Henry Winkler brilliantly said, "Assumptions are the termites of relationships." So true! When we make assumptions, we are taking a mental shortcut. We are effectively trying to guess at what the outcome of a situation will be and hoping to save ourselves some time or work by predicting the ending. Unfortunately, when it comes to relationships, assumptions do much more damage than good.
You don't have to fall prey to the pitfalls of assumptions. Be on the lookout for these 5 relationship destroying assumptions:
1. Assumption One - We assume our partner thinks the way we do.
It's very natural and normal to assume that other people process information and evaluate data the way you do, but this is rarely the case. Everyone receives new information, runs it through their brain, which is filled with "filters" that give some pieces of information more weight or value than others. Just like you can go to a movie with a dear friend and come out with two very different takeaways, you and your spouse will interpret an incident or a comment very differently. Instead, try to challenge yourself to think about a situation in a more neutral way and as you're talking with your partner, really try to see their perspective. Avoid defaulting to "Oh my gosh, they are crazy if they think that!" That's rarely the case and it's not a helpful attitude to have if you'd like to resolve conflict and have a happy marriage.
2. Assumption Two - We assume that our perspective is obvious and the "right" way to think.
Just as I mentioned above, we all have filters that evaluate the data that comes in during an incident. You evaluate the data based on your filters; your spouse uses their filters. All filters have strengths and weaknesses, none of them is perfect, so avoid thinking that your way of thinking and your conclusions are absolutely right. Rarely do we have a situation where we are presented with clear, undisputed evidence. Instead, really push yourself to try to see a variety of perspectives, especially your partner's. You needn't compromise your values when you are trying to see your spouses perspective, but do try to understand some portion of their thinking or logic. Rarely is there a clear "right" way or "wrong" way; look for "our" way.
3. Assumption Three - We assume our partner is the enemy and has bad intentions.
If your relationship has not been going well for a while, you probably have a fairly negative outlook on things and interpret all of your spouse's thoughts, behaviors, and actions to be bad. This is a common phenomenon in troubled relationships, and unfortunately, it's a serious problem. Once you started to get locked in "negative mode," it's really hard for your spouse to do anything to convince you that they're not the enemy. They can really knock themselves out by doing extremely "good" and caring things for a while, but it will take you a long time to come around and trust them if inside you're still convinced they are the enemy. Instead of hoping your spouse will magically become super-partner and be perfect for 4 weeks, much better to focus on your own thinking. Try to see the good and the positive in what your partner is saying and doing. If it seems very hard to do this, try to interpret their behavior as neutral (unless it really is overtly inappropriate, like driving drunk and getting a DUI), and push yourself to see things as positive when you can.
4. Assumption Four - We assume things are going to go poorly.
If we've been fighting with our spouse for a while, we are on pins and needles already. We don't want to say or do anything to rock the boat. We're also really hurt, so once that boat starts to rock, we assume we're just going to get hurt again and that things will go poorly, so we might as well just take the gloves off and fight dirty. Unfortunately, doing so only makes things worse. The rougher things have been in your relationship lately, the softer you need to be. You also really need to check your own attitude and see if you're falling into the negative trap. If you are, try to get back to seeing things a little more positively. Look for evidence that shows your spouse is trying to be nice or helpful or friendly. If you assume things will go poorly, that's usually a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes things go poorly. Click here to learn more about how to fight fair and stop getting into nasty battles.
5. Assumption Five - We assume our partner is trying to be sneaky and deceptive.
Unfortunately, many of us have experienced deception and betrayal. When it happens in a relationship, it is especially devastating. We assume that when we get married or make a commitment that our partner will love and treasure us, so when the person we trust the most betrays us, we are profoundly injured. If you've been hurt like this, it is very, very hard to trust again, but it can be done. (If you need help recovering from a betrayal, click here for our affair recovery page.) If you haven't already, you should ask your partner to do things to show he/she is being honest and trustworthy (i.e., share email passwords, unlock cell phones, click for more ideas). Once that has happened, really try to work on your perceptions of things. It's natural for you to be skeptical, but really look for proof that your spouse is being honest and straight with you, avoid assuming that everything they're doing is to deceive or hurt you. This is one of those self-fulfilling assumptions: if you think they're being sneaky and deceptive all the time, fairly soon your partner will get so frustrated at your lack of trust that they DO start being sneaky again.
If you enjoyed this post, I recommend this for you too: The 7 Ways Conflicts Escalate & What You Can Do Instead .