Your heart’s passion and your mind’s wisdom are great gifts. But what happens when your emotional and logical sides are at odds?
This can be particularly poignant in romantic relationships. For example:
- You feel sizzling chemistry but doubt your partner will be a good long-term match
- Your partner seems great on paper but you just don’t feel the romance
- Your heart’s desire is ambivalent or unavailable
- You fall in love only to discover serious red flags
Heart-head conflicts can feel paralyzing. Wait too long to decide and the opportunity may pass, perhaps forever. Rush in too soon and you may overlook crucial information.
Your heart can encourage you to take risks. Without risk, growth is impossible. Your heart can lead you to passion and beauty which logic could never predict. Yet sometimes when the heart wants what it wants, denial and impulsiveness can override sound judgment. The heart can be idealistic yet it can also be naive, casting off rational thinking.
Your head can anticipate consequences that your heart may miss or minimize. Logical thought and perspective can alert you to unwise risks, protecting you from possible harm. Yet the mind can also be a naysayer, serving up self-doubt and cynicism that may keep you from adventures that could prove to be your most cherished. Often-times our thinking can be pedantic or rigid and lead us to overlook what matters most.
“You’ll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart.”
– George Michael
If you are stuck, take a moment and think about which sense you tend to embrace more naturally: feelings or thoughts. When you feel stuck, it may be good idea to consult your lesser-used inner ally.
For example, if you tend to favor logic, let yourself tune into your feelings. Remember, feelings are not facts. They don’t have to make sense. Rather, feelings are information from a less linear aspect of yourself.
Emotional intelligence is every bit as important as mental intelligence. Try just sitting and noticing what you are feeling.
On the other hand, if you usually go straight to feelings, let yourself tune into your thoughts. Observing thoughts may feel much different than consulting your feelings. You have a mind for a reason. Follow the path of your thinking. While you do so, let your feelings just pass by.
“There is only one quality worse than hardness of heart and that is softness of head.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
It may also be helpful to take stock of your history. Think about times when your thoughts may have led you astray. Then think about times when your thoughts served up wisdom which may have changed your life or protected you from harm.
By the same token, think about times your heart has led you down the wrong path. Then recall times when your heart led you to adventures of a lifetime, taking risks and pursuing passions that came to define who you are.
When you feel stuck in a head-heart conflict, perhaps the answer is not to choose between head and heart but instead take from the best each has to offer.
Our minds generate between 12,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day — as many as two billion thoughts a lifetime. Yet a large number of our thoughts are meaningless, inaccurate or nonsensical. One study suggested that 95 percent of our thoughts are repetitive, 80 percent of our thoughts are negative, and 85% of what we worry about never happens.
So how can you touch into your deepest wisdom among all this automatic thinking?
Your may experience your deepest wisdom as an adult self, a self-cherishing perspective, your wise voice, or some other term. It is often a voice of calm, a voice that may speak more softly than most of what rushes past us served up by busy minds. It is a voice of reflection, of experience. It may be a voice you internalized from a wise parent, elder, teacher or role model.
Your deep wisdom watches out for you, not with hysterics or Henny Penny warnings, but by offering the long view. Your wise brain sees potential consequences and asks you if that is what you really want. Remember this voice. Make note of how it sounds and how it feels in your body.
Then, turn to your heart. Our hearts beat roughly 115,000 times a day — 3 billion beats in our lifetimes. The heart emits an electrical field 60 times greater in amplitude than the activity in the brain and an electromagnetic field 5,000 times stronger that of the brain.
Take a few moments — perhaps even putting your hand over your heart if you like — to listen to your deep heart voice. This may be a presence you call spirit, the undefended heart, the voice of love, or soul. This is beyond any particular emotion; it is the source of your emotions.
“Only do what your heart tells you.”
– Princess Diana
Like the wise brain, your deep heart may feel like a deep, slow moving river. This heart is guided by your values. It knows right from wrong, not in a moralistic sense but as in what is right and wrong for you. The deep heart sometimes whispers, other times speaks with authority.
When you have an head-heart conflict, try fostering a conversation between the wise brain and deep heart. You can do this by visualizing it, writing or speaking a dialogue, even writing with both hands, using the dominant hand to write the mind’s voice and your non-dominant hand to speak your heart. Let it flow. Don’t edit or judge. See what emerges. Take your wise brain and deep heart with you on a walk or run, and just listen.
If you have made a list of pros and cons about a decision facing you, go down the list and tune in your deep feeling voice. Then do so again consulting your wise mind. Listen, as you read, for any advice or wisdom each voice may offer.
When it comes to romance, what to do about head-heart conflicts?
If you doubt your partner is a good long-term match despite great chemistry, ask yourself:
- How will I feel a year from now if I haven’t moved on?
- Will I regret staying and thereby delaying finding someone with whom I could have it all?
- Are my doubts based on evidence, such as things in past relationships which haven’t worked for me?
“Trust your gut,” as people advise. Whether you experience gut as intuition or a physical sense, for many it is a deep knowing that is not necessarily linear or logical. We know something but we don’t know why or can’t explain how we know. Sometimes the gut saves us and guides us. Sometimes, as when feeling anxiety or depression, it may be hard to differentiate between the gut’s intuition and anxious thoughts or depressed moods.
If you are with someone who has everything you’ve wanted but you don’t feel a romantic connection, ask yourself:
- Am I trying to force something here out of loneliness, fear I won’t find someone, or fear of hurting the other person?
- Am I falling victim to “shoulds” when love is not a feeling we can force to happen?
- Am I being too critical, perhaps out of fear or unresolved grief from a past relationship loss?
- Can I imagine any real person who would be good enough for me right now?
Love is either present or it isn’t. If it is not present, perhaps it is time to let a relationship go — or give yourself some time before making any deeper commitment.
If you are pursuing someone who is ambivalent or unavailable, ask yourself why.
Are you afraid of being alone? Do you see this person as the solution to all your problems? No one other than yourself can make you feel whole. Fantasy may be fun but the world is full of wonderful, available partners. You deserve to have someone who wants you as much as you want them.
Is it possible that a partner who is ambivalent is simply afraid and needs time to work their issues before being able to commit to you? If so, you have the choice to stay and see what happens, or to take your leave, perhaps inviting the other person to contact you if or when they work things out. Either way you no longer feel like the victim.
If you discover disturbing aspects to your partner such as an untreated addiction, a record of lying, or a checkered relationship history, pay attention. If you have a history of seeking relationships with such issues, you need a compelling reason for you to stay or you are likely to repeat an unhappy history.
Assess whether your partner is willing and committed to getting help; whether he or she takes responsibility for his or her past and challenges. It is possible your partner may be a diamond in the rough, but you owe it to yourself to keep your eyes open. What do you want right now? What are the long-term consequences? Maturity means balancing both.
In matters of love, being either cold-hearted or hard-headed is unlikely to lead to a satisfying relationship.
Perhaps the best approach is to be hard-nosed about being soft-hearted.
Copyright © Dan Neuharth PhD MFT
Head-heart woman: Bunditinay/Shutterstock
Racing mind and racing heart: Snezhana Togol/Shutterstock
Pondering woman: Metamor works/Shutterstock