Many times, resolving immature emotions, internal conflicts, and toxic beliefs can make difficult decisions much easier. You might recognize, for example, that your partner is not your child, and it’s not your responsibility to make them happy. Or you might resolve toxic emotional bonds which made you fall in love with an incompatible person.
Sometimes, however, even if your emotions are adult and appropriate, life can make you face a decision that is painful in some way no matter what you choose. Some situations you cannot control and you can find yourself with divided loyalties, or trying to choose between your own and your children’s happiness, for example. Perhaps no matter what you choose, you are going to lose something or someone.
If there was a simple answer, a fool-proof guide in such situations, there would be no reason to call them difficult decisions. Those are the choices that reality makes painful, not your own beliefs and emotional patterns. Sometimes it’s about societal rules you cannot change, disease and old age, or financial circumstances, rather than “right” and “wrong” choices.
The advice I can give that could make such decisions at least a bit easier is: make the choice which reflects more of your integrity, more of the kind of person you want to be. You might not be able to avoid pain, but at least that pain will be “cleaner”. Pain fades away with years, but a sense of “cleanliness” stays. Years and decades into future, when you remember your choice, you will have less to criticize yourself about and any happiness you built in the meantime will be less tarnished by guilt. Even the regret you might feel for what you missed will be “cleaner”. There might be other chances for happiness, but not so many chances, perhaps, to choose integrity.
This might sound like I’m suggesting self-sacrifice, but I’m not. I don’t recommend denying your needs and feelings – it’s not healthy either for you or people around you. It can lead to passive aggression, depression, manipulation, perhaps even illness. If you have a habit of naglecting yourself, perhaps you’ll need to resolve that pattern before you can clearly see what is healthy balance and healthy integrity. Perhaps some compromises and middle options are possible that you couldn’t see through the filter of your old patterns.
Once I was chatting with a guy about what defines an asshole, and he said, “If your actions create more problems for other people than they benefit you, you are an asshole.” This is rather oversimplified, of course, but it’s worth considering when making an important decision.
Make sure, though, that what you call integrity truly comes from your healthy values, rather than standards imposed by your family, society or religion. Are the problems and pain you might cause other people to experience real or imaginary, inevitable or possible to solve? Make sure that you are not under influence of toxic, unrealistic guilt (or anger) from childhood. You should be able to do that if you are familiar with your inner world.