Tigre, Recovering Assumptionist
28 Feb 2018
Most of us know what assuming things does to a relationship:
Even though we know better, many of us still make assumptions; especially in our most intimate relationships.
Typically, we assume things as a way to bypass potentially painful truths. This tip-toeing is usually done under the guise of being kind or not wanting to “rock the boat,” but in reality it’s done to avoid tender, difficult and essential conversations that actually fortify a loving relationship.
What it Means to Assume
First, let’s examine what “assume” means. As a verb, to assume is to “suppose something to be the case without proof.” Its other meaning is to “take or begin to have (responsibility, power, authority, etc.).”
When we assume something about a situation, we’re operating with only a portion of the puzzle pieces to that situation. The large gaps in the puzzle get filled with imagination. Depending on our life story, wants/needs, upbringing and cultural programming, that imaginary story will look different for each of us… In other words, how we fill in those gaps is largely determined by our patterns, traumas, and experiences.
Making assumptions in a relationship takes power away from the other party because we’ve assumed that we already know what their opinion, needs, desires, etc. are without actually having an open conversation and hearing directly from them.
Why Do We Assume?
In my own life, I’ve assumed things because it’s been a (temporary) easy way out. Assuming things meant I didn’t have to expose myself to a difficult conversation or situation. It was easier to smile and move forward than it was to sit, be still, and lovingly examine who I was (what what I wanted), what my partner wanted and needed, and what our relationship needed at that present moment.
As we age, we may assume things because of our own life experiences. We’ve recognized certain patterns in the opposite sex, or we have been taught that X will always do Y. When we default to these assumptions, we bypass speaking directly to the person(s) involved. We take power away from them and miss an opportunity humbly connect with their needs and perspective.
Assuming allows us control because we are writing the script. We imagine the responses of our partners, we craft the rationale behind their actions, we get to pin and label and define who they are and how they should act or respond.
Unfortunately, all of this assumption only serves to create distance.
The parties involved are never truly heard or felt for who they are and what their needs are. True intimacy isn’t achieved, which erases any chance at establishing sacred trust or understanding. Then the relationship becomes insecure, because too many assumed expectations, responsibilities, and agreements undermine any feelings of stability, trust, or faith.
How Do We Break the Habits of Assumption?
First, it helps to understand your typical TYPE of assumptions. Do you usually assume the worst? The best? Assume that you already know something?
If you want to achieve more authentic connection and establish a more solid, secure foundation for it to grow and thrive upon, then identify the type(s) that resonate for you and practice the suggested remedies in your own relationship(s).
Assuming the Worst
Quite possibly the easiest to default to, assuming the worst is rife among our relationships. I’m not sure if all of humanity defaults to the worst-case-scenario thought patterns, but we certainly do it today in our culture.
Example: Relationship partner doesn’t text back to us in X amount of time. We assume they are [dead, cheating, disinterested in us, etc.].
Solution: Breathe and release. Have you done your part in expressing your needs? In the example above you texted them. Great! Hopefully, you’ve expressed what you needed, without sarcasm or veiled anger, but honest truth. If so, now it’s time to release attachment to their timing or response until you actually have a response to refer to.
“But, what if they never respond!?”
Well, that is more information for you to work with. It might not be the information you wanted, but it’s vital information nonetheless. Labeling it as “bad” only serves to cause emotional turmoil. Reach out again in a loving way to see if they’re alright, and breathe and release.
Usually, our partners are preoccupied with something (like making dinner, studying, working, or their phone has died) rather than doing something nefarious (or worse). Those scenarios are exceptions to the rule. Breathing and releasing yourself back into the present moment helps short-circuit unhelpful thought loops, allowing for more focus on present needs and tasks (like making our own dinner!).
Now, if a pattern begins to show that you are being set aside for repeated excuses, then that is information to take in and perhaps it’s time for a face-to-face conversation about the issue, or it’s time for you to leave. But, it’s best to avoid falling down the imaginary tunnel of despair until you have something tangible to freak out about or mourn.
Assuming the Best
How could assuming the best be problematic? Well, the issue at hand is that we’re assuming, so we’re not working with what is, but rather what might be.
Example: Your relationship of six-months with your partner is going great. They even seem to be OK with you going out to lunch with your “practice” (AKA former) wife every Tuesday. They haven’t explicitly said they don’t like it, so you assume that they are fine with it. Great! Everyone is happy… or are they?
