Communication in a relationship is key — it's what makes the rest of the relationship operate more smoothly. But sometimes, even when we
think we're communicating, we're actually putting words in our partner's mouth. We may look for hidden meanings, hear what we want to hear, and then just assume that it's what our partner meant.
"Assumptions and mind reading usually lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings," Sameera Sullivan, psychologist and founder of Lasting Connections, tells Bustle.
Looking for hidden meanings can manifest in a couple of ways. It could be that you're looking for something deeper that would have a positive impact on your relationship, like assuming they're trying to get more serious with you when that's not quite what they're saying.
But if you're nervous that the relationship isn't working or if you're prone to self-sabotage, you might read
negative meanings into things your partner says — even when it's not warranted. If you have negative thoughts like this, they can often become intrusive and start to affect the relationship.
One of the best ways to deal with reading into things is to never assume you know what your partner's saying and practice active listening to make sure you have it right. So, how do you know if you're reading into things too much? Here are the signs, according to experts.
You Only Listen To The Gist Of What They're Saying
If you have a tendency to hear your partner's main point but then zone out when they go into details, you're not
really listening to them — you're just reading into it what you want to hear. It's important to make sure that you know what they're actually trying to say.
Practice active listening, repeat back what you heard and go from there," Chris Armstrong, relationship coach and founder of Maze Of Love tells Bustle, says. "This is especially effective when talking to a commitment-phobe. They often know they have a hard time committing and they can tend to give ambiguous, broad, or open-ended responses when faced with questions about their intentions. 'What I heard you say was that you're not sure where this relationship is going, did I hear that right? I just want to make sure before I respond." That way, you can be sure that you're on the same page.
You Analyze Every Exchange You Have With Them
If you spend a lot of time looking over every text exchange or replaying every conversation in your head, you're probably looking for hidden meanings that just aren't there. "Overanalyzing rather than taking things at face value is one of the biggest causes of miscommunication in a relationship," Caitlin Bergstein, a matchmaker at
Three Day Rule tells Bustle. "The more you dwell on something, the more likely that your imagination gets the best of you, leaving you thinking the worst of one simple text/call/statement."
A lot of us (myself included) are naturally pessimistic, but it's not fair to your partner to project that onto everything they say. Instead, try to be bring a positive attitude toward the conversations — or, at the very least, a neutral one.
witness positive change all the time, and when properly motivated, the change can be lasting," licensed mental health counselor Monte Drenner tells Bustle.
You Have Different Interpretations Of Your Conversations
Sometimes, you'll feel like you've found common ground — only to find out you're on totally different pages. If you're confused about your partner's actions after a conversation, you may be seeing a different outcome from the talk than your partner, relationship coach at
Maze of Love, Lauren Irish, tells Bustle. Luckily, that's fixable by using the method Armstrong also recommended.
"Don't be afraid to check in to make sure you're interpreting the intended meaning," Irish says. "As humans we pick up communication in several different levels and then filter each of those through our own lens. It never hurts to check in and clarify." If you weren't really listening and just hearing what you want to hear, you can end up with totally different interpretations of what's just happened.
You're Waiting For Things To Go Wrong
It's not unusual to want your worst suspicions confirmed. It sounds totally counter-intuitive, but it can feel like it's easier to just get it over with.
Irish says if you're waiting for the other shoe to drop, especially in arguments, you're listening for something that you're expecting your partner to say. Naturally, the solution is to be an active listener. "Be sure you're actively listening to what the other person is saying and that you're hearing their true intent, says Irish. "If there's a topic you can't get past, address it. That gets you out of your own head and gets the topic out in the open where it can be resolved." Otherwise, you're just constantly waiting for something terrible, which may never come.
It can be a toxic thing to do, but sometimes you don't even realize you're doing it. But testing your partner to see if they fail can tear a relationship apart. "If you find yourself looking for hidden meanings, you’ll usually find some, whether or not they actually exist," Bergstein says." When you’re looking for there to be more to a situation, you may find yourself testing your partner or pushing them on something simple just to see how they react and to make sure it falls in line with how you want the relationship to be."
You Run Everything By Your Friends
Or, if you're like me, your mom. If you talk something through enough — or ask people who are close to you — you'll probably find something you want to hear. Talking and venting to your friends is normal (and healthy), but it can take things to a different level when it happens to much.
Trombetti says that if you're always asking your friends for advice or crowdsourcing opinions, you may be looking for meaning that isn't there. Of course, it's OK to talk to your friends and it can even be healthy. But if you always take it to group chat, instead of talking it out with your partner, it could be doing more harm to your relationship than good.
Communication is crucial, but that means more than just talking — it means
actually listening to each other. Make sure you know what your partner is saying, rather than just assuming what you want to hear. It'll save you a lot of miscommunication and hurt feelings.