“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” ― Voltaire
I was in a long relationship some years ago with a man who was great at planning vacations and going to fancy restaurants. Our relationship started very slowly, after meeting online. For months, I could not tell if he liked me and I didn’t know if we were a good match. I constantly questioned our compatibility and thought about how we could be closer if he communicated better or if I liked him more. I remember talking to my best friends about him while feeling uncertain that he was the one.
For some reason, which I didn’t know at the time, I kept staying in the relationship.
I nearly broke up with him many times because things were just smooth enough to be acceptable, but not good enough to be great.
I set ultimatums for myself that if we didn’t talk about a particular problem within three weeks, I’d leave. And then I’d bring up the issue, finally. He’d listen but not say anything, telling me his processing would take time. By the time he’d report back, I’d be in a serious spiral of doubt, ready to leave, and something miraculous would happen so I could not leave.
All of the reasons I stayed related to thinking this was what I wanted. I was in my late twenties and worried that if I was not married by the time I was thirty, I’d become a spinster. It’s not that bad, I’d tell myself. But then doubt would creep in again.
Doubt is insidious. It’s that feeling of uncertainty and complex questioning that spirals and permeates everything.
And once you experience doubt with someone, it’s really hard to take back. I think doubt is one of the hardest feelings to shake. It’s one of the emotions that rocks your core.
In this particular relationship, I felt very distant from my boyfriend. His lack of emotional intimacy begat a series of questioning that made him uncomfortable and me insistent. I wanted to know everything about his past because I knew so little about how he felt in our daily relationship or what he wanted.
Since I didn’t know him, my doubts started to fester. I felt like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, looking at him askew. I could not read him, as he was both private and secretive. My doubt about our relationship went from uncertainty to downright diabolical paranoia. I found myself angry or irate, disgruntled or disgusted when he didn’t include me in his thought processes. His OCD and perfectionism pushed me away.
By this time, doubt was no longer in the mix. Instead, I found myself certain that I needed to end the relationship. Doubt and ruminating had somersaulted my life long enough to know I was ready and it was time. Unmarried by thirty didn’t even factor into the equation anymore. Instead, I had to get out of this relationship where I felt unsupported and friends told me I never smiled.
It’s been a long time since our breakup and I think about what I could have done differently. The main thing I should have done would have been to leave the relationship earlier and not carry on so long. I was constantly worried that I would make a mistake by breaking up and feel trapped if I stayed. In other words, I doubted myself and my judgment at every turn. Should I stay or go? Which would be the bigger mistake?
Finally, I took the plunge and ended the relationship. It was not as hard as I expected, probably because I’d been grieving and doubting for so long. I moved on. He moved on. I listen to the doubt more now and act on my instincts when the volume becomes too loud.
I am a Life Coach. Please visit my website at Coaching By Nina Rubin.
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