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  • Moving Past Assumptions in Relationships

    When we reflect on our romantic relationships, we may find ourselves questioning the nuances of our daily interactions with our partner. It is common to wonder, why our partner may seem to be in a bad mood, or if there was a hidden meaning behind a choice set of words. It is absolutely natural to make assumptions, especially when we are attuned to our partners and to the slight variations in their facial expressions, comments, and behaviors.

    Most of the time, we ask questions, or make innocent comments with no ill intent., However, depending on our partner’s history and world perspective, they may interpret what we say totally differently from how we intended it. Obviously, we cannot read minds, but we can certainly make a few extra efforts to make sure that our message is received as close as possible to our intent when delivering the message.

    Picture this: You and your partner are getting ready for a road trip to visit some friends. You have packed up everything that is needed and checked the list twice, even three times! Then your partner starts reading the list of supplies just to make sure that everything has been accounted for. Some people may see this as a welcome source of extra help. Some people may see this as a criticism or an attack on their capabilities of ensuring that everything has been accounted for.  If you feel criticized by this action, then you’re likely to already be in a negative headspace before you head out on your trip.

    As another example, you may point out a dangerous obstacle on the road during the trip. Your intent in doing so was to be helpful. Your partner may appreciate you looking out for them. Or they may feel they are being micromanaged and controlled. Again, how we all interpret the comments and questions can be highly influenced by our personal histories and perspectives.

    As you can imagine, these types of issues come up in many forms in a relationship, however, sometimes we might not stop and ask our partner what it is that they truly meant. We also sometimes state things or ask things without noticing a shift in our partner’s mood. This in turn, would keep us from adding more information to our message in order to clarify our intent. One faulty assumption at a time, one day at a time, can lead to disconnect and resentment over the years.

    How can we avoid faulty assumptions or jumping to conclusions? The answer is actually very simple, but the complex part is that it requires us to be introspective enough to be able to question our thinking process and question if we are seeing things as they are, or if we are applying our own personal filter to the situation. It requires being able to take a step back from our typical reactions and offer the person some grace and ability to further explain their intentions. Most of the time, people do not have ill intent. Most of the time, miscommunications and assumptions are what lead to bigger, emotional blowouts.

    Now you may ask, what happens if I do seek clarification, and I take the steps you are suggesting, and it turns out that they really did have intent or they really were trying to criticize me? Then this is when you have to take a deeper look into the relationship itself. Not just assumptions we make in communication, but also the deeply ingrained patterns that we carry into our relationship. For example, if you are with a partner who already has a tendency to complain and criticize in general, then you may need to question if this is something that you want to try to change, or if it is something that you can see yourself living with in the long term.

    By the same token, if you have some clarification, and you’ve confirmed that they have no ill intent, but you notice yourself still being cautious towards them, or feeling hurt because you’re perceiving a criticism,  then this may also indicate something deeply ingrained within yourself in regards to how you relate to others. Again, this is a situation where you may have to seek extra help to help change those patterns, or potentially risk the relationship not working out due to misalignments in communication.