One’s emotions can be helpful in pointing the way toward love—or as unreliable as a broken compass whose needle points in only one direction. That’s because lots of things influence our feelings. Sometimes they are based on logic. Sometimes they are influenced by fear. Sometimes we can’t pinpoint the reason, but we just have a nagging sense about something or someone.
In your dating decisions, how much credence should you give to these gut feelings? There’s no ironclad answer for every person and every circumstance. But as you’re trying to figure out how to decipher that small inner nudge, here are some important questions to ask yourself:
1. Are my gut instincts in line with my logic? If your intuition and your rational thinking are telling you the same thing, you probably have nothing to worry about. That’s because when all the arrows are pointing the same direction, it’s pretty clear which way to head. But when it comes to love and romance, things are usually more complicated than that. It might be that you’re wrestling with the idea of following a third arrow—which is what you want to do, even if your gut and your brain are assuring you it’s a horrible idea. If this is the case, resist the urge to ignore what your intuition and your brain are telling you.
2. Are my gut feelings fear-based? If this turns out to be the case, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong and you shouldn’t follow them. But it might mean you should take them with a grain of salt. Dig a little deeper. Is your fear based on actual danger, or is it fueled by old baggage you’ve yet to unpack and unload? Sometimes what seems like your gut talking can actually be old hurts and wounds getting vocal. If so, some healing, therapy, prayer, or straight talk with yourself might be in order.
3. Are my gut feelings consistent over time? Sometimes we put emotions on the back burner. Our intuition is talking to us, but there’s no immediate danger or need for a quick decision, so we give things time to see if future events confirm or recalibrate our instincts. But if that nagging small voice has been consistently giving the same warning for a while now, it’s wise to take heed.
4. Are my gut feelings saying the same thing as close friends and family who know me well, and whose opinion I respect? If so, it adds credence to the intuition you may be trying to dismiss. Pay close attention when your intuition and people you trust are speaking in unison.
5. Am I in denial? It’s easy to develop blind spots when our emotions are focused on the possibility of lasting love. Still, most of us know the stubborn truth down deep, though we may be unwilling to admit it to ourselves or anyone else. Ask yourself honestly if you’re fighting your intuition, even if somewhere inside you know it’s spot on.
6. What kind of track record do my gut feelings have? Flip through the pages of your memory and consider the times your intuition has kicked in. Did you follow your feelings too quickly and later regret your haste? Or did you ignore your intuition and wish you had listened instead? The past won’t necessarily tell you exactly what you should do this time around, but it will indicate if your intuition is typically reliable.
Sometimes circumstances disprove our initial gut feelings. Sometimes we need time to admit to ourselves that our intuition was right all along. But by asking ourselves questions like these, we can often hasten the process of figuring out whether our gut is just chattering or providing wise counsel.