The 21st-century 20-something

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Get out of the gray area

The gray area is something I've been in for most of my life with relationships. It's when neither person wants to make a full commitment - or there are extenuating circumstances that prevent you from delving into a full-on relationship.

In some cases, it has been my choice to remain in the gray area. I am the type of person who doesn't want to waste time, energy and emotions on something I don't see going anywhere. When I was younger and more naive, I lived by the mantra that I wouldn't date anyone I couldn't see myself marrying. Intense, I know. But my philosophy was that if you could see an end to the relationship, or encountered red flags that you didn't think you could get past, why waste your time pursuing it?

I have since made some exceptions, hence the gray area I speak of. This is when you know something probably won't work out, and maybe in your heart of hearts you don't really want it to, but something pulls you back to the person time and again. 

I have pondered several times why people end up in this state of flux, and can never come to a solid conclusion. Perhaps it's boredom, loneliness or that you really care about the person, even though you're not sure if they're the one for you. Either way, the gray area is not a fun place to be at all, and you certainly shouldn't take up permanent residence there.

Therefore, I implore any of you in this precarious position to get out of it - sooner rather than later.

Here's how to do that:

- One way to get out of the gray area is to have a conversation about what you want. If you want to try out a real relationship, let them know. Don't present it as an ultimatum, just make it a conversation. Find out what they want and what you want and if that matches up, you may be in good shape. There has to be a breaking point where one of you decides to make a move. Either end it, or give commitment a shot. Life's too short, so stop wasting time.

If the result of this conversation is that one or both of you still make excuses about why you won't commit to a real relationship, the answer is clear. It's time to move on.

So now you need to:

- Cut off all contact with the person for whatever amount of time it takes for you to get over them and get your heart prepared for something new.  This doesn't mean you will immediately stop caring for or even loving this person, but you will allow yourself the time you need to accept the reality of your situation and give yourself the chance to move on. If this means deleting their number from your phone, avoiding places you know you will run into them, or temporarily not doing some activities you enjoy to avoid an unwanted encounter - just do it. It won't kill you, and you'll be grateful you did it in the end.

- Let the person know you're cutting off contact with them. If there were any feelings involved, the person deserves enough respect for you to explain to them why you don't think it's a good idea to continue the 'relationship.' Be firm and straight forward. If you aren't, this can backfire - hugely. This conversation can sometimes take a sharp turn into 'let's talk this out' or 'I don't want to lose you' or whatever excuse the person may have for not wanting to let you go, even though they don't want you around enough to actually be with you. Don't be duped! Stick to your guns.

- Don't have the 'let's just be friends' conversation. This just makes the blurred lines surrounding the gray area even blurrier. You can not immediately make the transition from the gray area to the friend zone. The friend zone can be reentered when you've done the previous steps. Keeping in touch or trying to maintain a friendship with someone you still have feelings for, or who still has feeling for you, will keep you in the gray area. Both parties have to get over their feelings for it to be a pure friendship, not just an excuse to keep the person in your life.

- Stop making excuses for why you can't stop talking to them. This is especially difficult if it is a co-worker or close member of your social circle, but it is possible and needs to be done. If you have to see them everyday at work, that sucks - but that doesn't mean you have to talk to them. If you're in a situation that you do have to talk to them on a daily basis for your job, consider getting another one. I know it seems drastic, but no job is worth the misery that comes form an extended stay in the gray area. If it is a member of your social circle, you may have to skip some parties or nights out with your friends, and that's OK. Get a hobby. You will still have plenty of time for your friends and find things to do when that person is not around. There is really no valid reason I've come across to continuing talking to someone you are trying to get over. Just stop.

- Look at it as a positive step in your life, not a sacrifice. I'm not going to lie to you, it will be sad and won't be easy in the beginning, especially if that person was a big part of your life. But if you focus on the fact that you deserve better and that any time spent in the gray area is time wasted, it makes it a bit easier. It's also helpful to channel any upsetting feelings into physically doing something positive. Start going to the gym, blogging, focusing on work or your family - you will have a lot more time and energy to spend on something productive instead of a relationship that wasn't going anywhere.

- Make a pro and con list, and throw the pro list out the window. It's not going to make it any easier for you to think about all of the good times or the sweet things the person may have done for you, remember the bad, terrible things. The times you fought, the times they disrespected you or lied to you - this will make it easier to let them go, since these are probably many of the reason you don't want to be in a real relationship with them anyway. It is never good to harbor negative feelings, because it hurts you more than the other person - so don't hold on to these bad feelings, just remember them.

If you have any other ideas about how to get out of the gray area, please feel free to share.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this post moved me. Thank you, I'm having a hard time right now because I'm in the gray area but this article helped in realizing a lot of things. Better to love myself first than to be a masochist. I guess he's not ready, and I'm not ready too.

August 14, 2014 at 2:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks.....Actually, I was, and still am, following your suggestions before I read them.....and just to add to them my opinion:
Sometimes, a person find themselves getting out of the gray zone first it starts to hurt badly, and tears are likely to be shed. The second step, and after a while, the person starts to have cold feeling toward the other party.....then finally, the person obliged out of the gray zone, will feel reluctance to the other part....and this is very good, because it means that success is achieved and he/she is out of the gray zone.

April 28, 2015 at 2:25 AM  

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