All of us make assumptions in our relationships. These “educated guesses” about what our spouses are thinking, feeling or doing may come from influences such as the media or what we’ve learned from family and friends. However, assuming we know where our partners stand — instead of taking time to ask them directly – is a bad habit that can damage and even destroy relationships.
When you rely on your own assumptions, you’re labeling your own thoughts and impressions as facts. In reality, what you’re thinking may be very different from what your spouse thinks or believes.
Assumptions actively block your partner from sharing his or her side of things. Your loved one will feel undervalued and unheard and may resent the actions you take since they’re not based on his or her reality.
Here are 5 assumptions that are especially deadly in relationships. How many of these have you made?
- MY PARTNER SHOULD PUT ME FIRST
This assumption conveys the idea that our partner must make us happy. We’re defining love as our partner sacrificing for us.
While it’s important to see each other as a top priority, it’s impossible and unrealistic for you to put each other first in every situation. There may be times when children or family members must come first. Other times, one of you may need to put himself or herself first to recharge your batteries after a difficult day, week or life transition.
You’ll do better if you remember that you are in a partnership. View yourself as a team where both are valued, but realize that shifting priorities mean you can’t always be each other’s absolute Number One. If you do feel neglected, discuss ways to restore the balance of attention and love you both need.
- MY PARTNER KNOWS WHAT I’M THINKING
All too often, we believe or partners can read our minds. When they fail to do this – which is inevitable – we assume they don’t love or care about us.
Partners may think they’ve communicated thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires, but in fact, find that they have not been clear about what’s going on inside. Many of us give only hints about our feelings and needs, then blame our spouses for being insensitive.
Another terrible trap is saying something once, then assuming our partners have absorbed everything we were thinking about that issue. Real-life is complex and our partners may need for us to describe something more than once, or in greater detail, before they really understand our position.
The best approach is to be specific and clear about what we think, feel, want and expect. Instead of getting mad when our partners don’t magically guess what we want for our birthday, for example, we can share in advance what our wishes are. If our loved ones listen and try to make those wishes come true, our bond is strengthened.
- WE WOULD BE HAPPIER IF WE HAD MORE SEX
Movies, music, and media all emphasize sex, giving us the impression that physical love should be the center of our lives. These messages also suggest that having great sex is simple.
While sexual intimacy is important for healthy relationships, it’s rarely the primary focus. In fact, in my couples counseling practice, I’ve noticed that sexual dissatisfaction is usually a symptom of something bigger.
The larger problem may be a lack of trust or emotional attachment. There might be a medical issue or an addiction – or even a lack of skill when it comes to satisfying a partner’s needs.
Blaming your sex life for the unhappiness you feel only leads to more pressure about sex, creating an even greater distance between you. If you believe sex really is your only issue, talk about why — and be open to discovering other issues that extend beyond the bedroom.
- IF MY PARTNER WOULD JUST DO X, Y OR Z, THINGS WOULD BE GREAT
We make this assumption when we’re focused on our own pain, which often motivates us to prove that we are “right” about the difficulties in our relationship. It’s much easier to point fingers instead of looking inward to see what we’re contributing to the issues between us.
This assumption keeps couples stuck. It stops them from listening to each other and realizing that each person has valid perspectives on what’s going wrong.
You don’t have to agree with each other or give up your own perspective. However, you do need to listen to your partner and try to understand his or her point of view. Making room for each other’s feelings is the only way to untangle conflicts and find solutions.
- WE SHOULD HAVE FIGURED THIS OUT ALREADY
Many of the couples I see in marriage counseling assume that everyone else has a perfect relationship – or at least one that’s better than theirs. They believe they need to keep struggling on their own until they discover the secret that other couples know.
This is a complete fantasy, and a harmful one. All couples have blind spots and conflicts. Human relationships are incredibly complex! Which is why seeking professional help is healthy. It saves time and, in many cases, it saves relationships.
STRENGTHENING YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS
As an experienced couples’ counselor, I have helped hundreds of married and committed couples learn how to communicate effectively. This work always involves building specific skills that help you check in with each other, making sure you understand what the other partner is thinking and hoping to achieve.
Don’t let communication struggles destroy your relationship. If you’re having trouble and need expert support, reach out to me today.