Hello everybody, welcome to episode 160 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Really excited about today’s question. It’s framed as sort of an analysis type question, which I really have fun with. Our asker is in a dating predicament that she’s not dissatisfied with, but is looking for a second opinion on. Let’s talk a bit about commitment, self-work and some real feelings that underlie our willingness to do both. But first, the question on taking a break.
QUESTION: “Hi Greg, I dated a man for several months a year ago. We had a genuine and mutual connection, but neither of us was emotionally ready to commit more of ourselves because of things we both needed to work on individually.
The feelings are still there and we still stay in touch as friends. Out of all of the men I’ve dated thus far, I have not met someone whom I share the same amount of connection. I see long term potential with this person.
My plan is to continue to get to know him while I work on myself, and once I’m ready to commit, I’ll see if he’s on the same page. If not, then I will look elsewhere. Since we are not dating, there is no pressure and I don’t have any expectations. What are your thoughts?”
Listen to Greg narrate this post on taking a break in a relationship in Episode 160 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.
How Much Self-Work is Your Limit?
What are my thoughts? I always love questions that end that way because it makes me feel like I can just word-vomit a bit more instead of forming concrete and calculated answers.
Just kidding. But it is comforting to sort of explore questions rather than solve them sometimes, if that makes sense, and it doesn’t seem like there’s a specific problem you want me to solve here so thank you for that and, yeah, let’s just take this time to assess the situation and maybe bring some new ideas to it.
I do have a lot of thoughts about this, and really, most of them are questions that I think you should really start asking yourself, questions that might be hard to ask yourself without consulting an outside perspective. And I’ll preface all of them by saying that what you’re doing may very well be a good and healthy decision.
So my take my thoughts as precautionary.
I think the question my brain starts with is, what do you think is going to be the threshold you arrive at that makes you want to commit? This is sort of rhetorical.
But what I mean is, is it really going to be some amount of self-work that hopefully gets you to a point that makes you want to commit to this person, or will there always be self-work that has to be done?
Don't Wait for Perfection
If you look into your past, have you been able to retreat into yourself and do some self-assessment, come to a good conclusion, then make a decisive change because of it?
Or has there always been self-work to do, and always been things to improve on which has prevented you from making big choices?
You know I’m a huge advocate for doing self-work and bringing one’s best self to anything (not the least of which is a relationship), but the idea of improving oneself until one is ready to do something can also serve as a well-intentioned and indefinite excuse to never pull the trigger on things and therefore never be vulnerable enough to be wrong.
I’m not saying this is necessarily happening with you, but I am suggesting you keep a close eye on what this self-work actually looks like and not drawing such a hard line in the sand that you equate arriving at to being ready for commitment. There will always be stuff to work on.
Don’t wait for perfection. Cause if you’re like most people who listen to this show, and certainly if you’re like the guy hosting the show, you love the self-work but you should know it’s never-ending.
Listen to Felicia Renee's post on letting go of perfectionism in Episode 1694 of the podcast Optimal Living Daily.
Taking a Break vs. Commitment
Now with that question in mind – with just the notion that self-work can subconsciously be used an excuse sometimes in mind – I’d like you to consider if some of the particularly good feelings you have towards this man may be there because you have not been bogged down by being in a relationship with this person.
What I’m getting at is that it’s either with good intentions that you are both taking time to work on yourselves, or maybe part of you sort of likes how it is now, without the pressure and expectations – which you reminded me are not there at the end of your question.
I’d really consider that. I’m not telling you to commit or not commit, but I am saying that a lot of us, in both sexes, find a lot of relief in being in causal, non-committed relationships at least at certain times of life and/or with certain people.
It’s hard to come out and say that sometimes, however. It’s hard to even acknowledge it, because it’s fairly non-traditional, and we all have bad narratives in our heads of people who “never commit”, and people who have a hard time with commitment are like people who drive badly.
It’s only for other people, not us. Yeah, right.
How Was Taking a Break a Good Decision?
And surely if this was the case, it’d be extra hard to admit in the face of a guy who you feel like might be the real deal. How scary it’d be to admit that we have a hard time committing if we’re standing in front of someone there would otherwise be a ton of possibility with.
If any of this is muddy to you and you’re not quite sure where these answers fall, I might recommend looking at how it felt when you two decided that taking a break was the right thing to do after those few months of dating.
Why did it feel like a good decision? Was there sheer relief in knowing that you two separated because you wanted to respect and act on one another’s needs to do self-work, or was there also some relief in knowing that you didn’t have any obligation to him?
If any part of either of you just enjoyed the idea of not being tied down, yet you also envision yourself as being someone who would like to commit at some point, I’d think most of the self-work you’re focusing on should be geared towards gaining comfort in commitment, having less options and having to consider someone’s needs other than your own.
Listen to Benjamin Le's post on building a lasting relationship in Episode 068 of the podcast Optimal Relationships Daily.
When You're Ready to Commit
Last thing I had a thought about was what you said about how you intend to proceed when you do feel ready to commit – telling him and moving on if he’s not on the same page.
I’d caution you about being so strategic and sure of yourself in this matter. If you’re both pursuing a readiness to commit, theoretically, one of you would arrive at that readiness sooner than the other or at least announce it sooner than the other.
If you’re telling me that he needs to fall in your crosshairs, and if he doesn’t, you’re gone, it feels a little selfish and deepens my suspicion about whether or not you might just enjoy being single (which would be totally ok, by the way).
It’s just a very gray area and I’d say that if you two want to make it work, there would have to be at least some leeway before deciding the other person is taking too long to make their mind up. If he was ready to commit to you first, and you weren’t there yet, and he moved on immediately, wouldn’t that seem a bit like he wasn’t totally invested?
You’re right that there are currently no expectations or obligations, but something to be mindful of anyway. Feelings are hard to make plans around, so at least keep an open mind if and when one of you breaks the news that you’re ready to commit.
Thanks a lot to the woman who sent this question in on taking a break in relationships. And again, I want to reassure everyone that I do hope this idea that you’ve come up with about doing self-work and seeing how you feel later works out well for the both of you.
It certainly stands to be a mindful approach and has helped many in the past. I just wanted to spend today helping you look at things from another angle just for the sake of having your bases covered. I dare say this episode was part of your self-work. Hopefully you feel the same way.
Everyone else, please feel free to come to us with questions of your own that you’re struggling with. You can email them to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com, we’ll be in contact with you via email and we’ll answer your question on the show as well.
I thank you all for being here with me today. Have a wonderful rest of your day, folks, and I’ll be back with you again next time.
Listen to Greg narrate this post in Episode 160 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.