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“So you think I’m leading you on,” he asked me, a confused and hurt look painted on his face.

“I mean, I don’t know … everyone keeps saying that you are,” I stammered out.

“Who cares what anyone else thinks? What do you believe?”

That was the magical question, really. What did I believe … about him, about us, about anything? Unfortunately, I had no clue.

“I … I … I don’t know. I want to trust you, but I don’t know.”

“I mean, if you don’t trust me, Darby. …” His voice trailed off, but it was clear to both of us in that moment what he meant. There was no point in us continuing anything if I couldn’t trust him.

I sat there, tears welling up in my eyes and desperately trying to figure out how we’d gotten to this conversation — the one where we were on the brink of ending it all.

Sure, things hadn’t been perfect between us up to then, but I’d never felt more secure in a relationship, mostly because we’d purposely worked on being open and honest with each other, so there hadn’t been any reason to doubt him. That was until I’d started listening to my friends tell me what he should have been doing, what he wasn’t doing, and how his actions signified to them his true intentions.

It was in that moment, sitting on our vacation bed, tears streaming down my face, that I realized I’d let all their voices overpower my own.

When I returned home, not only was I certain that my relationship was over, but I also had a brand new sense of resentment for the very friends whose intentions were to protect my heart. I knew something had to change, so I called one of the only people who has no qualms being completely honest with me — my mom.

She listened carefully as I poured my heart out, not saying a word until I was finished. When she finally spoke, it was just to remind me of a phrase I’d heard my family say since I was a little girl: Beware of too many cooks in the kitchen.

“How can you even hear your own gut if you’re listening to a million and one opinions on the matter,” she asked me. “You can’t, because just as too many cooks in the kitchen causes nothing but chaos, so do all those opinions swirling around in your head. And be clear — chaos is the biggest obstacle to following your own intuition.”

She was right, of course. But how would I even begin to trust my gut again, much less listen to it?

Well the first thing I had to do was pray. I found some quiet time that very day, turned off all potential distractions and listened. For others, it may take meditation or yoga or a combination of all three, but either way, I instinctively knew that I couldn’t go any further in my quest without clearing out all the other noise first.

Next, I made the decision to stop going to my friends for advice about my relationships. This was the hardest step because I was used to consulting my girls on pretty much everything in life. That’s what girlfriends are for, right? If I needed help deciding what to wear, preparing for an interview, or even responding to a guy’s text, they were always there. That was a comfort I didn’t necessarily want to give up because I knew they had my back.

However, this step was essential because I’d begun to rely on their advice so much I’d practically stopped making any decisions without consulting them. Instead of losing myself in a relationship, I’d lost myself in my friends.

Finally, I began re-trusting my instincts, on smaller decisions at first and then building my way up. I mean, I really started small. The very first decision I made without consulting one of my girls was the nail polish I picked for a manicure. Instead of turning to my friend to ask her if she thought the color would look good on me, I just went with the one I wanted to wear, gave it to the salon tech, and fidgeted slightly as she applied it. It was nerve-wracking at first, but when I saw that fiery red on my nails, it represented all that would be great with my new journey.

“Oh my gosh, that looks so good on you,” my girl exclaimed upon seeing the finished product.

“Thank you! It really does,” I said. I couldn’t stop smiling, not because of her validation, but because I’d already decided I was happy with the end result before she ever said a word. It showed me I could trust my own instincts again and didn’t need help deciding what worked in my life.

Months later, when I reconnected with the same guy, I didn’t think twice about not asking for anyone’s advice. I knew what I wanted to do — take my time, build a friendship foundation with him, and see where that took us. More important, I knew this time I wouldn’t have a bunch of voices influencing my decision, because I’d learned to trust my own gut again. It would be about what he and I thought worked for us, and my friends were there to simply support me in whatever I decided.

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