Uncertainty is one of the most certain aspects of life, and yet it is one of the most intolerable emotional states. It is human nature to look for patterns and predictability, to figure out the future, and prepare. Therefore when we are faced with uncertainty, we try to get around it and figure it out ourselves. We immediately get going with the “what ifs,” the “what did that really means,” and wondering if this is it and the person you are dating is “the one.” We also to try to prepare and avoid getting hurt. However, it is really not possible to establish a healthy relationship by bypassing the uncertainty phase. It is important to take your time to figure out if this is “the one,” and discover together over time if you are compatible. Sure, you can try to get around this by jumping into things too intensely and too quickly, but that probably has not worked out so well for you in the past.
So how do you tolerate uncertainty?
1. Embrace it. Practice acceptance that this is a necessary and important phase of dating and your relationship. Enjoy the excitement and butterflies and try to frame it that way instead of seeing your emotional response to uncertainty as uneasiness and intolerable anxiety that must end! You will survive this.
2. Flip the script and use your uncertainty and wondering to figure out how you actually feel. It is easy to get so caught up in trying to figure out the other person’s experience of us that we lose out on the important opportunity to determine the answer for yourself to your own questions. “Are they interested?” can become “Am I interested?” Take your time to figure this out without getting sucked into the trap of just focusing on the other person.
3. Don’t play games. Sometimes people try to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty by exercising control over the situation and deliberately doing things to keep the other person wondering and on their toes. This is not going to do your relationship any good. And if you notice the person you are dating doing this, take a closer look at what is going on and if you want to participate in it.
4. Do NOT become beholden to technology. If you find yourself attached to your phone and constantly checking at it, as if you are willing a text to pop up, that is a warning sign. If you are tracking the other person on social media or looking up their history, just try to stop. The less you start with these things, the better off you will be.
5. Ask for reassurance in a measured way. It is natural to want to know where you stand with someone and how they feel about you. If you notice yourself constantly asking for reassurance, you are going to do your relationship in.
6. Look at the evidence. If you are prone to worrying about whether your partner is interested in you, try making a list of things they say and do that indicate that they are interested. Review the list especially when you might be having a hard time sitting with the anxiety of uncertainty.
7. Continue to tend to your relationship with yourself. You had a life before this person was part of it, and you need to maintain it now. Continue to see your friends, go to the gym, go to work, and do the things you enjoy.
But what happens if you are still lingering in the uncertainty phase after your first anniversary? Sure, there is a normal amount of uncertainty in life and there are no guarantees, so it is normal to not know for sure about some things. However, by your first anniversary, you should know whether or not you enjoy spending time with this person, if you have chemistry, how the other person communicates their feelings, how your partner feels about you, what your long-term plans are, and whether you have shared values. You absolutely should feel comfortable being yourself with this person. It also would be helpful to have a sense of and be on the same page about career goals, where you want to live, how you feel about living together, whether you want kids, and what your priorities are. You should also be certain that there are no deal breakers present in the relationship.