5 Common Assumptions That Damage Your Relationship

Relationship Problems - 5 Common Assumptions That Damage Your RelationshipAs the saying goes “To assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’” And there’s no place where this adage rings more true than in relationships. As you journey down the road from “me” to “us,” it’s easy for many assumptions to develop: some helpful, but some with the potential to cause problems between you and your partner. Sometimes they’re small assumptions like “He always takes the trash out and I always make coffee in the morning.” They can also be big assumptions, like “Spending time with our extended families is a priority.” But often the most harmful assumptions we make in a relationship are unilateral ideas about how we think the relationship—and our significant other—should be.

Many of these assumptions, if not examined, can unconsciously sabotage your ability to grow closer and enjoy each other’s company. So let’s explore five of the most common and potentially damaging assumptions. I hope that bringing these assumptions to light will help your relationship as much as it’s helped mine:

“Yes” is always better than “no.” I’m an extremely positive person, and so I tend to err on the side of saying “yes” before “no.” In many cases, this is a good strategy, because it makes you more open to new ideas, suggestions, and possibilities. But while this “say yes” outlook can be quite beneficial, it can also lead to problems if you don’t know how to use the “n” word when you need to. There are times when what your partner asks of you is something you just shouldn’t agree to. In those instances, you should feel confident enough to speak your mind. Your partner should respect that, and if he or she doesn’t, you might have a deeper problem to deal with.

Your partner can and should be able to read your mind. One of the most common relationship assumptions involves the expectation that your partner can read your mind. We all know this dynamic. Over time, you both assume that your significant other will be able to understand your needs or desires without your having to say them out loud. Then, if those unspoken needs aren’t met, you become offended. Well, I’m here to tell you that while it’s important to anticipate your partner’s desires to some degree, no one is a mind reader. Communicate your needs and expectations with words, not telepathy.  And expect your partner to do the same.

You should spend as much time as possible together. I often refer to relationships as “a journey from me to us,” because sharing your life with someone else requires surrendering part of your independence. But in doing so, you also have to value and protect each other’s personal time and space. One of the biggest mistakes that couples make is assuming that they have to do everything together. When we fail to create appropriate boundaries within a relationship we end up smothering each other. Each of you should maintain your own interests, hobbies, and time to yourselves. The space you give each other will help your relationship to breath and grow. You don’t have to be together every moment of every day.  Ask any retired couple.

There’s one true love. This is a tough one, because our culture—through movies, books, and television—teaches us that there is one true soul mate out there for each of us, a perfect person who will, as Jerry Maguire said, complete us. I’m a romantic at heart, but I don’t believe in the myth of one perfect “other.” This may be controversial, but I think that this common assumption puts too much pressure on your partner to fulfill your fantasy of perfection. The problem is that they will, at some point, fail to live up to your ideal image, and you will be stuck wondering whether you have chosen the wrong prince or princess. Discard this assumption and allow yourself to accept that your partner isn’t perfect, and your relationship shouldn’t depend on them being so.

Stick it out, no matter what. While I’m a big fan of sticking it out through hard times, there may come a time in any relationship when it’s best to cut your losses and move on—for the sake of both you and your partner. Some relationships aren’t built to last, and like a car or iPhone, have a limited life span. But for a variety of reasons—sense of loyalty, fear of hurting the other’s feelings, or just plain apathy—many couples hang on too long and drag each other down in the process. If you find yourself in this situation, have the wisdom to understand when a relationship has run its course and — if necessary — the courage to end it.

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Learn How to End Recurring Conflicts in Your Relationships

Learn How to End Recurring Conflicts in Your RelationshipsWhen you’re in the middle of an argument or power struggle, conflict resolution is often counter-intuitive – what you should do is often the exact OPPOSITE of what you feel the most compelled to do in the moment.

The good news is, there are specific skills you can learn to dismantle arguments and help overcome power struggles in your relationships.

Instead of repeating old destructive relationship patterns, you can learn how to end recurring conflict so that the trust is restored between the two of you – so you can safely connect with each other in a way that brings you CLOSER.

These Conscious Communication Skills work in ALL of your relationships in your life, not just in romantic relationships. Here’s the first one:

Ask Vs. Tell

Unless your intent is starting a fight, when you’re sharing something with your partner, it’s best to stay away from any kind of communication that TELLS them what to do or how to be.

For example, it’s best to remove any statement starting with “you should…” from your vocabulary, because it often comes across as a covert attack. Even if you don’t mean it that way or you’re just trying to be helpful, it immediately puts your partner in the defensive mode.

Instead, try asking questions that begin with “how” or “what.” Asking “how” or “what” questions can completely change the tone of a conversation. This works in all communication.

Rather than saying, “You should really do __________…” try, “How can I support you in getting this done?” or “What can we do to fix this?”

The first statement is likely to get a defensive response, while the second two statements come across as supporting, as though you’re facing the problem as a team.

You’ll want to steer away from “why” questions as well – because unless you’re genuinely interested, they can cause your partner to feel interrogated.

Questions such as, “Why haven’t you washed the dishes yet?” or “Why aren’t you ready to leave yet?” can also lead to defensiveness, and what you want to do is remove that defensiveness.

If you want to discover the true motivation behind your partner’s words, actions, or feelings – instead of asking, “Why are you feeling that way?” try something like, “Would you be willing to share with me why you’re feeling that way?” Instead of causing your partner to become defensive, you’re now working WITH them.

Own vs. Divert

When we’re feeling defensive, we tend to want to divert blame away from ourselves, and often onto our partner. Even if we’re in the wrong, we can still do this because our brains are hardwired to want to be “right.”

When we’re diverting the blame, we often use sentences starting with “you.” This is the verbal equivalent of pointing the blame directly at the other person.

Statements such as, “You drive me crazy” or “You make me so angry when you do that” will cause your partner to immediately go on the defensive.

The way to stop diverting is to start connecting with and OWNING your experience. Instead of saying, “You make me so angry when you do that” – try simply saying, “I feel angry right now.”

When you take responsibility for what you’re experiencing in the moment, you can get the same message across without making your partner responsible for your feelings.

It may sound simple, but this is one of the most challenging communication skills for people to learn – it’s counter-intuitive to the way that our brains are wired.

When you take the time to get in touch with what you’re feeling and share your experience in the moment, your partner can actually HEAR you and will be much less likely to get defensive. This is essential to opening the lines of communication.

And Vs. But

“But” is a powerful word. When you say the word “but” – you basically negate everything you said right before it.

For example, when you say things like, “I love you but I need some time to myself right now” what your partner actually hears is, “I don’t really love you.”

“I love you AND I need some time to myself right now” is much softer, and it doesn’t negate the fact that you love them.

These skills take some practice, and they can really change your relationship and your life when you learn how to use them correctly!

Un-Happy Valentine’s Day?

Single on Valentines Day

For the seemingly few who are in healthy, happy relationships Valentine’s Day can provide romantic inspiration. But for everyone else it can be an annoying reminder that they don’t have that kind of loving bliss. If you are finding yourself fru … [Continue reading]