may find more advanced versions of this list helpful, such as the weighted pros and cons, which allows you to add a number from 1 to 10 to each item to indicate its importance.
- Four Square Pros and Cons: This advanced version of the pros and cons list allows your brain to consider each perspective from opposite perspectives. To create the Four Square, divide a piece of paper into 4 equal sections and label them as follows: “Pros of taking the new job,” “Cons of taking the new job,” “Pros of NOT taking the new job,” and “Cons of NOT taking the new job.” Add weights to each item to indicate its importance.
- Journaling: Writing about your feelings and thoughts can be a cathartic experience that helps you gain clarity on your decision. Try to focus on a gratitude journal that retrains your brain to look for opportunities to feel better. Having a separate journal to vent problems about the relationship can be ok, but avoid reviewing it unless you are reflecting on gratitude for what you have overcome.
- Talk to people you trust: Be sure to respect the other person’s privacy and discuss only what you feel comfortable sharing. Examples of people you may trust include family, close friends, teachers, counselors, and clergy.
- Meditate: A mindfulness practice like meditation can help you rewire your brain to be clearer. Practicing for just 3-5 minutes in the morning and evening can be effective, but 10-15 minutes is even better. When practiced daily, you increase connectivity and neuronal growth in the left medial prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for pleasant feelings and attitudes like gratitude and optimism.
- Pay attention to your intuition: Your intuition is an emotion-based experience that comes from the unconscious mind. Trusting your feelings can help you make a decision without being encumbered by things like analysis paralysis.
Remember, gaining clarity on your decision is just the first step. It is important to communicate your feelings and thoughts to your partner and work together to find a solution that works for both of you.
*Updated July 18, 2023
To learn more about relationship dynamics, please visit my Couples Counseling page.
Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.