Assumptions are probably one of the most common issues in communication! In my practice more times than not, assumptions are what is making the relationship sour. So today I’ve decided to write about how assumptions get started and what you can do about them.
How Assumptions Start
Assumptions begin by predicting what your partner is feeling or how they will respond. As you and your partner develop a pattern of communication you start to read into the nonverbal ques which leads to predictability and then assumptions. The tone you each use, your facial expressions and your body language are huge contributors to the pattern you and your partner have. In many cases, it is very important to know and understand these nonverbal expressions. However, once the communication becomes increasingly negative or hurtful, the reading of these nonverbal cues develop into assumptions.
Specific topics like sex, money, plans, family, etc., become touchy and loaded with assumptions. In the beginning of your relationship you probably didn’t have any problems talking or making plans, but overtime one or both of you may have reacted in a negative or hurtful way, and now you assume this reaction is going to happen all the time. This is what is called a conditioned response. If you initiate sex and your partner rejects you and this happens several times, then you begin to assume every time you initiate sex you will be rejected. Even worse, you begin to assume all attempts or requests in communication will be rejected! This is not the case; so here’s is what you can do to face assumptions.
Tips to Challenge Your Relationship Assumptions
ASK! Yes…the answer is that easy – just ask. Check in with your partner, see what their thoughts are. In fact, try this: make several statements toward each other and ask how many of them are true, or assumptions? Don’t be surprised if most of your statements are false!
Clarify! Say back to your partner what you think you heard them say. If you are negotiating plans or decisions, make sure you fully understand each other. This may include how you each feel, what you’re thinking and what your behaviors are. If one of you rolls your eyes, ask why they did it instead of assuming they are being disrespectful or rude. Open the door to being accountable for your actions and your partner being responsible for theirs.
Be accountable! If you have made assumptions or have been hurtful/disrespectful to your partner, take responsibility for your actions. Don’t minimize your wrongdoings – be responsible. Doing this, your partner is then also supposed to take responsibility, thus you begin working as a team. The more you argue over silly assumptions, the more division and disconnect your relationship will experience. So if you did it, take responsibility for it. There is nothing wrong with apologizing more and criticizing and assuming less.
So be accountable, ask questions and clarify! You will be surprised at how many assumptions you make and the changes you will see in your relationship when you begin to stop them.
Tristan Beymer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and marriage and family counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. She specializes in helping couples rebuild their relationship to be strong, healthy and passionate. She also works with individuals to overcome difficulties related to trauma and addictions.