As much as you wish they could sometimes, your partner cannot read your mind. And you cannot read theirs either. We are very smart, perceptive creatures and often feel like we can pick up on patterns in our loved ones’ lives. Sometimes people become so predictable, it feels like we can anticipate others’ needs. Even though we get lucky with predicting or anticipating behavior or needs sometimes, we cannot do this in every situation. While predicting patterns can be harmless and even helpful at times; it is a precedent that can be harmful for people in relationships.
Sometimes we may want our partners to ask the right question or say the right thing to make us feel better. No matter how long you have been in a relationship, this is not realistic for us to expect out of others. We may often be disappointed if we do set our expectations to this unrealistic standard. In addition, unrealistic expectations often lead to inaccurate assumptions about ourselves, our partners, or our relationships. This can contribute to more arguments, miscommunication, and resentment over time.
We will take a look at an example to help illustrate how mind-reading can cause problems.
Your partner has the same day off of work as you this week. To meet your social needs, you may intend to spend the whole day together. You may assume this is what your partner wants to do on their day off as well because that is what you have done several times in the past. When the day comes, you find out your partner has errands to run and a friend coming over to catch up.
Not communicating your intentions has resulted in not being able to spend much time with your partner. This may also spark unhealthy assumptions such as, “They don’t want to spend time with me,” “They would rather spend time with their friend,” “They want to break up with me,” etc. In reality, your partner may have procrastinated important errands and cancelled on this friend last week in order to spend time with you after work. Now, they feel they need to prioritize errands and meet with this friend not only to support their own mental health, but also to maintain this important friendship.
As you may see in this example, both people had different expectations for their day and did not communicate their plans/intentions with each other. This emphasizes the importance of communication of our needs and directly asking for the things we want and need in relationships. If this couple communicated about their expectations for the day off, they could have possibly come to a compromise by running errands together or waking up early enjoy breakfast together before focusing on their own self-care for the day. While you may not be able to spend the whole day with your partner like you would prefer; at the very least, you will learn your partner’s reasoning behind the choices they made for the day. This may prevent you from going down the rabbit hole of unhealthy assumptions.
Communication, specifically assertive communication, is vital to healthy relationships. Asserting our needs, expressing our emotions, and asking for help are necessary building blocks to healthy, positive, and lasting relationships. Oftentimes, we think “love should be easy” and if things do not work out the way we expect them to, that means the relationship is “too much work.” This can be a relationship-ending assumption. The truth is that relationships require work; hard work, from both parties continuously throughout the relationship! It is not our partner’s job to anticipate our needs and perform them. It is our job to figure out what we need, and to communicate that directly to them.
Not only is assertiveness important in our romantic relationships, but also with family and friends, with coworkers and employers, as well as in situations with strangers. Yes, being assertive, asking for help, and talking about our feelings can be challenging. In order to create and establish lasting and meaningful relationships, we need to continuously work to communicate with others. Speaking with your therapist to practice this type of communication may be very helpful. Practicing assertiveness with safe people in low-pressure environments can make things feel easier when we need to communicate our needs in more important situations. I encourage you to take what you have read today and share this with your partner or loved ones. Even if you are already practicing assertive communication, a gentle reminder can be helpful sometimes!