Make a U-turn – it could be your best move ever Backing out of a big decision isn't weak. It takes courage, says a woman who did just that
Some years ago, I began to have doubts about whether my long-term partner was The One. I felt there was something missing — that difficult to define but vitally important spark.
And so, after a few messy, painful and frankly agonising months of weighing up the pros and cons, and wondering whether I was doing the right thing or if I just had unrealistic expectations about love, we broke up.
I explained to my friends and family that the passion had gone. Everyone had an opinion. My mum warned me that expecting constant intense passion in a long-term relationship was unrealistic.
Change of heart: Don't be afraid to make a U-turn when it comes to life decisions (posed by model)
Others were more supportive and some even praised me. I remember one colleague, a woman in her late 50s, saying she envied me and wished she’d had the courage to leave her husband of 30-odd years whom, she said, she’d never loved.
My father revealed that he’d always thought my partner wasn’t good enough for me — though I’m not sure anyone would be in his eyes.
I felt proud of myself. I wasn’t ‘settling’ like many people I knew. I was going to find the love of my life and not be with anyone unless it felt absolutely right.
But then, four years later — and a lot of dates, a lot of tears and a lot of growing up — I began to see my ex again.
We bumped into each other at a charity auction and spent the evening catching up. Each of us had been in a few other relationships that hadn’t worked out.
We arranged to meet again, for coffee, then drinks, then meals out. We continued to do this for six months — in secret as I felt too embarrassed, guilty and terrified to tell anyone I was considering ‘doing a U-turn’.
It felt as if I was letting some people down — especially the ones who’d praised me for ending the relationship.
It also took me a long time to trust I was making the right decision. I’d been so convinced that the earlier decision was the right one. How could I ever trust my own decision-making abilities again
And my partner was just possibly feeling even more cautious, because of all the things I’d said when we broke up, including that my heart wasn’t in it and the passion had gone.
Think it over: When making your mind up, take time alone to reflect on what you want (posed by model)
I agonised over the U-turn, possibly even more than I had over the decision to break up. But eventually we both decided we wanted to give our relationship another try. And now, four years and a lovely daughter later, I look on it as the best decision I’ve ever made.
I was recently reminded of how difficult it is to ‘do a big U-turn’ when my friend Janice confessed to feeling like a complete failure after backtracking on a plan to spend a year travelling.
Janice was about to turn 40 and had come out of a long-term relationship. She had also been made redundant from her job as a research nurse and been rejected for jobs she’d applied for.
'We change and evolve. Why shouldn’t our choices and decisions'
She said her decision to take a year out to go travelling felt like ‘absolutely the right thing to do’. But then, just days before she was due to fly out, she had a massive re-think.
‘It was very sudden,’ says Janice. ‘Someone had casually asked me what my plans were when I returned and I realised I had none. Suddenly, I began to wonder if I was just running away from my difficulties at home.’
So instead she pursued a lifelong dream of starting her own doggy day-care business. But she said she felt humiliated, embarrassed and foolish telling everyone about her change of heart.
‘I was in tears when I told people because I felt like an idiot and a failure.’
Many of us will identify with aspects of this. From marriage to career changes to whether to have children, most of life’s major decisions are nerve-racking.
We feel as if we should know our own mind and should never go back on our word. To do so is often perceived as a sign of failure and weakness.
It is often said that it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. But from my experience, and according to other women I’ve spoken to, we have an almost pathological fear of the U-turn.
So why are we afraid of changing our mind
‘It feels like a betrayal or a caving in,’ says Dena Michelli, co-author of A Matter Of Choice: A Companion For Making Everyday Or Life-Changing Decisions.
‘Usually if someone is making a big decision — a career change, moving to another continent, leaving a relationship — they usually look for reassurance from the people close to them. Those people then start investing in the decision.
EXPERT'S GUIDE TO CHANGING YOUR MIND
Before announcing your U-turn, take plenty of time to tap into your own wisdom so you know whether it’s a transient phase or a fullblown change of heart.
People often want to justify their U-turn to others, even though there’s no need to. However, it can be helpful to know exactly why you’ve had a change of heart.
When you are telling others, be confident and clear. Otherwise, you may appear flaky and uncertain. Offer an explanation if you want. But there’s no need to apologise unless others have been hurt by your decisions.
Listen to other people’s advice if you want, but do not assume they know what’s best for you. They don’t!
Try to have a long-term vision of what you would like your life to look like. It can help you decide whether to stay on the path you’re on or turn back and try another.
‘So, for instance, if someone’s ending a relationship, friends or relatives might start divulging their real feelings about that person you’re leaving. If you then reverse that decision, it can feel as if you are rejecting the opinions of the people who matter to you.
‘Plus, if they have disclosed negative feelings about someone or something, you have to live with that. And so do they.’
On top of that, there is often a strong and disconcerting feeling that you don’t know your own mind.
Julie Simpson, a psychotherapist and Michelli’s co-author on A Matter Of Choice, explains: ‘It can knock a person’s confidence to have to admit they may have made a misinformed choice. You are doubting your inner resources.’
We seem to be under greater pressure to make the right choice. As a result, many of us feel almost paralysed by choice; afraid to pick one path and stick with it in case it is the wrong one.
So how do we make the ‘right’ choice All the experts I spoke to agreed that it is not easy. They recommend asking lots of reflective questions and thinking very deeply about your fears, fantasies and assumptions related to the decision.
They also recommend spending time alone, so the final decision is yours rather than one that is too heavily influenced by other people. As Michelli says: ‘A person has to reflect really deeply to determine whether something’s just a transient phase or not. And the only person who really knows is the person making the decision.’
It can help to take a longer-term perspective. Julie Simpson says: ‘If people have a vision about what they would love their lives to look like, they are more likely to make good decisions. The alternative is just doing things when they reach every crossroads.’
And when doing a U-turn, what’s the best strategy Though people often feel the need to apologise for a volte-face, there really is no need unless it affects other people.
But it is important to be clear — at least in your own mind — about your reasons for the decision and to present that to others with confidence.
Finally, we should stop beating ourselves up for changing our minds. It’s not a crime.
It’s worth remembering that the right answer can change over time. What was best for us in the past may not be so today or in the future. We change and evolve. Why shouldn’t our choices and decisions