As a couple’s therapist, one of the things that always amazes me is how two different people can experience the same situation in completely unrelated ways. It’s one of the reasons assumptions in relationships can be so damaging.
When I ask a couple to tell me about something that happened, sometimes it seems impossible that both partners were at the same event, given the opposite nature of their stories. This reminds me that so much of what we experience comes from our own viewpoint, made up of our unique thoughts and feelings, which, in turn, color our world.
When it comes to thoughts that can wreak havoc in even healthy relationships, assumptions are a big one.
What Is An Assumption?
An assumption is a belief that one person thinks is true but really has not been proven. We make assumptions all the time. When we meet someone new, our first impression of that person is a series of assumptions we form based on her appearance. How is she dressed? Does she make eye contact? Did she smile? It only takes a minute for our brains to answer these questions and form opinions.
Assumptions In relationships work much the same way. Say, for example, your partner tells you he’ll be working late one night. What is your first thought? If you grew up in a family where “working late,” was code for being unfaithful, then you might assume that your partner is lying.
Even if he hasn’t given you any prior reason not to trust him, you still might assume the worst, because of your own past and the assumptions you created as a result. Do you see how this could ruin a perfectly good relationship?
Managing Assumptions in Relationships
In order to manage your assumptions in relationships and prevent them from ruining your partnership, you need to be willing to take a good look at your own beliefs.
Where do they come from? How are they helping or hurting you? Do they hold up to questioning? What is the evidence that supports that belief? The evidence against it? Could there be another way of looking at things or an alternate explanation?
By asking yourself these questions, you can better understand your personal assumptions and the effect that they are having on your relationship.
Now that you are aware that some of your beliefs may not be true, I’m going to tell you something that will make you feel better. Your partner’s beliefs are no better!
Both you and your partner are likely making assumptions about the other and the world in general. What seems like “the” answer or “the” situation to you, is just one of many viewpoints on the same situation. Thus, the best thing to do is to make it a habit to check in with each other to be sure that you are not making assumptions in relationships.
How to Know When Assumptions in Relationships Are Causing Problems
It may seem straightforward to check in with your partner about assumptions each of you may have in your relationship, but actually doing this is easier said than done.
For example, how do you know when it’s time to check-in? Do you set a weekly reminder to ask about assumptions? Or do you wait until you’re in a full-blown argument?
In reality, somewhere in between those two extremes is usually a good solution.
Anytime that you and your partner are having an argument where something doesn’t quite click or where his reaction to what you said seems really off, it’s probably a good time to ask him what he is thinking or whether he may be reacting based on an assumption (in a nice, non-threatening tone, of course).
For example, if you tell your significant other that you want to go to the mall and he responds by immediately faking the flu, you might want to look into that a little further.
You could say something like: “It seems that what I said is having an effect on you. Could you tell me what you think I meant?” He might then say, “I know what going to “The Mall” means. You want me to buy you a ring!”
Well, now you know why he was faking the flu, but, clearly, the two of you have some other issues to discuss!
Common Questions About Assumptions in Relationships
How do assumptions affect relationships?
As you can see in the example above, making assumptions in a relationship can really hinder your ability to communicate and connect with your partner. Making assumptions can lead to not only misunderstandings and arguments, but can even cause enough harm to end a relationship.
How would you react if it felt like your partner was always assuming the worst about you? You probably wouldn’t feel particularly connected or loving with them.
What causes assumptions in a relationship?
Many times, what causes assumptions in relationships is past experiences, either with your current partner or with past partners. If you were cheated on in a past relationship, for example, you might assume your partner is being unfaithful if they stay late at work or aren’t totally forthcoming about their weekend plans. For all you know, they’re planning you a surprise party! But if you accuse them of cheating every time they’re away, they likely won’t be in a very party-ready mood.
How do you stop relationship assumptions?
The best way to put a stop to assumptions in relationships is to communicate, communicate, communicate. Don’t hold your assumptions in – be honest! It’s better to share your assumptions or fears with your partner than let them (often incorrectly) shape the way you feel about your partner or your relationship.
Getting Help with Assumptions in Relationships
I’m going to assume, (see what I did there?) that reading this article has brought up some feelings about your own relationship. If you feel like you need additional support with managing assumptions in relationships, then couples therapy or individual therapy could help.
If you’re ready to talk about your relationship, contact Couples Learn today for a free consultation.