YES or NO? Or maybe…
This is a big subject for me, and one I care about a lot. Clarity. Easy to say, but not always easy to deliver, and offerred less often than one would like. As I’ve told you before, I dont make New Year’s resolutions. I hate breaking promises, even to myself. When I promise to do something, I want to be as close to certain as I can be that I will do it. Things can change, new circumstances can arise, entirely unexpected and unforeseen, that can change one’s ability to deliver (like a high fever or an illness preventing you from meeting a friend, even if you promised). But generally, if I promise to do something, I will move heaven and earth, to the best of my ability, to do it. I am a woman of my word, and I dont take promises lightly—–so I’m not going to make resolutions that I wont eat cake, or chocolate, or smoke, when more than likely, I won’t keep my word. It’s a big deal to me. So if I promise you something, you can be certain that I will do my damnedest to do it. Count on it.
One of my big problems, and I think I’m not alone in this, is that I find it hard to say no. A friend asks me to do something, often that I don’t want to do, or don’t have time for, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings, so I say yes. Urrgghjjjkkkk….and then my feelings about making promises enter into it, and I feel I have to do it, no matter what—-and I wish I hadn’t promised. I find it hard to say no to children or friends, and particularly the man in my life. Their wish is my command—-I come from a generation where women were taught to say yes to their men. The man was king. No matter that I was juggling 3 jobs, or 9 kids, or whatever else I was doing. Yes, darling, of course. No is the hardest word in the world for me to say—-I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or disappoint them. It is agonizingly hard for me to say no—–at some things I draw the line obviously, anything I think is immoral, dishonest, or wrong. But if it’s something that requires my time and energy, and sacrificing my own, I can’t get the word ‘no’ out of my mouth. It tastes like poison. A friend of mine wrote a wonderful book called “The Answer is No, If That’s Okay With You”, it’s about how hard it is for most women to say no. It has been hard for me to say no all my life. I’m working on it, but it’s not easy. I’m always too willing to sacrifice myself and what I need or want in order not to disappoint someone else. And couple that with a promise, where I feel honor bound to do it, like it or not, and I’m screwed.
But the thing I really hate is Ambiguity. When nothing is clear. When people don’t tell you plainly what they mean, or worse try to give you one impression (like yes), and mean something else (like no). Ambiguous situations have been my curse all my life. And although I dont make new Year’s resolutions, I occasionally make promises to myself, and try to keep them. Earlier this year, I made such a promise: No more ambiguous situations in my life, of people who say one thing and mean something else, or intentionally try to confuse me—–I no sooner made that promise to myself, when a whole flock of new ambiguous situations landed on me like birds. And let me tell you, it is one thing I hate. I have been in love with men who gave me the ‘impression’ they loved me, and really didn’t. Who were leaving me and wouldn’t admit it clearly, or were cheating and swore they weren’t. I have known one man for 20 years who always hints at the fact that he cares for me ‘deeply’, but really doesnt, and has never gone anywhere with it, but always hints that he will. I pay no attention to him now. There are married men mostly in Europe who feel that if they no longer love their wife, or even like her, that makes them free and virtually single (try telling that to the Judge!!). In my book, hating your wife doesnt make you single or give you license to date others, it just makes you a cheater. I don’t want someone else’s husband, and married men are not ‘free’, they are heartbreaks waiting to destroy your life. I know other married men, still in Europe, who hint that they will leave their wife IF you get involved with them….yeah, whatever….just another heartbreak waiting to happen. I had one man who barely knew me swear he was madly in love with me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, (this info sent by email of course, which is a minefield of false emotions and information, where the cowardly get brave, but only briefly, and then chicken out again), only to find that he wouldn’t have dinner with me when we were in the same city. HUH? My last husband prided himself on being ‘the master of the double message”, and indeed he was. We’re good friends now, but those double messages are painful and wreak havoc with your life. He cancelled our wedding twice, talk about ambiguous, finally married me, then divorced me, and after he divorced me, still wanted to spend vacations together and occasional nights. That’s about as ambiguous as it gets. Do you want/love me or not???? We’ve been divorced now for many years, he’s a wonderful person, but ambiguity as a way of life doesn’t work for me. After that very confusing experience, I once said that I want a relationship where I don’t need a shrink, three psychics, 10 friends, 2 priests and a box of tea leaves to figure out what’s going on. Ambiguity really is a bitch. Just tell me what you think, what you want, what you know, if you love me, or don’t. Sometimes, we honestly dont know. Sometimes we really need time to figure things out. Sometimes we dont know if we love someone or just wish we did, or if we’re done and wish we weren’t. But it’s better to just say that. ‘I dont know’ is a reasonable answer. I’m not sure. I need time to figure this out. I can live with any of that. What I can’t stand is when people give me one impression and really mean something else. They want me to think they love me (just to keep me on hold and interested) and mean something else (the real answer is no, but they just won’t say it). I hate pretend games, and lack of clarity, in any situation. If I don’t get the job, or the man, or don’t qualify, or you don’t like me, or like me but don’t love me——-just say it!!! I hate playing games, or having games played with me. It’s not fair. And some people don’t know how to do it any other way. Maybe they’re not honest with themselves, or they know exactly what’s going on and what isn’t, and they don’t want to be honest with you. I want to avoid those situations, and those people, like the plague!!! And I try to. But I seem to be a magnet for ambiguous people. It’s okay to be scared, or not to know, or to need time. But it’s not okay to give people an impression that simply isn’t true. That’s just plain mean.
