Mike called me in a real panic about his relationship with Rita, his girlfriend of several months. “Rita’s lease will run out at the end of the month, and she can renew it, or we’re thinking of having her move in with me. What do you think?”
“I think it’s none of my business,” I said, “but if you want to hear some thoughts on how to make that decision yourself, I’d be happy to share some.”
“I would like that.”
“You two have been reading the Dating book together.”
“Finished it, and now we’re beginning the Real Love and Marriage book.”
“So, you’re doing your homework, which is good. You seem to be getting emotionally closer too.”
“You’ve been doing a good job of taking steps to gather information and experience. You’ve been taking them methodically and steadily. At every step you made a decision to take the next step, and that’s why you know each other fairly well. These are gradual steps, and you can stop taking them at any time. Sure, at times they’ve seemed risky, but overall they’ve been pretty safe compared to what you’re thinking about now.”
“How is this different?” he said.
“Whether Rita moves in with you is a bigger step, one more difficult to back away from. If she moves in with you, and it doesn’t work out, she will have lost her present lease, she’ll have to find another place to live, feelings are more likely to be hurt, and more. This is called a ‘door decision.’ You’re stepping through a door and closing it behind you.”
“So how do I make this decision more carefully?”
“You’ve been gathering information for some time. You know you LIKE each other, but that’s not enough. Everybody who gets divorced started out liking each other. You need to look at your growth together, and decide whether it’s consistent enough and quick enough to reliably predict a high likelihood of a good relationship.”
“We do have a lot of ups and downs. I do have doubts.”
“I’ve noticed. You two do great for a couple of days, but then you argue. You withdraw from each other. You get hurt or angry. You have huge doubts. If that happened rarely, I wouldn’t be concerned, but it seems to happen fairly often.”
“So you’re saying that we’re not ready for this door decision?”
“No, I’m not saying that. I AM saying that there is enough evidence to raise a doubt about whether you’re ready. And YOU said that you have doubts. These doubts might warrant your gathering more information.”
Door decisions require greater care, because greater leaps of faith are required, and the consequences are greater. They include moving in together, getting married, dating exclusively, having a child, changing jobs, moving to another city, and more. Because such decisions often are exciting, sometimes we fail to gather enough information to make them wisely.