Relationship Help: Are Your Assumptions Causing Relationship Problems?

I know I’m supposed to look over my shoulder while switching lanes–and I usually do. But the other day I was in a rush and foolishly thought my rear-view mirror was all I needed before making a lane change. The blaring horn from my blind-spot told me otherwise. When I looked over my shoulder, there it was–a massive Hummer driving next to me. How could something so big go undetected?! It’s simple, you’ve got to look in the right places to see what’s in your blind-spot.

Your marriage or relationship is no different.

Be Aware of Your Relationship Blind-Spots

Your assumptions create relationship blind-spots.

In your assumptive world, you hold beliefs about your spouse/partner and the relationship that feel true to you. While many of these assumptions might be correct, sooner or later your assumptions will be off target and lead to misunderstandings.

A relationship blind-spot occurs when your assumptions/beliefs prevent you from seeing your relationship and spouse/partner clearly.

Relationship Help: How Your Assumptions Cause Relationship Problems 

1. Assumptions created by your relationship history

Getting to know your spouse/partner means forming assumptions about him or her. If your wife has a cup of coffee each and every morning, why wouldn’t you assume that tomorrow she’s going to drink a cup? If your husband complains every time you fail to call when you’re running late, isn’t it safe to assume that this will be the case the next time you forget to call?

In the two examples above, you can see that your assumptions guide behavior. You will do something and refrain from doing something because of your assumptions.

Why is the a potential problem? 

Relying solely on your assumptions to guide behavior can lead to marriage/relationship problems—especially when your assumptions prevent you from checking in with your spouse/partner, when your assumptions prevent you from seeing each other with fresh eyes. 

Your spouse’s/partner’s relationship needs aren’t static–people change, and therefore relationships change. What you presently need from your partner may be different from what you needed one or five or ten years ago. The same holds true for your spouse/partner.
So to have a healthy marriage or relationship, you need to be aware of these changing tides. If you don’t, you’ll be working from outdated assumptions that can lead to trouble.

2. Assumptions created by your own needs and preferences

Meet Nick and his assumptions

Nick was excited to introduce his new wife Doreen to one of his all-time favorite movies. His love for this particular movie lead him to assume that Doreen would share his enthusiasm despite her lack of interest in cop movies and thrillers.

About twenty minutes into the movie Nick could tell Doreen was fidgety. Forty minutes later she had to go to the bathroom every five minutes. And every time he went to pause the movie (so she wouldn’t miss one second of the action) she said, “No, don’t pause it; I don’t want to ruin it for you. Anyway, I’ll be able to figure out what I missed.” Nick finally realized that Doreen wasn’t enjoying the movie. 

In this instance, Nick’s assumption caused a blind-spot (his assumption caused him to ignore the fact that his wife doesn’t like cop/action movies). In this case it wasn’t a big deal, but it’s easy to imagine how certain assumptions you hold might cause big problems. For instance, what if Nick assumed Doreen was happy in the marriage (because he was happy or because she seemed happy several years ago) when in fact she was very unhappy? Here the consequence of Nick’s assumption would be more significant than sitting through a movie Doreen disliked.

Relationship Help Action Step

The antidote to relationship blind-spots is effective communication in your marriage/relationship. 

The golden rule of effective couples communication: Ask your spouse/partner questions about what s/he wants, needs or prefers, rather than relying solely on your assumptions (even if you’re convinced you know your partner very well).

Asking questions will give you up-to-date and valid information. What better way to figure out if your partner’s interests and preferences have changed over the years.

These conversations will also help you distinguish your preferences from those of your spouse’s/partner’s.

And remember, each time you ask your partner what s/he needs or wants, you send the important message that you continue to be interested in and care about him/her.

Marriage/Relationship Books-Resources

I’ve created a resource to help make effective communication skills a regular part of your marriage/relationship.

Check out my couples communication workbook for more information.

Wishing you and your relationship all the best,

Dr. Rich Nicastro

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