I love chocolate chip cookies with a voluptuous passion. I know they taste so good, but they also help me pack on unwanted pounds. My desire for cookies is split: I love them and I hate them. Some of us feel the same way about relationships.
As a result, we develop this nice thing called ambivalence.
Ambivalence is the reluctance to be fully known and completely vulnerable: I’m starving for connection, but vulnerability will ultimately hurt me in the end.
Some of the most common areas that operate out of ambivalence are:
5) In our understanding God.
Ambivalence can be sneaky and subtle. It creates a dance: Samantha takes a step closer while Jennifer ducks in fear and backs up. Feeling rejected and embarrassed Samantha takes a step back while Jennifer feels isolated and disconnected. Jennifer takes her step closer.
And this cycle continues, most times lasting years. We call the “Distancer/Pursuer.”
When people unknowingly describe their ambivalence to me it sounds like criticism of their partner, unequal compromise, continuous and subtle rejection, but mostly it sounds like fear.
Ambivalence makes us feel responsible, as though there is something in our hearts not functioning correctly. I hear, “But he is such a nice guy, why can’t I love him all the way?” or “She is wonderful, but there’s something inside that won’t let me trust her.”
The mind, heart, and body are all too equipped to deal with pain. If we have in some way been burned, with either tenacity or a slight sting, we will remember. All of us will take action to ensure it never happens again.
In other words, our default setting is to do the Ambivalence Tango: I want the safety of emotional vulnerability, but I also need to stay protected!
Ambivalence isn’t your fault, but you are the only one who can undo it. The remedy? Safety, trust and true forgiveness.
Observe your partner.
Watch how he or she operates, what part of their character you can trust, and how they handle disappointment and hurt.
Get to know how safely you can rest in their arms, and then trust this part of their character.
And when you and your partner make a mistake and are sincerely sorry, try forgiving one another: 1) acknowledge the hurt you caused, 2) give a description of how you found yourself in that place, 3) a commitment to never go there again, and 4) saying I’m sorry.
Living in the split of ambivalence will drive you to Resentment Land, will help you fantasize of another life or another partner, and it will help you feel inadequate.
*In the next 5 weeks Isaac will unpack each of the areas mentioned above. He'll will write specifically on how ambivalence might affect these areas of your life.