How to trust your intuition in love and life

If the phrase "trust your gut" makes your blood boil because you just can't connect with your instinct or because you struggle to differentiate between intuition and fear, you're not alone. So how can we connect to our wise inner voice so that we make better decisions in work, life and love?

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"Trust your gut," my friends used to tell me whenever I wrestled with a decision, which happened often. "What does your instinct say?" they'd ask. To which I'd reply, "How on earth would I know? How am I supposed to know if it's my gut, my fear or something else?"

These conversations used to drive me crazy, as did my chronic indecision. I had a tendency to ask everyone for their opinions because I didn't trust my own. The result? I ended up drowning in different views and even more confused than before.

Indecision affected all areas of my life. I bought my London flat in a state of panic, after cycling all over the capital for months and viewing scores of alternatives, only to end up buying the one I'd been renting, because it felt less scary than anything else.

Indecision affected my career too - should I apply for that new role? Do I really want it? What does my gut say? My intuition was nowhere to be found. My gut had gone to sleep.

But indecision and my inability to connect with my instinct probably had the biggest impact on my love life. Should I stay or should I go? Is this the guy for me or should I go off in search of someone else? Should I keep dating other people or should I commit?

While in romantic relationships, I lived in a permanent state of anxiety, always wondering if I'd made the wrong choice, always looking for someone else, always asking my friends what they thought. It was exhausting.

That's why it's such a miracle that I managed to get married four months ago (aged 48) with peace in my soul, knowing for certain that I was marrying the right man for me.

So how did I get to this point?

Slowing Down & Exploring Our Past

First, I had to slow down, stop running around and pause the washing machine inside my head. When we're permanently busy, stressed or obsessed, there's no space to connect to our intuition. It's so noisy we can't hear what our gut or our heart is trying to say to us.

For me, spending time in nature, writing out my thoughts and feelings and learning to meditate (albeit imperfectly) were vital to improving my connection with the wise woman inside.

I also had to understand why I found it so hard to decipher my intuition and to trust my inner voice. This involved a return to my childhood years. I explored how, as a young girl, I'd connected with my intuition and I'd spoken my truth - I'd told the adults around me that I didn't like the way they were behaving. My instinct told me it wasn't right. My intuition sensed that I'd feel safer if they didn't behave that way.

The adults saw it differently. They shouted at me and told me that my perception of the situation was wrong. "Don't be silly. That's not happening," they said, or words to that effect. As you can imagine, their response left me feeling really confused and the experience dented my belief in myself and in my instinct.

I had trusted my intuition, only my intuition had turned out to be wrong, or so I'd been told. Therefore, it wasn't to be trusted.

Sadly, that's the message I took with me into adulthood.

From then on, whenever I got a feeling in my gut about something or a tap on the shoulder, I ignored it, I overrode it or I didn't trust it. I assumed I was wrong and the other person was right. I doubted my version of events.

Accepting the Unacceptable

This had a big impact on my relationships. A guy might be showing clear signs of flakiness, failing to phone or arrange dates. My instinct would start to tell me that something wasn't quite right, but because I couldn't trust it, I'd make excuses for my date. I'd normalise his behaviour. I'd blame myself for being too demanding.

I know I'm not alone in this - a number of my coaching clients have had the same experiences, making excuses for people, making themselves wrong instead of calling out poor behaviour, staying in relationships well beyond their sell-by date, remaining silent when everything inside them is screaming "something isn't right here!"

So a key part of getting in touch with our intuition and learning to follow it is to understand our early experiences. If we responded to a gut feeling and spoke up or acted in a certain way, were our thoughts and feelings validated or were they dismissed? Were we told we were right or were we made to feel wrong? Were we told our perception of reality was incorrect?

The more we understand our past, and the more we slow down and gives ourselves space to feel, the more we'll be able to connect with our inner voice. As we do so, life will become much easier. Decision-making won't be quite so excruciating. Dating will be a lot more fun. And we'll build long-lasting relationships with trustworthy people, because we'll have learned to trust ourselves.

***Free Resources & Upcoming Events***

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Katherine Baldwin

Midlife Mentor, Dating & Relationships Coach, Author of 'How to Fall in Love'

I work with women and men who are ready to change their lives or careers and with those who want to find love. I guide people on a journey of inner transformation, similar to the journey I've been on. I know how it feels to be stuck in life and to be reluctantly single, and I know what it takes to change and find love. My book 'How to Fall in Love - A 10-Step Journey to the Heart' describes how I went from being a single woman, living in London, bored with my work and longing for a more fulfilling life to a woman in love, engaged to be married, living on the Dorset coast and doing work that makes my heart sing. I have been in recovery from an eating disorder, workaholism and dysfunctional relationship patterns for 14 years, during which time I've mentored and coached others on their journey to a healthier, happier life. I have a Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy Skills from the Westminster Pastoral Foundation. In my former life as a news journalist, I reported for Reuters from the Houses of Parliament and travelled with the prime minister. I climbed high but despite my external success, I felt empty inside. Since then, I've turned my life upside down in the best possible way. I work 1-2-1 and in groups, run workshops, courses and seaside retreats. I write for the national media and have appeared on radio and TV, most recently on Woman's Hour. I also speak to business leaders, students and school children about the importance of authenticity and of sharing our internal battles. I'm an advocate of wholehearted living. I do my best to walk the walk.