Let’s talk about assumptions and the havoc they can cause in relationships! An assumption is something that is believed to be true without any proof. Often, its a guess about what someone else thinks or feels. It is often the case that by the time a couple is sitting in my office for marriage therapy the assumptions they have about each other have created a great deal of pain and misunderstanding. It seems to me that many couples (and I could put myself out of business for saying this) could avoid huge fights by just asking some simple questions instead of jumping to conclusions about each other. The questions could look like; “Do you think _______?” or “When you do/say that, I think you are thinking [fill in the blank with your guess]. Is that correct?”.
I haven’t met anyone who can read minds. Yet, we often (daily) believe that our spouses should be able to read our minds! That assumption about mind-reading comes in many varieties. One that I identify often is; “If he really loved me, he would know what I need.” Women truly believe this about the men in their lives! Nothing could be further from the truth! Please, females reading this (including my wife), believe me. Men are not good mind readers. In fact, we are horrible. Women are somewhat better at it, but women are also not good mind readers either. If women were good at it, then they’d know that men often are not thinking about anything!
So what is there to do about this assumption “If he really loved me he would know what I need” or “…he would know how I feel.”? Or for the man, the assumption is often that “If she isn’t complaining then that means everything is OK!”? There are a couple of things to do. First, catch yourself making assumptions. There are few different “red flags” you are making assumptions. For instance: you are emotionally reactive in a way that confuses your mate, or you are moralizing with “should” and “ought” thoughts towards you spouse. Next, be courageous and check out if your assumptions are correct. The most dangerous thing you can do is just accept your assumption as true and start making decisions based on it. And for men, realize that just because your wife or girlfriend isn’t complaining about something doesn’t mean everything is OK. It could mean they just gave up on trying to get your attention about it. If that is the case, then your relationship is in grave danger.
Another important measure to take is to recognize that others might not experience the world in the same way that you do. This is especially true for women versus men. Men and women see the world differently. There are many books and movies based on this truth (“Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus”, “What Women Want”, etc.). On a fundamental level, men respond to their environment with action and women respond to their environment primary with emotion. Also, women tend to internalize conflicts (worry, take responsibility, feel it) and men externalize them (blame, analyze objectively in order to fix). Just keep in mind that the way you see things is probably very different than the way your mate (or kids, friends, neighbors) sees them.
Openness and communication are the enemies of bad assumptions. So the best way to keep assumptions from ruining your relationships is to communicate. Tell the important people in your life what you are thinking and what you need from them. I know this will make you feel more vulnerable, but in reality you are much, much more likely to be understood and have your needs met when you clearly communicate them. On the other side, do your best to “tune in” to your spouse. Be thoughtful and assume the best. Don’t get caught up in your own world, but be aware of your spouse’s world as much as possible. My challenge to you is to check your assumptions, study your mate, and communicate your needs. Don’t assume that just because you have to spell it out that it means your husband or boyfriend doesn’t love you. They will appreciate you for cluing them in to your world.