Are Assumptions Hurting Your Relationship?
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships. ”
We all know that the Fonz could ride a chopper and kill the ladies; heck, we even knew he could jump a shark. But who knew he could give relationship advice?
This is a brilliant quote that succinctly states a relational truth. By making an assumption about a person, their actions, and their motivations, you are actually placing them in a box and limiting their options. If you assume your kids hate school, for instance, if you believe they do not want to excel in academics and need constant motivation just to pass, then you will begin to push, hover, and worry them into a battle with you. Then, instead of struggling with the demands of school, they are now just struggling with the demands of you. This then becomes a perfect self-fulfilling prophecy, as their struggle with you leads them to take their focus off school.
In the same way, if you assume your spouse doesn’t care about the house as much as you, and won’t ever pitch in and pull their weight, guess what? You’ll either set out to change this character flaw by nagging, complaining, cajoling, and even begging them to “help,” or you’ll just give up in resignation and do all the housework yourself (while resenting your spouse more every week). This, again, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because your spouse will either do less housework just because they’re so ticked off at you, or they’ll do less because you’ve done it all yourself.
So what would happen if you didn’t make these assumptions? What would you differently about your growing concerns about your child, or your spouse? How might you address them differently?
Here’s one thing you might do. You might get curious, instead of critical:
“Hey Sweetheart, I noticed on your 3-weeks report card that a couple of your grades are a bit lower than usual. Could you use my help in any way? Is the work just getting more difficult? Is there anything I’m doing or not doing, that you can think of, that might be making it harder to keep up?”
“Hey Honey, I have noticed, rightly or wrongly, that I’ve been doing more around the house than usual. And it seems you’ve been doing less. Am I just imagining this? Is there a lot you’re doing that I just don’t notice? I don’t want to assume I care more than you do, or I’m better than you or anything, but I do want to check-in with you and get your thoughts on it.”
You may think such words are incredibly naïve. Well, that’s partly the point. Sometimes we make assumptions in order to protect ourselves from feeling stupid or naïve about what’s really going on. But this emotional reactivity ends up creating more of the very outcomes we were making assumptions about. For the sake of creating the kinds of relationships you really crave, be brave enough to be naïve. Be open-minded enough to get curious instead of critical. Be smart enough to make only one assumption, that you don’t have all the information about the situation.
In the spirit of the ultimate cool cat, Arthur Fonzarelli, stay in control of your assumptions and give your loved ones the chance to surprise you.
Peace begins with pause,