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Gut was wrong
April 2, 2010 9:24 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep trusting my gut after it turned out to be so wrong?

Last year I dated a guy briefly. His behavior cast red flags in my mind (flaky, evasive). But my gut felt so sure about him. I had an intuitive certainty that he could make me so happy, if we got past the initial hurdle.

After a few weeks, his behavior showed no sign of improvement, and I ended things. We stayed friends. He has a new girlfriend, but is still hitting on me. I see now that he is a sketchy guy, who does not treat women well.

The problem is that I'm now scared to trust my gut. People say "listen to the little voice in your head" and "don't go against your intuition". But those are what led me to keep dating this guy despite the warning signs.

Recently my gut is drawn to a different guy. How do you trust your gut again, after it was proven to be horribly wrong? Are there cases where I should let my logical mind (and/or other people's advice) overrule my gut?
posted by cheesecake to Human Relations (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your "gut" can't predict the future and it's not an infallible, mystical source that always tells the truth. Nothing and no one is right all the time. Cut yourself and your gut some slack.
posted by amethysts at 9:27 PM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


The little voice in your head was what was telling you this guy was "flaky and evasive". And as you'll notice, it was correct. The rest was wishful thinking -- which is quite powerful, and nothing you should fault yourself for.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:30 PM on April 2, 2010 [16 favorites]


I usually find that when it comes to relationships, if I think my "gut" has told me to do something and it ended badly, that in hindsight it actually wasn't my gut talking after all -- it was a different body part a little further down.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:30 PM on April 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


DO listen to your gut when your gut is saying "this is wrong."

Do NOT listen to your gut when you're gut is saying something is right. If it's right, it can be reasoned over, mulled over, and proven right.

If you only listened to your gut when the little bastard says "I want, I want," then your every meal would be a pizza.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:32 PM on April 2, 2010 [26 favorites]


Eh, I like the idea of trusting one's gut, but mine is untrustworthy. In your shoes? I would have to overcome my gut to meet that guy in the first place, because my gut would say it's better to stay home and among friends than to meet someone new. And then, if I met him? Ooh my gut would definitely say that I ought to stick around because I like him. The thing is - there is no all-knowing gut. Some of us have more nervous guts than others, but at the end of the day it's an expression that means "be true to yourself". And it sounds like you did that just fine! You liked a guy and you went for it - and when he turned out to be awful, you let him go. Your gut is in excellent working order.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:34 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


What was that initial hurdle you make reference to?
posted by clockzero at 9:38 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


clockzero, I thought that his flakiness and evasiveness were an "initial hurdle" due to being inexperienced in relationships. They turned out to be persistent.
posted by cheesecake at 10:25 PM on April 2, 2010


EmpressCallipygos: "I usually find that when it comes to relationships, if I think my "gut" has told me to do something and it ended badly, that in hindsight it actually wasn't my gut talking after all -- it was a different body part a little further down."

So, so true.

Usually when I am crazy over-thinking something, I take a night or two to think about it, and often wake up with a very clear decision that feels right. Then if I let myself keep thinking about it, I'll start to tie myself up in knots again.

With dating, when you really want to listen to your gut is when it's sending out DANGER messages to you. It's there for protection, not for prediction. It is the part of your body that tells you something is very, very wrong before you are consciously aware of it.

Nothing bad happened--you eventually broke up with him anyway--this is not a huge failure of your instincts. I thought you were going to say that he's a serial killer or something. It's just a relationship not working out, and they often don't.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:31 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


His behavior cast red flags in my mind (flaky, evasive).
This was your gut letting you know something was wrong.

But my gut felt so sure about him. I had an intuitive certainty that he could make me so happy
This was you thinking you were listening to your gut, but really it was wishful thinking. There were red flags, but you still felt so sure about him? How does that make sense?

if we got past the initial hurdle.
Maybe you saw this initial hurdle as a challenge, and that if you got past it, then that was a sign you were meant to be together. Wishful thinking plus a little competitive drive.

his behavior showed no sign of improvement, and I ended things.
Smart. Good for you!

We stayed friends. He has a new girlfriend, but is still hitting on me.
So you’re friends with a guy who was flaky and evasive, whose behaviour didn’t improve and is now disrespecting his gf by hitting on you? I’ll say it again: How does that make sense?

The problem is that I'm now scared to trust my gut.
No, I think the signals are crossed. Your gut is fine. You have to stop confusing your gut with other parts of your body/brain.

Recently my gut is drawn to a different guy.
Are you sure it’s your gut that’s drawing you to a different guy?

Are there cases where I should let my logical mind (and/or other people's advice) overrule my gut
If you feel like you should listen to your logical mind, listen to it. If other people’s advice sound right to you, listen to them. In the meantime, I’d say stop worrying about your gut, and just listen to yourself. Ultimately it doesn’t matter where you think those messages are located, so long as you’re being honest with yourself. And really, sometimes it can be hard to listen properly to ourselves. It takes experience and practice, so don't be so hard on yourself. Just make your best judgements, and if they turn out wrong, try to learn from them. Sounds to me like you wanted to give this guy a chance because he was inexperienced. So you did, and your needs weren't being met, and so he turned out to not be what you thought. Happens all the time to everyone. But you absolutely did the right thing by ending it with him, so give yourself credit for that. Doing so helps improve your skill in listening to yourself; beating yourself up does not.
posted by foxjacket at 10:33 PM on April 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think that when you say "trust your gut" you really mean that one should trust their intuition. Good intuition is when one part of your brain knows the answer but the logical part hasn't caught up. It takes time to develop your intuition and learn when it is just emotions or wishful thinking and when it is clue to what is really right.

