How to Use Your Instincts to Make Important Decisions About Relationships

Listen to your instincts.
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You might feel a hunch, a sense of trepidation or just uncomfortable, yet you can't quite put your finger on the reason. "Gut instincts are mental shortcuts used to make a snap judgment based on experience and environment," says David Myers, who holds a doctorate in social psychology and authored the book "Intuition," as quoted in the "Cosmopolitan" article "Yes, You Should Trust Your Gut." Learning to use your instincts to make important relationship decisions can save you from a lot of heartache and pain.

1 Take Time to Listen to Your Gut

If you feel unsettled and aren't sure why, don't assume there isn't a reason, says Alex Lickerman, a general internist and author of "The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self," in his "Psychology Today" article "Listening to Your Inner Voice." Take time to hone in on your instinct instead of making an impulsive decision. For example, if someone asks you on a date and you don't feel right about it, ask for time to think about your decision. Take time to process your feelings and thoughts along with what might have caused you to feel uncomfortable.

2 Pay Attention to Your Body

Feeling uncomfortable with a decision frequently will manifest as physical symptoms, says Dr. Lickerman. Your stomach or head might hurt, you may feel anxious or you may have sweaty palms. The ability to recognize the physical sensations associated with your intuitions can help you hone in on your instincts. For example, if you feel anxiety when you are around your boyfriend, it might be your body's way of responding to your intuitive impression that you shouldn't be involved with him.

3 Gut Instinct Versus Nerves

It might be hard to decipher the difference between a gut instinct and nerves. There is no fear associated with a gut instinct, says Dr. Judith Orloff, a board certified psychiatrist and author of "Positive Energy," quoted in "Yes, You Should Trust Your Gut." For example, you may notice you have sweaty palms and are nervous on a date, but that may be nerves -- not your gut trying to tell you something. You can also have positive intuitions about someone. For example, you may feel relaxed, safe and at ease with a girl upon meeting her and instinctively know that you may be a good fit for each other.

4 Utilize Your Intuition

Mistrust, ignorance, mind-altering drugs, stress, anxiety and fear can all inhibit intuition, says Sophy Burnham, author of "The Art of Intuition," in her article "Should You Trust Your Intuition?" on the AARP website. Try to relax and decrease the factors that can inhibit your intuition. Learn to trust and rely on your instincts. Your intuition gets stronger the more you listen to it. The better you are able to recognize why you have certain instinctual reactions, the more you will find yourself trusting your instincts, says Lickerman.

Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.