Photo by Modern Dope
I knew my first marriage would be a disaster, but I went through with it anyway.
I tend to analyze things. It comes with the territory of being a project manager. So when it came to marriage, I thought about it like a logic problem. How compatible are we? Would I be happiest with him? What if I never found anyone else? The scenarios rolled in my mind, and I even wrote a pro and con list of why we should be together. Ultimately, I decided getting married to someone I had been dating for 6 years was a safe bet.
If this approach seems a little off to you, you’re on the right track. There are two basic approaches to problem solving. Analysis is one way to look at a problem. Let’s say my primary doctor had retired and I needed to get a new one. If I had used the questions above on compatibility, happiness, and worst case scenarios, I probably would have found a decent doctor.
Analysis works great when a decision has few emotional attachments and low risk. In choosing a doctor, you can always get a second opinion or just shop around for recommendations before settling on a new doctor. Business decisions are often the same way – you have a limited amount of time to choose a vendor, so you go with the one who’s the cheapest or the fastest or the most recommended. If you get burned today, you can always change tomorrow. It’s irritating when you choose poorly, but not devastating.
Strict analysis often fails when it comes to emotional decisions, such as when to get married. I found out the hard way that a pro/con list doesn’t come close to capturing the essence of a relationship. There were a million reasons to marry him – we had traveled the world together, we had similar interests, we wanted similar things out of life. The con list was fairly short and easy to dismiss. We fought a lot, but couples fight sometimes, yeah? We didn’t value the same things about people, but who cares if we don’t like each other’s friends, right?
The truth is, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache by ditching the whole analysis thing and focused on the second way to look at a problem – listen to your gut.
Your gut isn’t always a voice, a concrete thought, or an action, but you know it when you feel it. My gut was screaming at me to listen to it. It was the way I refused to change my last name to his, something I had actually looked forward to growing up. It was the sinking in my stomach whenever I saw his number come up on my phone. It was the way I skirted the question “Do you love him?” for over 5 minutes with a marriage counselor. I knew marrying him was not the right thing, but I couldn’t let go of all that analysis that said, “You’ve invested the time, you’re not getting any younger, you need to do this.”
So now I know about analysis versus listening to my gut. Most of the time, I still use analysis to get things done. If I only listened to my gut, I’d eat a lot more cake and exercise a lot less. But for those big emotional decisions, my gut gets the big veto vote on anything that analysis might say otherwise. Since forging this alliance, my gut has gotten me through a tough divorce and some hard financial times. When logic fails, that inner feeling somehow always prevails and gets me through, safe and sound to the other side.
How do I know I made the right decision when I use my gut? It’s subjective, I suppose. But when I see my current husband asleep on the pillow next to me, I have no problem answering the question, “Do you love him?”