Compassionate Support For The Aspiring Professional

LICENSED MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST
ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, GSEP PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY

LONDON, LOS ANGELES (BEVERLY HILLS, DTLA, MALIBU), DUBLIN

Becoming Aware of Your Assumptions in Intimate Relationships

When you meet your person and that beautiful connection happens that can only be described as magical, it feels like nothing could ever go awry. Fast forward a bit, and reality begins to set in. You may find that the person who can finish your sentences for you is also kind of oblivious in other important ways or isn’t actually that great at communicating. 

There are many relationship traps people fall into, but a common one is making assumptions about your partner’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Even if a relationship has been in place for a long time, no one truly knows what is in another’s minds and the underlying emotions that may result in certain behaviors. 

Assumptions about your partner can create inaccurate interpretations, resentments, and undue strife in relationships. Here are some common assumptions in intimate relationships that often cause couples problems:

  • Misreading facial cues and body language: While it is true that we rely on body language and facial expressions for communication with others, if we rely too much on these indicators, it can be misleading at times. 
  • Believing your partner already knows how you feel: The assumption that your partner knows your feelings is a slippery slope toward resentment. If you believe your partner knows your feelings and in fact, they are unaware, it can establish resentments that may not be based in truth. 
  • Thinking you know what your partner wants/needs: Assumptions that we know what our partners want and need can set us up to miss the mark on being a good friend to them. A lot of times intimate relationships do not get the same level of nurturing that our best friends get from us. 
  • Assumptions about values, hopes and dreams: Couples sometimes become complacent about communicating about basic things like what they want for the future and what they find important. These assumptions can leave couples working toward different goals and thinking their partner is on the same page when they may not be. 

Challenging Assumptions to Improve Your Relationship

Couples who find themselves falling into the habit of making assumptions about their partner or relationship can work on improving communication. 

Old habits are difficult to break, particularly when it comes to communication styles, but with conscious effort, couples can retrain themselves to notice when they are making assumptions and start to ask important questions to build understanding of their partner’s thoughts and feelings. Some general questions and conversation starters couples can use include:

  • How do you feel about this situation?
  • How can I support you right now?
  • What would you like to see happen?
  • What is important to you?
  • Can I share my thoughts and feelings with you about this?
  • What’s your opinion?
  • You look stressed, want to talk?
  • How can I make your day better?
  • I need some support/a hug/to vent, etc.
  • Can I talk to you about something important to me?

When couples ask these types of questions it requires vulnerability that can expand conversations beyond their usual, everyday routine. Asking and sharing in this way brings couples closer and removes dangerous assumptions that can cause rifts over time and create complacency and resentment. 

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