Whether we realize it our not, we go about life — and into relationships — with a set of assumptions about how the world works and how people work. These are meant to serve as handy guidelines to inform our behavior, but the problem is, our assumptions can sabotage our relationships. When we go into relationships having already decided what they're going to be like, we end up failing to see what's actually there.
I don't need to tell you what they say about assuming. "Assumptions and mind reading usually lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings," Sameera Sullivan, psychologist and founder of Lasting Connections, tells Bustle. Assumptions are the enemy of communication, and relationships require constant communication to grow.
Even if something might seem like a safe assumption to make, it's always better to ask if you have even just the slightest bit of doubt. The worst that can happen is that you have an unnecessary conversation. The best that can happen is that you learn more about your partner and can stop behaving based on false beliefs about them.
Here are some of the biggest assumptions that get in the way of our relationships, why they cause problems, and how to challenge them.
1. "This Relationship Will End"
Without realizing it, many of us decide our relationships will end before they even start, perhaps due to past experiences, pessimistic advice, or discouraging divorce statistics. If you believe a relationship won't work, relationship expert April Masini tells Bustle, it probably won't, because your negativity will drive your partner away or you'll start seeing problems when everything's actually going well.
2. "Men/Women Are Like This"
When we assume that "all men cheat" or "women are high-maintenance" or some other stereotype is true, we're not being fair to our partners, says Masini. We're not giving them the chance to show us what they're really like, and we're operating based on false information because these stereotypes aren't true.
3. "They Know How I Feel"
We often act like our partners can read our minds, but just because something seems obvious to us doesn't mean it's clear to them at all. Instead of assuming your partner doesn't want to give you what you want, for example, entertain the possibility that they just didn't realize you wanted it, and let them know you do. "Communication is key in any relationship — you are entirely responsible for expressing your thoughts and feelings," Sullivan says.
4. "I Know How They Feel"
Equally harmful is assuming that just because you feel a certain way about something, your partner does, too. Give them space to be themselves and express their own opinions. "You do not know what is going on in your partner’s head, so the easiest thing to do is just ask and communicate to avoid any false assumptions," says Sullivan.
5. "People Don't Change"
It's a common platitude that people don't change, so if someone's not doing everything to your liking, you're better off just breaking up than trying to change them. Licensed mental health counselor Monte Drenner tells Bustle he doesn't think this is the case. "I witness positive change all the time, and when properly motivated, the change can be lasting," he says. At least find out if your partner will make the change you want before ending the relationship. It's also important to realize that your partner could change in ways you don't want or expect, Drenner adds.
6. "Since We're In Love, This Will Be Easy"
When The Beatles sang "all you need is love," they certainly weren't describing what you need to sustain a healthy relationship. That also requires communication, trust, and more. Drenner sees many people stop trying in their relationships because they assume they'll be easy. But while infatuation is easy, love takes work.
Instead of assuming, talk to your partner — it could be what saves your relationship.
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