I find myself telling the couples that come into my office that assumptions erode ones reality. They slowly breakdown what was once a strong foundation until there is nothing left to hold up a relationship. When couples talk with me about their little disagreements that eventually lead to big blow-up fights, I often hear the words, “Well I just assumed….” Within the context of a relationship, assumptions can be unspoken expectations, theories, or beliefs that one partner has about the other partner’s reality. Assumptions can even be thought of as perceptions, no matter how accurate or inaccurate those perceptions might be.
So let me ask you, how do you perceive your partner? Do you assume your partner is thinking the same way that you are? Do you automatically think that you and your partner are on the same page most of the time? Do you expect your partner to understand your point of view? Do you assume that your partner should just know what you want for your birthday or how to please you intimately? If you said yes to any of those questions, then there may have been a time in your relationship that assumptions got you into trouble. It is my personal and professional opinion that in any relationship, we sometimes let assumptions get the best of us. Assumptions can tear a relationship apart without either person ever knowing what hit them. They can sneak up on you and create gut wrenching arguments out of thin air.
So how do we fight back against the slyness of assumptions? Here are a few recommendations to consider so that you don’t let assumptions get the best of your relationship:
- When you are uncertain, ask for clarity. Paraphrase and ask for feedback during discussions with your partner. If you don’t fully understand where your partner is coming from, it’s okay to ask questions. When you can’t quite understand your partner’s point of view, give them the opportunity to explain themselves further. It can be a great bonding experience when you allow yourself to learn more about your partner.
- Even if you think you are certain, ask anyways. It never hurts to double check the lines of communication. Don’t let information get lost in translation.
- Don’t create a reality for your partner, only they know their own reality. You do your partner a disservice when you automatically assume you know exactly how they will respond to a specific question. If you assume you know how your partner is feeling and you never give them the opportunity to tell you or express themselves, you are essentially taking away their reality. You are basically saying, “It doesn’t matter how you’re feeling, it only matters how I think you’re feeling.”
- Be aware. Simply being aware that there might be underlying assumptions and hidden expectations buried throughout your relationship gives you an upper hand. Awareness leads to actions. Just be on the lookout and before you know it, you will start to notice yourself asking for clarity.
These suggestions aren’t necessarily easy and definitely don’t come naturally for most people, but that doesn’t mean we should give assumptions the power to dictate our relationships. The way your partner is feeling and the things they are thinking are important. Your partner deserves the opportunity to express their reality to you and you deserve to be a part of it.