Let me begin with this:
I am pretty good at reading people. Unless I’m unusually invested at the time in building a bridge, I can usually and clearly see who is on the other end. The cruel irony of that is not lost to me. I see red flags, and I see them early, but I’ve been known to ignore them, especially during my lowest and most lonely points in which building bridges seems direly important. Once I consciously chose to ignore red flags, there were none that would keep me away. It didn’t matter if the flags were red with fresh blood, because I would make up reasons to build that bridge. Connection is important to me. Humans are important to me. Bridges are how I explore and travel the world. It’s a dangerous system, and I know it, but this is what brings me the most wisdom.
The importance of heeding your gut
So, a “gut feeling” is formed through one’s own sensitivity to clues. There are clues that are more classically overt, of course, such as how a potential partner talks about their exes or how they treat the waiter. Gut feelings usually happen with subtler, less “nameable” clues, such as body language, including eye contact (or lack thereof) and posture, mannerisms, the nature of their vocabulary, their nonverbal reactions, et cetera. This doesn’t apply only to potential partners of course but also to anyone. Bias of course also plays a role, but bias and intuition are deeply different, and that’s a whole entire topic for another time.
I imagine “gut feelings” are different for everyone or are experienced differently, like anything else. However, “gut feelings” seem to have common traits of being visceral and sometimes indecipherable. Also, they’re often real and should be heeded, reflected on, and interpreted.
For me, my gut feeling has become decipherable. I often behave as though I’m trusting, despite being prone to paranoid episodes, and not to be totally cliché, but it gets me hurt. A lot. I tend to want to trust more than I actually do, and that creates a deeper chasm below the bridge, because I am going against my own gut feeling to trust a person. I don’t consider myself a misanthropist or even a cynic. I’m a realist, and I usually see people for who and what they are. But it’s very difficult for me to protect and/or arm myself, especially with Göethe’s & Frankl’s philosophies on seeing people’s potential, because the potential is what I hold onto so tenaciously. I don’t believe people can be changed but that the change comes from within if they do change. In the most recent leg of my life, however, I’ve learned that people don’t always change; and if they do, they often don’t change very much.
When you need to let them go, let them go
I practice door-slamming on a nearly regular basis. I readily admit to that. What I have a difficult time with however is that after I conduct the door slam, I ruminate for extended periods of time. I am not proud of my brooding or grudge-holding. It does not serve me well. It makes life harder for me, and it is something I need to work on.
Truthfully though, I wouldn’t have to door-slam so much if I just listened to my gut and/or heeded all the red flags. I still struggle with both.
It’s important to recognize toxicity and abuse in your life. This is another one of those whole entire topics to talk about, but I feel a general canvassing of a relationship goes something a little like the 5 Ws of journalism:
- From what are they holding you back? Or what are they helping you achieve?
- How do you feel about yourself when you’re with them? Why?
- Is this relationship taking you somewhere you want to go? Where?
- Is this relationship mutually beneficial? When?
Some basic things I’ve learned about bridges:
- Do heed your gut. If something natural and healthy is telling you not to trust someone, listen to it.
- Do heed and evaluate red flags, and hell, do a pros/cons list and weigh them out.
- Do work on moving on beyond the bridge.
- Do remember a bridge is a passage between two points. That being said, two people must work on it together.
- Do evaluate who that bridge is turning you into. Choose people who encourage you to be the best version of yourself.
- Don’t misread the length of relationship as a reason to stay. Just because you’ve been with someone for ten years doesn’t make it a healthy ten years. You won’t be able to get that time back, but you can save your future.
- Don’t burn bridges and expect to rebuild them later.
- Don’t rebuild bridges for the sake of a person who never was. I cannot stress this enough. Nostalgia sometimes sugarcoats, sometimes conceals and deceives, comforts you on dark days, but nostalgia is not a reliable lens to look through.