Do You Follow Your Heart, But Ignore Your Instincts?

Do You Follow Your Heart, But Ignore Your Instincts?
Contributor
Love, Self

Your heart and your instincts are often at war, and there's always a blurred line between them. The old adage says to "follow your heart, but trust your instincts."  I've always found that statement difficult to make sense of. If your instincts say leave and your heart says stay, then which do you listen to?

Like I said, it can be an all-out raging war if your heart and instincts aren't in sync.

I've tried to rationalize it, think of following my heart as following my emotional response, and following my instincts as letting womanly intuition tug me in one direction. But that doesn't make it much easier to grapple with, because sometimes your gut instinct is far more dominant and usually correct in retrospect, though, we choose to ignore it for reasons only our heart knows. I've ignored my instincts too many times to count, especially in my dating experiences. Should You Trust Your Instincts?

I battled a three-year war between my heart and instincts with the guy I dated before my husband. This guy was very manipulative—a real smoother.  In the middle of a fight, where I was clearly in the right, he always turned it around and made me look like the bad guy. I felt powerless. So many nights ended in tears where I considered breaking up with him. But he'd always waltz back in, put on his charm, and apologize. He'd say he never wanted to fight again, and he would never do anything to intentionally hurt me.

I loved him, so I believed that. But two days later we'd be back to fighting about the same things. And things didn't get better.

Later in the relationship, rumors started surfacing in our circle of friends about him and other girls. Details were always left out, but things slowly started to come into focus for me: later-than-usual nights working, unanswered phone calls, phone calls and texts from other women. Something was wrong, but as ridiculous as it seems, I wouldn't believe it. It's too awful to be true, I thought. He wouldn't do that to me. He couldn't. My heart was too tangled up in the relationship, so I shut out that tiny whisper of truth from deep inside my gut. 10 Tips For Finding Love In the New Year

I stayed.

Oh, I threatened to leave him—in fits of anger. But I always came to the same conclusion: I was being rash. My heart really wanted me to believe that. So, I second guessed myself. There was something about the way he said he needed me, that he couldn't live without me, that brought me right back to him. Stuck. Deep down, I knew I was settling if I stayed with him, which went against everything I believe about love. But I was comfortable. It didn't matter if I was happy or not, there was safety in having someone, no matter what he'd done. I was scared of being single.

I am an emotional girl, so naturally I followed my heart and ignored my instincts. I stayed because it was easy, because it would have been another failed relationship. 5 Signs Your Emotional Baggage Is Sabotaging Your Relationship

I thought if I prayed hard enough, everything would be OK. God would get me through it, keep me in that state of comfort. But God speaks through your gut, that buried instinct He gave you. We nearly-always ignore it, but never seems to fail us when we take a moment to listen. My instinct knew it was game over. It was a slow, subtle feeling of uneasiness, but pretty soon it overcame me enough to hear it. And when it did, it all snapped into place. My heart's call was strong and loud, but my instinct's voice was clear and unavoidable.

So, as blurred and hard as it is to identify, I didn't let it stop me anymore. I drew the line between my heart and my instincts; my line, the one I was willing to live with. I ended things completely with my ex. It was just like ripping off the band-aid. I got it over with and moved on. I knew the road ahead was filled with tears. But with great friends, and my faith that God would not put on me more than I could bear, I made it me through.

During those three years, I learned all about what a real relationship isn't. A real relationship isn't making the other person feel inferior so you feel powerful. It isn't yelling to get your point across. And it definitely isn't selfishness or self-centeredness. After A Breakup, Anger Hard To Shake

Looking back things are always clearer, but that's the beauty of hindsight. You never see the bigger picture in the midst your battles, and maybe that's the way God intends for it to be.  Maybe that's how God chooses to help us learn and grow, distinguish between our heart and our gut, teach us what we need in a relationship. Maybe that's how our pain, whether spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical, is healed by God's unconditional love.

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When I met my husband, I had a new approach to love and dating. I drew that line ahead of time. I wasn't going to allow my heart control this relationship too quickly. I told myself I wasn't going to get attached and fall for this guy right away. I wanted to find out exactly who he was before I made any big decisions. I wanted to find out if he was a Christian and believed as I do.

I made the effort that was needed to create a healthy friendship, and then that friendship blossomed into a wonderful relationship. My faith grew, and ours together. I found out what genuine love is from my husband. He helped me see that God is love, and we can never know true love apart from Him. One of our favorite verses is from 1 John: "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (4:12, NIV). As my faith grew, and as my love for my future husband grew, I knew that warm, tingly feeling I felt inside was the real deal. 

Today, I can't believe I even considered marrying my ex, because it never would have worked out. I know now that marriage is hard. Period. It can sometimes get boring and lose its feeling of specialness. You have to fight through those spells with your partner and not allow emotions to instantly blind you. If I had married my ex, the marriage would have eventually collapsed. Our differences would have created more work than we would have been able to invest, and the d-word would have been lurking around every corner. #1 Predictor Of Divorce

So make the effort from the beginning to nurture your relationships. Make the decision ahead of time not to let your heart pull you in too deep, toward a place you've decided you never want to be. Pursue what matters most; a God-given love—a love that is everything it's supposed to be, everything you want it to be.

Draw the line. If you do, you'll have a better, healthier relationship because of it.