Years ago, I had been plagued with game players, ambiguous situations and dishonest men, and along came the man I then married, who became the father of 8 of my 9 children. He was simple, he was straightforward, he was clean in his dealings with me, he knew what he wanted and didn’t, and he said it, and he wanted me. We got engaged in 6 weeks and married 4 months later. And I’m not saying you have to rush anything, you can be engaged for 10 years if you want, or never get engaged or marry, but just say what you think or want. His honesty with me was so refreshing. We were married for 18 years, with 8 kids as a result of that marriage. It didn’t last forever, but 18 years is a hell of a good run these days, and we have great kids. And he was honest when it was over for him too. I always valued his honesty and still do. There was never any ambiguity with him.
So that is my pet peeve. Ambiguity. I am so tired of situations which pretend to be one thing, and are really something else. I can try to adjust to anything, if I know what it is, but dealing with ambiguity is like trying to cross a room full of marbles, you slip and slide, and inevitably wind up flat on your ass and confused. it’s all smoke and mirrors, which some people find entertaining. I just don’t. I don’t like confusion, in business, in relationships, with friends. I like to know where I stand (even if the other person isn’t sure, it’s okay to say that too. Relationships are complicated and sometimes take time, even a long time, to figure out. That’s honest), and I try to be clear with other people. No more ambiguous situations in my life…..that’s a resolution I really want to keep!!!
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Yes, I agree. I think we all intuitively know our leanings toward another person; it shouldn’t be something that is difficult to figure out; either we’re inspired by the other person, or we’re not; we adore the other person, or we don’t. If a man can’t figure out if he wants us, it is up to us to face the hard facts that it’s not meant to be instead of putting hope where it doesn’t belong — so not an easy endeavor though!! 🙂
This part of your post made me laugh out loud: After that very confusing experience, I once said that I want a relationship where I don’t need a shrink, three psychics, 10 friends, 2 priests and a box of tea leaves to figure out what’s going on.
I LOVE it! I so agree with you- also on what you said about e-mail is were the cowardly get brave- had firsthand experience with that. I hate ambigious people. There is nothing worse than being toyed with professionally or personally. Yes, there are some people who are indecisive or just plain cowardly. But I despise people who lead you on saying one thing or doing another. What some of these people fail to realize is that it really effects your life when they do that. That is not cool and some of these people are really mean. In an ideal world, people would be honest and direct and NEVER lead you on or go from yes to no and back again. Also, in an ideal world NO ONE would use e-mail to dump someone or be a coward. I want everything in my life to be real, clear, and no ambiguity. That is my goal now especially after an experience I had recently.
Understand what you mean.
You’ve spoken warmly of your ex-husband with whom you raised 8 of your children. As a romanticist, I often wonder if there is any chance you’d ever get back with him-in any case would make a nice novel!
Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for your blogs.
I always thought the only ambiguous to attract people to my life. are like magnets. and I always iron them. and not knowing how to say no, without comment. My husband says that is my biggest flaw and perhaps higher quality. one of my goals for the new year is to learn to say no. do you? kisses
Dear Danielle, I just stumbled upon your blog, but this has really struck a chord with me. I feel just the same way about ambiguity, and I wanted to share with you a quote I read somewhere … ‘Boundaries are healthy. Boundaries are adult. Boundaries help cure ambiguity and complication.’ This has given me a lot of food for thought, and your article also helps connects those dots for me. That being clear and saying no when you mean no and yes when you mean yes creates a clear boundary that in turn creates healthier relationships. That’s the theory, anyway …
Danielle, I have all your books in print and always look forward to the next one! I want to agree with the idea of saying what you mean and meaning what you say. But, just as important I cannot tolerate ‘friends’ who pretend to be what they are not, that their kids are smarter, cleaner or whatever than mine are. Be real, for everymore! love your books. Joyce