I just had the following conversation with one of my clients.
Me: “Tell me about your date. Have your feelings changed since the last time you went out?”
Client: “I don't know, I just don't know.”
Me: “You don't know what?”
Client: “I'm just not sure if this feels right. What should I do?”
“I don't know” usually means that you need more time to figure out if this person is for you. Not knowing can signify a few things. It can mean you're not necessarily excited about someone. Although you may be disappointed not to feel excited, sometimes relationships start out plain and simple—just two good people hanging out without much chemistry. My general suggestion for “I don’t know” is keep going out. Not knowing often just comes down to needing more dates, more time together, and more shared experiences to become clear.
In the meantime, if this conversation feels familiar to you too, here are a few exercises you can try to gain some clarity.
Invest – Most people, when in the “I don't know” phase, generally don't make an emotional investment. Many times when my clients don’t have the feeling they want or expect immediately, they hold back, afraid that it might not be the right thing, and not wanting to invest themselves if they aren’t sure. Often you have to be willing to invest before you are sure, or neither of you will ever show enough of your real selves for you to gain that clarity.
Analyze – Think about what your head says and what your heart says. Be in touch with what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling. Don’t judge those thoughts and feelings—just write them down. Sometimes just seeing things in front of you in black and white is enough to help you understand what you are really feeling.
Beware of Outside Influences – Who else in your life are you speaking to about this and what are their thoughts and feelings? How do those other thoughts and feelings affect you? Are you anxious about them? Are you feeling judged? Does someone else want you to be in this relationship more than you do? It’s hard to parse all of this, but if you can, it can be very clarifying to sort out your thinking from that of others.
Process – Does the person you’re dating “get you” (understand you and where you’re coming from), or “get to you” (annoy you)? I often find that people can feel annoyed but when their date also “gets” them they feel conflicted about ending things...leading to the “I don't know” comment. It's hard to give up someone who understands you, even if you're feeling annoyed by some of their behaviors. This can lead to thinking “I can't say yes and I don't know if I should say no.” In this case, I believe you should keep dating and allow yourself more time to make a decision.
Make a list – Another way to help you move from “I don't know” to a yes or a no is to take time to reevaluate your values and preferences. Make a list of your values (core beliefs) and preferences (things you like, that while important are not vital). Review this list and see how it matches up to the person you're with. You may find clarity in the process.
Some of my “I don't know” clients have gotten married while others have broken up. Most needed longer than average to figure it out. Take the time you need to figure out the right answer for you, and may your decision be a comfortable one.