Written by: Shauna J Harris, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Why are assumptions are so dangerous in our relationships?
Our brains are wired to make sense of the information that we feed it. When there are gaps or missing facts this is where we can, if we aren’t careful, get into trouble. Conflict can quickly arise if we allow ourselves to go down the path of making assumptions.
Why can assumptions wreak havoc in our relationships? Well, they are based on very little facts, if any, and these untruths can cause our minds to build stories that are so way off base and so far from the truth. When we come to the table with our minds already made up about a certain situation or event, without being open-minded to really listening to what our partner has to say, it doesn’t set up the conversation for much success at all.
Some common assumptions in relationships are:
Believing you know what your partner is thinking
Believing you know what your partner wants
Believing you know how your partner is feeling
Believing your partner is being unfaithful
Believing your partner’s intentions are not as they claim to be
Assumptions have the power and toxicity to obliterate relationships. They can be classified into two distinct categories if we take a minute to dissect them. A direct assumption is defined as something that is believed; a believed thought. An indirect assumption comes from a third party and is most often inaccurate and unreliable. Both direct and indirect assumptions are believed without confirmation and without taking all factual information into account.
Because our brains are wired to “make sense” of things in our world, we often end up in conflict over assumptions we have made. Instead, we need to get curious. We need to ask questions when the stories start to take on minds of their own. This will not only fill in the gaps with the missing truthful information, it will bring more understanding. A bonus of getting curious is it keeps the conversation going between couples. This leaves little room for the pattern of assumptions to repeat itself. When assumptions become the “go to” pattern of behavior, toxicity sets in. The more we believe assumptions, the more they begin to interfere in our effective communication skills; this, in turn, does not bode well for our relationships.
How do we stop jumping to conclusions before we know the facts? The first step is to be aware that you do tend to assume. When we are conscious of our behavior, we can more easily change it. If you didn’t hear it first hand or see it with your own eyes, you are most likely making an assumption. If you do not have the whole story, there is no need to add your own details, start asking questions. It is also a good idea to “go to the source.” There is no need to fill in the blanks, we are not writing an exam here. We are navigating a healthy relationship; keep it healthy.
Making assumptions is a very effective tool, as they are used to protect us from getting hurt. The problem arises when the walls we build to protect ourselves backfire and leave us feeling isolated. By assuming we know what our partner is feeling and thinking, we fail to allow vulnerability to emerge. Those of you who know me at all, know that I talk a lot about vulnerability and its importance in healthy relationships; it is the key to a higher level of intimacy.
Attempting to control a partner or the situation are two other reasons that assumptions are made. Fear of being out of control or feeling helpless also can illicit the use of making assumptions. They are used in these instances to help regain the feeling of control which never ends well. No one likes to feel controlled and using assumptions to attempt to control another will, without a doubt, cause stress on any relationship.
If we take a moment to think about filling in gaps with random ideas that are swirling in our minds when we are worried, agitated, or are in some state of distress, it doesn’t make for a positive or productive outcome. We all come from different upbringings, experiences, and perspectives. We don’t think exactly the same or share the same feelings on a consistent basis so why would we be so quick to assume? Sure, you may be privy to some of the facts but if you find yourself filling in the holes…STOP! Those facts do not complete the entirety of the story, if you want the truth, pursue it DO NOT allow yourself to start your creative juices to start flowing and make it up. The facts, the other person’s thoughts, and their feelings are there for you to uncover, you do not need to assume, just ask.
If you are unclear if you are making an assumption, take a minute and think to yourself, “What information do I have that backs up this thought and makes it true? Did I acquire this information on my own or did someone else provide it to me? Did my partner share with me what is on their mind or how they are feeling or am I just jumping to a conclusion?” Awareness is key in changing any behavior. If you are aware of a pattern of behavior that you would like to change, being aware is the first step. You can then begin to take a minute and ask these questions above and then go to the source for the facts instead of making your own “facts” that most certainly will not be completely accurate.
When you find yourself on the receiving end of an assumption being made about an experience that you have encountered or how you are feeling or thinking, a common reaction is to jump into protection mode. Defensiveness can make an appearance and a possible shutdown can arise. It doesn’t feel very good when an assumption has been made. Naturally, tension can begin to surface and conflict may emerge.
Conflict can be sidelined if there is a space of trust that has been created between the two parties and effective communication is initiated. Clarifying questions can be used to shed light on the facts and further assumptions are able to be put to rest. It is a lot easier to be vulnerable and open with our partners if they choose to be supportive and receptive to the actual facts that can fill in the empty spaces where assumptions had initially filled.
Assumptions, if continued, in any relationship will push the other person away. They absolutely destroy the motivation to connect or make a consistent effort of any sort. They cause frustration and other feelings that put a harsh halt on connections of any sort. If we assume we know what another person thinks or why they did what they did, they can feel judged, trapped, or like they are never given a chance to do anything “right” in the relationship. Assumptions are like impermeable bricks that build a fortress around you, leaving your partner on the outside unable to connect.
We use assumptions to block out feedback that might hurt, but by so doing we also sadly block out learning the good things others would like to share with us, including real affection, vulnerability, and love. Making assumptions is thus also a habit of those who have a fear of deeper intimacy.
If making assumptions is a pattern of behavior that has impacted your relationship, I am here to help. If you are looking to find a new way to positively impact your life, my professional expertise and knowledge can be used to support you in building greater trust and feeling more connected to your partner.
Shauna J Harris, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Shauna is a Clinical Sexologist, relationship specialist, and international best-selling author. She is the founder of Explore Intimacy, a results-based coaching practice.
Shauna utilizes her private coaching practice to guide couples through their relationship journey. She also helps to empower young adults through human sexuality education, which enables them to make the most knowledgeable and healthy decisions.
Through private sessions, workshops, articles, videos, and speaking engagements, Shauna is passionate about encouraging and supporting healthy families and intimate relationships.
Shauna grew up in Canada and now lives in the beautiful state of Arizona with her husband and two Yorkies.