Imagine you go to dinner at In-N-Out. Their menu is comprised of relatively few options (burgers, fries, shakes) and has some possible variation but you have both choice, and limitation. Now imagine you go to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. The menu there is a (literal) book with multiple pages. You can choose from steak, to fish, to burgers, to pasta. You have SO much to choose from that you no longer feel certainty in what you might have come there thinking you wanted, OR you might feel just anxious and overwhelmed at the enormous amount of options.
The same rings true for dating, and especially in an online era. Dating, let’s be honest, is not easy, and much of that comes from the fact that we now have a literal WORLD of choices at our fingertips and little way to give ourselves the comfort of certainty in our decision making. Trusting ourselves and our decision making can be a lofty, and scary scenario. We often find ourselves in decision paralysis, because much like the dining scenarios we are given this endless stream of both ways in which to “keep searching” and people in which to choose from. In staying with the restaurant example, it is as if you finally do decide on that dinner entree, but then the waiter keeps coming back with “specials” or other menus and thereby causes you to question if what you ordered was truly what you want, or what will satisfy you in the long run.
Instead of fixating on if you’ve chosen the “right entree” – perhaps it’s a healthier option to look at the big picture and remind oneself that there will never be one meal that will satisfy eternally and meet every need, because even the best meal will not satiate a thirst for water. A delicious and beautiful meal mat still not curb a sugar craving or stave off that desire for salt. Perhaps we look at choosing that dating prospect from the context of understanding that they cannot and will never be the one to meet every need every time, and there is where we can begin to reconcile the difference between contentment and uncertainty.
Do not misinterpret what I’ve said as meaning a person should seek to fill those other “cravings” with another person; instead, look to the resources and people around you that meet those needs in a similar way, without the expectation of having all needs met through one partner/person. To leave the food examples behind, I am saying that perhaps one day you are incredibly sad or unsure. Instead of seeking support or solace immediately through your partner, look at your friendships and family, or a therapist/trusted party. If you feel stressed about the kids and the issue doesn’t directly relate to your partner or their actions, perhaps it is ok to discuss with another friend who is a parent, or get those thoughts out in a forum meant for parents. One person cannot and will never be able to hold every thought and provide endless support to another – but that does not mean they are not the right person or partner. The relationship does not grow only through learning from and about one another, but through the experiences and lessons the whole of the world provides each individual. The inability to feel “certain” about a person is not (typically) because the other has shown they are unable to meet our needs, but more often because the chance for them to do so was either not given, or the need was not presented to them at a time and in a manner that allowed them to fully engage. Uncertainty will always exist in relationships, of any nature, and all we can do is work to grow more, evolve the relationship, remain curious about each other and be willing to take those moments of uncertainty as cues to dive deeper into self and each other.