If you’re anything like me, you grew up believing in the “no take backs” principle; that once you agree or commit to something, you cannot take it back or change your mind. Throughout life you have used the “no take backs” rule to maintain a sense of fairness in your world. Whether it was making sure you got the ice cream promised to you after dinner or that you were able to still go to that party even though Mom said “no” after Dad said “yes”, the “no take backs” principle has been there protecting you from injustice.
So it makes sense that in one of the most important relationships in your adult life, you still want the principle to hold true. After all, you did everything you were supposed to do before committing to your relationship, you had the big conversations (children, religion, marriage, residence, etc.) and made the big decisions together with your partner. And now, out of the blue your partner decides to flip the script and you are left feeling confused and hurt demanding that the “no take backs” principle be enforced. After all, they HAVE to live up to their end of the deal. They made vows.
No Take Backs Doesn’t Apply in Marriage
Unfortunately, in relationships where people are always growing and developing people are allowed to change their minds. Yes, you may want to yell “no take backs!” especially when your partner’s change of mind leaves you feeling violated or betrayed (e.g. like when they decide they suddenly don’t want children or don’t want to live near family), but remember that you’re not helpless. When your partner decides to go back on important issues, you have choices. You can re-evaluate and compromise, or walk away.
You may decide that the relationship is worth saving but with all the hurt you both feel this can lead to emotionally charged conversations and decisions. In this case, It is incredibly helpful to seek the help of a third party when trying to have these conversations to make sure they go productively. Your experience of being treated unfairly has a tendency to create a hostile battle ground for future discussions and a third party can help neutralize the hostility and help you create healthy communication patterns. Renegotiating the terms of the relationship will demand a willingness to let go of the past agreements and instead focus on the current give and take of creating new agreements. By deciding to stay in the relationship you relinquish your right to call “no take backs” on past situations and you are agreeing to forgive, renegotiate, and move forward as a couple.
If you come to the realization that you simply cannot live with the decisions or changes your partner has made, you will need to end the relationship despite the love you may still feel for your partner. I am not suggesting that you make this decision lightly or without first trying to compromise, but if after some serious soul searching, no compromise can be made – it is best to move on. Failure to walk away often leads to resentment and continued arguments as a result of your needs not being met. Be honest with yourself about your feelings, your wants and needs, and your reasons for ending the relationship and then be honest with your partner. The break up does not need to be heated or argumentative, but rather can be an opportunity for personal growth as you acknowledge and advocate for your wants and needs.
Regardless of the path you take, one reality remains…you will need to emotionally heal and move forward. Allow yourself time to reflect and grieve what was lost due to your partner’s changing mind and grant yourself time to embrace and accept your new reality.
In an ideal world the principle of “no take backs” would be strictly enforced and adhered to, but in the real world people will change their minds and in turn change your life. Take control of your reaction to these changes and don’t get lost in feelings of resentment and injustice. It is not fair when your partner changes their mind in a way that alters your plans for the future, but it does allow you a chance to grow and gain insight into your wants and needs within a relationship.
At first view, a violation of the “no take backs” principle may seem unacceptable. But keep an open mind because it could turn out to be an eye opening blessing in disguise.
About the Author
Amber groves is a marriage and family counselor and infertility specialist at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. She helps couples, families and children to have the calm and peaceful life they want in their relationship and family. In her spare time, she is the mother of one busy toddler.