Solution: Empathize with how your current partner may feel in this situation and have an open conversation about it with them. Yes, it is on the other partner to speak their needs and discomfort in this situation if they feel uncomfortable, and it’s also on you to recognize potential situations of discomfort and awkwardness for your new relationship and communicate the why of your actions and decision, especially where issues of potential infidelity may arise.
Your partner may put on a face of acceptance because they don’t want to alienate you or seem demanding, but understand that your primary relationship is with them, not your former partner.
Sit with your new love and explain why you feel the need to lunch with your ex, but also ask them how they feel about it. By communicating your needs and hearing theirs, you will either come to a mutual agreement or see that one relationship needs to take precedence over the other. Just because our partners may seem solid on the outside, inside they may be screaming for recognition.
Many women, being highly perceptive, find it extremely difficult to accept the perceived denseness of their male partners, especially in scenarios such as this one. If you’re on the receiving end of someone assuming the best, speaking up and acknowledging your needs is essential, because your partner may take your silence as acceptance of a situation that you are actually not okay with.
Assuming They (or You) Already Know
Yikes! This very easy assumption trap to fall into. I mean, of course they know… isn’t it obvious? Ummmm, yeah. Not everyone can read each others’ minds and hearts.
Example: I assumed you knew that I was going to be unavailable for X.
Solution: Communicate. Kinda goes with all of these, but the “assuming to know” trap is a doozy.
Yes, our brains and hearts are full of incessant conversations, BUT those conversations are ours internally… not anyone else’s. Sure, body language and our actions convey a lot, but not everyone knows how to decipher those external signals for internal decisions and dialogues. What they do understand is open/honest communication.
There is also a bit of selfishness that needs to be addressed in this type of assumption. A bit of the “world-revolves-around-me” syndrome is at play when this occurs repeatedly. People who grew up without siblings, like myself, have this issue a lot. We (usually) had parents that could read our needs quite well, we were spoiled, and/or we got used to talking to and being by ourselves so much so that we forget that communication is essential to a relationship.
If you find yourself repeatedly stepping on this relationship booby trap, it’s time to go above and beyond in your communication. This need not be an oversharing, but rather a conscious inclusion of your partner’s needs and inviting them to participate more in your activities.
Invitations go a long, long way in inviting engagement and intimacy in a relationship.
Practice inviting your partner into activities, your thought/fear patterns, and dreams. Many times they’re quietly waiting for your invitation as they don’t want to seem intrusive, or may have some fear of “doing it wrong”.
Imagine the difference in this scenario:
You assume that your partner does not want to help you in the garden. You garden by yourself, getting more and more resentful by the day. Why does she never want to help me outside? She doesn’t value what I do around here. Eventually, this becomes an explosion as you yell “You NEVER help me with ANYTHING!” (This went from assuming you know something to assuming the worst… Which can happen in record time.)
Whereas, this could have been approached without making any assumptions by making an invitation:
“Would you like to come help me in the garden? I’d love your company, and if you don’t know what to do, I would be happy to show you!”
Big difference, right? In this version, there’s no chance for resentment AND there’s an opportunity to obtain valuable information. Maybe your partner doesn’t want to help you, but at least you KNOW. Maybe they are doing something else helpful that you haven’t acknowledged because you’re too busy griping about them “not helping out” in your own mind. Maybe they DID want to help but had no idea where to begin so they didn’t volunteer. Maybe they hate gardening and you would benefit from knowing this about your partner.
Knowledge IS power. Assumptions take power away and communication is what brings it back.
When building and maintaining our relationships, we must acknowledge the here and now; both our truths and our uncertainties.
Imagination is excellent and a vital part of life, but when the foundational stories of our relationships are built on assumptions (imagination), truth can come rushing in like a high tide and wash our castles of sand away; leaving our relationship raw, exposed and uncertain.
Take the time to have open, honest, soul bearing conversations with those you love or partner with.
Knowing where your partner stands in your relationship clears out ambiguity and sets the stage for future growth and rooting.
Also, as with any living system (like a relationship), there is no “set it and forget it”. This isn’t a crock pot!
Invest time and space to reconnect. Check in and hear where your partner is at throughout a relationship to ensure cracks of imagination and assumption aren’t creeping into your foundation. The sooner you can identify a corrosive assumption, the sooner you can address it with your truth and come to mutual clarity and understanding.
Good luck and please share this with your friends if it resonates!