It can be a bit of a blindside when you switch from ambiguous, super relaxed and going with the flow, to having expectations of something that’s very much the opposite.The other party may be very content to be ambiguous and undefined – no pressure, no commitment, free to shift the goalposts and even duck responsibility.
Being mutually ambiguous is a breeze until one of you claims to want to settle on one meaning, one direction, and essentially expects commitment.
That’s what being ambiguous is all about – you could take one meaning from theirs (or your) actions and words, but you could equally take another or few. You always know that you’re in something ambiguous when:
- You invest a hell of a lot of energy analysing the crap out of the other person’s behaviour.
- You see at least two possible interpretations of something.
- You’re unwilling to go out on a limb and do the right thing for yourself by asking what the score is and gaining clarification.
- It’s on their terms; terms I might add that you’re unlikely to be in full agreement with.
- You go along with things with a view to gaining a greater reward for your ‘compliance’.
- You don’t say what you truly mean and try to buffer it out of fear of rejection or fear of letting go and then them spontaneously combusting into unambiguous with someone else.
- One of both of you hint but think you’re being direct.
- One or both of you claim that you’re upfront about what you want even though it was said once ages ago or actions directly contradict what was said.
- One or both of you cannot be pinned down to an outcome and a decision.
Here is exactly what being ambiguous in relationships actually means: you don’t know where you stand because a firm choice hasn’t been made, and in fact, other options haven’t been ruled out. It can be made all the more ambiguous if you actually do know where you stand but you keep creating another option because you don’t like the answer to where you’re standing. This is the fundamental reason why people remain in unhealthy relationships after being told what’s up – they stick their fingers in their ears and open up a second, third and even fourth door so that they can ‘stay in the game’.
These ambiguous situations may sound familiar:
Saying that you don’t want a relationship and are going with the flow but acting like someone in a relationship. This is because for many people who attempt to keep their options open and try to limit the risk of rejection, they believe that going with the flow should give the option of flowing to a relationship.
Being reluctant to say what you want and what you need even though you privately have quite clear ideas about what you want and need. It’s either that or you don’t know what you do want and need until you realise that there’s a distinct possibility of you not getting them. This actually gives the impression to the other party that what they’re offering up is an option.
Being in what is quite frankly a crap situation, knowing it’s crap but not actually calling a spade a spade, or calling it and saying “I’m not the kind of person that puts up with this”… only to continue putting up with it afterwards. For another person, being in something that detracts from them isn’t an option, but if you remain (and complain), it suggests that you actually haven’t ruled out staying in something poor and that you haven’t ruled out banking on your three-legged horse to run like a thoroughbred, hence no matter what you say and what you intend to mean, you’re open to interpretation.
Ever flipped a coin to help you make a decision? Well this is what participating in ambiguous relationships is like.
When you flip a coin, your reaction to whether you get heads or tails tells you where your heart really lies with the decision. I come across so many people in pain from ambiguous relationships because what they truly want is something unambiguous and mutually fulfilling but they don’t stand behind their needs, values, self-esteem and their conviction.
Let’s be real – most of us know what we’re truly cut out for, it’s just that we bullshit ourselves and say “I can handle it!” because it’s like selling ourselves in on a cheap deal and hoping to upgrade at a later date. We’re afraid that if we say “Er actually, this isn’t my sort of thing” or “I need to know where I stand, even if it leaves me standing outside of whatever this wishy-washy ‘thing’ is that we have going on” because many of us are conditioned to believe that asking for what you want or having boundaries is ‘bad’. It’s actually normal.
Yet here I am almost seven years into writing Baggage Reclaim and I can tell you that beyond a shadow of a doubt, the people most affected by unavailable relationships not working out are those who were looking to chill out for a bit in nothing serious. Next thing you know, 5, 10, 15 or even 30 years have gone by and they’re stuck in a pattern.
It’s not about saying “I want a relationship!” or laying out your life plan to every prospect, but it is about having a strong recognition of who you are, what you are and are not able for (boundaries) and where you want to end up relationship wise.
Recognising your ‘goal’ actually affects your mindset.
If you want to be in a mutually fulfilling healthy relationship, can you really afford to be asleep on the ‘job’ by going in with your eyes and ears closed, avoiding the discovery phase and taking lengthy periods of time to recover from relationships you claimed you were just ‘going with the flow’ about?
You don’t need to be open to interpretation; you need to be you, and you’ll find it a lot easier to be happy and to create good relationships, romantic and otherwise if you’re not ambiguous about who you are, and what you’re saying and doing.
Unambiguous people have actions and words that consistently match over an extended period of time meaning that it’s a lot easier to recognise someone who is a fly-by-night. If it’s ambiguous and you spend more time in your mind trying to work out what the frick is going on or cannot categorically say where you stand, happiness within a healthy relationship will elude you.
Never give someone the option of taking the p*ss by basically allowing them to have the option of treating you in a less than manner. One choice, unambiguous, and they either have to step up or step out.