Relationship Minute: Embracing ambiguity

Some look to psychics, divination, astrology, or even Internet conspiracy theories for answers, or as a fun way to search for certainty. A path forward in the darkness.

But in reality, no one can know the future with 100% certainty. And that can be scary. Ambiguity causes anxiety for many. So how can you reassure your partner, and yourself, when you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Embrace ambiguity. Lean into it, turn towards it, and start sharing about it.

Using Dr. Pauline Boss’s Ambiguous Loss theory, adapted here by Certified Gottman Therapist Michael McNulty, here’s what partners can do to embrace ambiguity.

  • Know that what you’re experiencing is uncertain or ambiguous—label it, and accept it.
  • Normalize ambivalence—it’s okay to have mixed feelings.
  • Share perspectives—there’s a lot of information out there and you and your partner may disagree. Stay open.
  • Be flexible and creative.
  • Reconstruct routines and rituals—try seeing change as an opportunity for a refresh.
  • Find meaning—you are not alone.

As you tighten your grasp holding on to certainty or the way things were, you risk becoming more rigid and tightly wound. Endeavor to hold your perspectives with an open hand, creating the ability to let go of what is no longer serving you.

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.