Unfortunately, most people don’t realize there are two ways we can avoid commitment: Actively or Passively.
- We actively avoid commitment by making it clear or in some way obvious to others that we are disinterested and/or are conflicted about commitment.
- We passively avoid commitment by pursuing unavailable partners, impossible circumstances and by pushing or waiting for conflicted and/or disinterested partners to make a commitment.
Most of us are familiar with the ways people actively avoid commitment, but that’s not the case with passive commitment avoidance. Here’s an important rule of thumb to always remember in regard to relationships: If you have one partner in a relationship who is conflicted and/or uncommitted, you always have two. No exceptions.
Marital limbo is never the result of one partner’s behavior in the relationship – it’s always the result of the choices that each partner in the relationship is making independently.
The pain men feel when their wives are having affairs and are on the fence about their marriages is excruciating; and the mixed signals their wives’ regularly send to them can be nothing short of crazy making. From an outside perspective, though, their wives’ behavior really isn’t all that confusing because, as everyone knows, it’s a lot easier to see the truth in a situation as long as we’re not “in it.”
Unfortunately, it can be difficult for us to get an outside perspective from talking to others. When we are the person who is perceived as the victim in the situation, others often shy away from telling us the truth. Most people don’t want to cause someone who is already in pain – more pain. Consequently, the advice that betrayed partners receive from friends and family members (and sometimes even from professionals) is often filled with half-truths, fuzzy-truths and feel-good-truths that are intended to spare one’s feelings “in the moment.”
While feel-good truths do provide momentary relief, it comes at a cost; the cost for that warm, fuzzy feeling is confusion and long-term suffering. In Radical Honesty, Brad Blanton writes, “…it’s only your willingness to feel worse that will allow you to feel better.” He also says, “What causes the ongoing persistence of any problem is… trying to avoid certain sensations in your body.”
Men who were cheated on and divorced by their wives often comment in hindsight that the choice they needed to make from the beginning was to either feel pain now or feel pain later. Although I understand what men mean when they say this, the truth is these men lived in continuous pain the entire time they were trying to save their marriages. In fact, on a pain and fear scale of 1-10, most of them lived at a level 7 for six months to two years. If they had, instead, let go and stopped trying to change their wives’ minds from the very beginning, they would have moved from between an 8-10 on the pain scale for approximately 2 weeks (the worst of which being the first 48-72 hours) and then their pain would have lessened and they would have started the gradual climb to feeling better.
Furthermore, there are two other important factors to note:
1. Their fear would have subsided immediately, the moment they decided to let go, because, what they were actually afraid of was facing the full impact of their pain.
2.They also would have immediately increased the likelihood of them saving their marriages. (The reason is, when we try to change someone’s mind, they will typically do the opposite of whatever they think we want them to do – that’s just human nature.)
You see, our minds fool us into thinking that we need to avoid feeling worse at all costs. But allowing the sensations in our bodies (which is what feelings really are—sensations in the body) to move through us without trying to resist them, is what leads us directly out of not only our pain, but also our confusion, and that’s why this is the first, necessary step to saving a marriage after infidelity.