When you first meet a guy, it is hard to know how things will work out. Think about what triggered your "gut feeling" about this guy - was it really about him or just generic hope? If it was really about him, then maybe there is some aspect of him that had potential - it just wasn't nearly enough to balance out the skechy, unacceptable aspects of his personality. In that case, your gut wasn't completely wrong - the issue becomes whether it is worth taking a chance to find out if the potential is real or not. You guys only dated briefly - you figured it out fast enough and then your gut and head were in alignment to dump the guy. On the other side, if that gut feeling wasn't really about him but just wanting a guy or if it was those "other parts" that were doing the thinking, then you have learned something about how your mind works. Over time, you will recognize when your intuition is sound or at least worth giving a try - congrats on taking another step down that road.
posted by metahawk at 11:00 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


People say "listen to the little voice in your head" and "don't go against your intuition".

People are often wrong. Your gut can be too.

Are there cases where I should let my logical mind (and/or other people's advice) overrule my gut?

Absolutely.
posted by rodgerd at 11:10 PM on April 2, 2010


It sounds like your gut was substantially correct: this guy just didn't live up to the hopes you had for him.
posted by clockzero at 1:15 AM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


You don't have to always "trust your gut". If you really don't have enough information to make a good decision, then maybe neither does your gut, and that's fine.

All you need to do is be aware of when you don't have enough information to be certain of something. Then you can perhaps

- wait longer until more information shows up (as you did)
- actively find out more information (for example, talk to the guy about his behaviour, see what he says)
- listen to other people (if your friends or family don't like someone - you don't have to agree but you can take their concerns on board).
- make small lower-cost "experiments" or "trial runs" of whatever you are not sure about. Not sure about marrying someone? Maybe move in together first.
- make a decision anyway, but be aware that it could be wrong and make sure you have a plan in place for that eventuality (keep a bank account in your own name when you move in, have your second date in a public place, whatever)

Wrong decisions are a part of life. So long as you remain aware and keep evaluating the situation, you have the ability to do the right thing in the end no matter what. It sounds like this is exactly what you did. Hurrah!
posted by emilyw at 1:47 AM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


How do you think your gut will get better? If you paid attention to what your 5 year old self wanted/expected you'd be wrong then too. It took some mistakes and some 'aha, I've seen this before.'

That's what your 'Gut' is.

Reframe it. It's good that you made a mistake. You learned from it, your gut learned from it and if you encounter the same situation and make the same choice, you just haven't learned the lesson.
posted by filmgeek at 5:57 AM on April 3, 2010


Your gut is like your brain (technically, it is your brain, but you know what I mean): it doesn't come out of the box full of wisdom and good judgment; it gains it with time and experience. Guts make mistakes and become smarter for it.

After a while, your gut and your logical mind will work together and seem like part of the same entity (again, they're both your brain).
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:04 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


From your description, I'd say you've confused your brain, your gut and your heart. Your gut was telling you he was flaky and evasive; your heart was telling you that all hurdles can be overcome, because the heart is a sappy little fucker.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:27 AM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sometimes your gut has good instincts, and sometimes your gut has shit for brains. This is normal.
posted by schyler523 at 6:59 AM on April 3, 2010


Recently my gut is drawn to a different guy.

Don't confuse your gut with your glands.
posted by sageleaf at 9:46 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seconding schyler. The problem is falling into a loop of self-doubt, where you fret so much over whether or not your 'gut' (not a singular entity) is right that you forget that it is impossible to ever know the future anyway.

Surprises happen, good and bad. Having developed your ability to recover from bad ones will contribute to a more solid confidence than an illusion of ESP.

But when you hear 'RUN!', you run.
posted by Casimir at 10:00 AM on April 3, 2010


Maybe you shouldn't trust your gut. Maybe this is a wake up call to let you know that your 'instincts' aren't always right. They're not, by the way. You are often wrong. Want to know how I know that about you even though we've never met? I know this about you because you're human, just like me.

The trick is learning when to trust your gut and when not to. If you don't think you should trust your gut when it comes to relationships... DON'T. There's nothing wrong with that at all.

Best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 10:50 AM on April 3, 2010


In my experience, a "red flag" is always correct, and should always be heeded. I've never gotten a red flag that turned out to be false.

Sometimes a red flag may be minor. "Flaky" for example isn't in and of itself a reason to dump someone. But they do tend to pile up, don't they?

Obviously your real instincts were correct. You followed them and dumped the guy after a few weeks. Now as time goes on, his behavior is only reinforcing your decisions. So that's pretty awesome, if you ask me!
posted by ErikaB at 10:53 AM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe your gut knows that you need to confirm things before you move on so you don't long for them later and wonder if they'd have worked out...
posted by meepmeow at 10:54 AM on April 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


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