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"I don't know what to do"

Updated: Apr 4

How to make decisions in a relationship

Clients often come to us for relationship coaching because they’re seeking clarity around their personal or relational issues.

They will tell us, for example,


  • “We’re fighting all the time … I don’t know what to do”.

  • “I’m not attracted to my partner anymore; it’s hurting our intimacy … where do we go with that?”

  • “I don’t even know if we should stay together or just get a divorce”.

  • “We’ve been together for a few years. We like each other but we don’t know if we should move in together”.

Uncertainty is a tough state to be in for long periods. Especially if it pertains to something important, like your relationship or career. Uncertainty is for most people unsettling and takes up a lot of mental-emotional “bandwidth”. It’s like the mind can’t rest as long as uncertainty persists.


Naturally, we seek to turn uncertainty to clarity. We try to change “I don’t know what to do” to “I know exactly what to do”. It’s almost always a big relief when we arrive at clarity and decide what to do.


Thinking your way to clarity


How do we go about making the journey from uncertainty to clarity? We think about it. We talk about it. We weigh pros and cons in our minds. We analyze potential risks and opportunities. We google and gather information.


In other words, we try to think our way to clarity. Our reasoning goes like this: If I consider this carefully enough, I’ll arrive at clarity. Then I’ll know what to do.


All too often, though, the desired clarity doesn’t arrive. We keep spinning in our heads about what to do. We keep hoping that something will happen to cause clarity to appear.


For instance, we helped a couple who couldn’t decide whether they should move in together. They’d been together for two years, they clearly loved each other and enjoyed each other’s company. Still, it was a big decision with potentially big consequences, both personal and practical. How would it be to give up their own personal space? What would be the financial impact of one of them selling their house? What if they drove each other nuts with their habits and preferences? And what if it didn’t work out?


They didn’t want to take any rash actions before they were sure.


Clarity through action

But here’s the kicker: It’s almost impossible to think your way to clarity. You have to act your way to clarity. You have to act, to put your body through motions, to develop the clarity you seek.


I once heard a great analogy to describe this. If you’re on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean and the wind dies down, you can no longer steer your boat. The boat might be bopping on the waves, but since you have no forward momentum, you can’t steer. You drift. You can turn the rudder all you want; it won’t make a difference. You need wind in the sails, i.e. momentum, to be able to steer.


What many of us do in the face of uncertainty is akin to sitting on a sailboat, with no wind and slack sails, hoping to get to a destination.


That’s why we say you have to act your way to clarity. The clarity will arise from being in action.


In coaching with this couple, we came up with possible actions that would keep them moving forward and simultaneously support them gaining clarity on the “big question” (Do we move in together or stay living apart?).


Movement towards clarity


In moving towards clarity, we're looking for small, almost "risk-free" actions. First action was for her to clear out a drawer for him to leave some clothing at her house (they’d already agreed her house was the better option for moving in together if they decided to do it). She did the same with a shelf in the bathroom closet and he began to leave some of his stuff.


Second action was for him to stay overnight on one or two weeknights. Up to that point, they’d only ever shared weekends together. Weekends felt a bit like vacation, so by him staying overnight during the week, they’d get to experience what it would be like to live together during the “normal” working weekdays.


By gradually moving closer to the actual situation of sharing a home, they got to feel and experience what it would be like to live together. They got to experience, and deal with, any potential surprises before “signing on the dotted line”. They lived it, instead of just imagining it.


Eventually, these gradual action steps made it clear for this couple they wanted to live together. He sold his house and moved in with her. They love their new life, fantastic! But they could have arrived at the opposite conclusion and found out they liked it better living apart. The point is they couldn’t get to that clarity merely by thinking and talking about it.


Be in motion


Whenever you’re finding it hard to reach clarity about a decision, it’s a great rule of thumb to start taking action. It is so much easier to gain clarity while in motion vs. trying to think your way to clarity. Don’t “sign on the dotted line” yet, just take actions to bring your closer. Remember the sailboat; without forward motion you’re just drifting with no ability to adjust your direction.


If you need support getting clarity about important relationship or life situations, reach out to us. We’ve coached thousands of couples and individuals from “I don’t know what to do” to “Ok, here’s what I’m doing!”

LoveWorks: We believe relationships are meant to be an empowering, fun, passionate, safe place to grow, love, and learn. Where we get to be more of who we are, not less. We know it’s not always easy, but it can definitely be easier! With our unique and practical approach to relationship, you learn how to resolve conflicts quickly and enjoy fulfilling intimacy for the rest of your life. To learn more or contact us, visit

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