Issue #08 |October 2006

Live consciously. Create a life that you love. Attract the loving relationship that is "right" for you.

Today’s Topic: Uncovering Hidden Ambivalence

Dear friends,

Autumn greetings to each of you!

The weather is shifting and change is in the air. What a perfect time to revisit your goals for this year and see how you’re doing. I find that by this time of year, some of my goals have been accomplished, some have been dropped and some are needing revision.

So give yourself permission to reflect and take stock. Then you can re-focus on what is truly important for the remainder of the year.

Shirley Vollett, BSW
Life & Relationship Coach

Something to think about…

If you have no doubt that you want an intimate partner, there are plenty of things you can do to find one. If you aren’t doing them, chances are you aren’t altogether certain you want one.

-Susan Page

Do you long for love, yet fail to take decisive steps to make it happen?
When you do decide to take action around dating and meeting people, are you easily side-tracked? Perhaps for weeks or months?

Ambivalence may be the cause of your start-and-stop approach to finding love.

Hidden, unconscious ambivalence may be sabotaging you and side-lining your determination to have a loving relationship.

In my work with singles, I have noticed that some individuals cycle in and out of ambivalence. One month they are determined to date and push past their fears or reservations. The next month they are questioning if they even want a relationship, and their dating plans have stalled

In her book, If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?, Susan Page identifies ambivalence as one of the underlying causes for singles who want to be in a relationship and still aren’t. According to Page, the main stumbling block for most singles is “not getting what we want in love, but knowing what we want. We keep ourselves from moving forward because we aren’t sure which way we want to move.”

Many singles have created full and satisfying lives on their own.

They wonder if they should “rock the boat” by getting into a relationship. One single client recently said, “Sometimes I ask myself: If I don’t really NEED a relationship, then why would I want one?” She questioned whether she should risk the great single life she’d created for herself, for a relationship which might or might not be better.

The dictionary defines ambivalence as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings” and “uncertainty or indecisiveness as to which course to follow”. Recognize these mixed feelings?

I’d like to share my life, but what if I lose my independence?

I want a rich personal life, but what if my career suffers?

I want to share myself intimately, but what if I get hurt?

I want a relationship, but is it worth the risk?

According to Page, there are two types of “involuntary singles”.

The first type wants a relationship and hasn’t met the right person yet. This type is probably taking decisive action towards their goal.

The second type is ambivalent, either consciously or unconsciously. When the ambivalent type says they want a relationship, Page says “what they really mean is: ‘I want a relationship, but equally or more important to me is:

not having to take risks

progressing in my career

hanging on to my great lifestyle

avoiding pain

keeping my secrets to myself

proving I’m right that the opposite sex is the problem'."

So the ambivalent person wants a relationship, however they may secretly value (or fear) something else more. Hence, their efforts to have a relationship may be sabotaged from within.

If you suspect ambivalence is slowing you down, here are some pointers for moving beyond it:

1) Pay attention to your ambivalence.

Ambivalence will only control you if it remains unconscious. Once you are aware of it, you have some choices about whether you allow it to call the shots. So be honest with yourself about your true thoughts and feelings, even if they seem contradictory.

Notice if you feel justified or righteous about all the things you’ve done to find a relationship, that haven’t worked. Ambivalence can sometimes take the form of looking like you’re trying, while secretly hoping you don’t succeed.

2) Don’t judge yourself negatively.

Don’t berate yourself for having ambivalence. It is a self-protective mechanism, often rooted in fear. Be compassionate towards that aspect of yourself that would rather dither and delay than risk failure or hurt. It is a very human tendency and you are not the only one who has it!

Ambivalence can’t be willed or forced away. So treat yourself and your ambivalence with kindness and acceptance.

3) Understand your ambivalence and design your next step.

Your ambivalence may be pointing to an important requirement of yours OR it may simply be a guise for your fear.

When your ambivalence points to an important value of yours, it needs to be honored. For example, if you’re afraid that a relationship will cost you your independence, it may be that independence is an essential requirement for you. You may need to select a partner who respects that requirement and enjoys having an independent mate. Your ambivalence needn’t cause you to stop your search. Instead, it can help you to refine it.

If your ambivalence is a “cover” for fear (fear of rejection, fear of trying something new, fear of disappointment, etc.), it’s important not to get stuck in the fear. I recommend taking small steps towards your goal, at a pace that you can handle. This means stretching beyond your comfort zone, without overwhelming yourself in the process.

For example, if signing up with a dating service seems like too big a step, then start with a smaller step: Call 3 dating services and find out exactly how they work. Or talk to 3 people who’ve used a dating service to find out what it was like. Once you’ve done that, you may be ready to take action. Or you may be clear that you’re not interested in this dating option. And you can move on to something else.

Small steps lead to the same destination as large steps, as long as you keep taking them in the desired direction. Most fear is manageable if we can slow the process down into do-able steps.

If you are STUCK and unable to take action, give yourself the gift of support.

Talk to a pro-active friend (not one who will agree with you that it’s hopeless), read a good dating self-help book (see Page’s book above) or talk to a counselor or coach. Seeking support may be your next best step.

Take action toward your goal and you may find that your ambivalence decreases as your pro-active behavior increases. With my clients, I have witnessed the empowerment that comes when someone stops waiting for love, and starts initiating! Their confidence increases, their courage and optimism grows, and things happen!

Invitation to action

Take one small action toward your goal of having a relationship this week, despite any ambivalence. (Make that call, find out about that dating service, accept that social invitation, ask for support.) The size of the step doesn’t matter. Taking it does.

Shirley Vollett, BSW is a Life & Relationship Coach who loves to support and encourage singles in their quest to have a satisfying, successful life AND relationship.

Shirley offers Get Ready For Love! A Program for Singles. Clarify your vision for your life & relationship. Then strategize how to make it happen. Read more at

Contact to receive your free Relationship Readiness Review or book a free introductory coaching session. Visit for all of Shirley's coaching services.

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Copyright © 2006 by Shirley Vollett.
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