Making False Assumptions about Your Partner’s Intentions
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People tend to assume they know what the underlying meaning of someone else’s behaviors are. They assume their spouse has a particular intention as they interpret their behaviors and many times, these assumptions are not correct. This can lead to communication problems and conflict within the marriage.
Stephanie and Andy had been married for three years. Stephanie struggled to fit in with Andy’s family. Whenever they visited from out of town, she felt somewhat uncomfortable. They were due to arrive for a weekend visit about the time Stephanie was going to come home from work for a weekend visit. Stephanie called Andy to ask if he wanted her to pick up dinner from a restaurant on the way home, thinking that his family might be hungry right away and not want to wait for her to cook. He assumed she was feeling too stressed by their visit to cook so he told her to go ahead and pick up something so she wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. She assumed, He doesn’t even think my cooking is good enough for his family.
Stephanie brings dinner home but is thinking about how she doesn’t fit in with the family and how Andy didn’t even want her to cook. As a result, she was more aloof than usual. Andy interpreted her aloof behaviors as more proof she doesn’t like his family and doesn’t want to try and establish a relationship with them.
This cycle was based all on assumptions. Stephanie and Andy constantly assumed they knew the other person’s intentions but were misreading the behaviors. They read into each other’s behaviors more than they needed to and adapted their behaviors based on what they thought their partner’s intentions were.
Take a look at how you react to your partner. How often do you assume there is some underlying meaning to your spouse’s words or behaviors? How often do you think you might interpret that incorrectly?
Perhaps there are times you behave in ways that you think are in the best interest of your partner. Or maybe you try to spare your partner’s feelings only to have your partner feel hurt anyway. Or maybe your feelings get hurt based on what you are assuming your partner’s behaviors mean.
There are some things to ask yourself to take a look at how you are interpreting things. Is there another way to look at this situation? Try to think about whether or not there are other possible reasons for your partner’s behaviors. Examine what evidence supports your assumption and what evidence does not support your assumption.
Keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes it makes sense to ask your spouse directly what the meaning of his behavior is. For example, ask, Do you want me to pick up take-out because your family doesn’t like the way I cook? You may find out there is a completely different explanation from what you are assuming.
Consider your behaviors before reacting. Don’t base your actions and reactions on what you are assuming. Instead, determine what action you think is best. For example, your partner comes home late and you assume, He must not want to spend time with me or he’d come home earlier. Perhaps you react angrily the minute he walks in the door. This will not likely get you the result you are hoping for. Instead, talking to your partner and asking questions can be helpful. Perhaps you would discover that your partner had an emergency at work or another issue that needed to be taken care of.
Be honest with your partner. Don’t have any hidden agendas. Explain your actions honestly if your partner asks. Try to look at the situation through your partner’s eyes as well. Communicating and asking questions can help ensure you don’t make false assumptions.