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February 12, 2015

#TBT — When You Assume….

Hal photo outside Feb2012This week’s #TBT comes from Hal. This article originally appeared on Valentine’s Day of 2012, but it’s actually a reflection on Valentine’s Day 1991. So…a throwback to an article that was a throwback. But the point is still just as valid today as it ever was: Rather than asking your partner to make assumptions, represent yourself authentically. Tell your significant other what you want, and then no one has to get hurt!

When You Assume…A Reflection on Valentine’s Day 1991

I am a married man, thus I realize that talking about an ex-girlfriend may prompt my wife to introduce her fist to my nose and react in a very “un-ScreamFree” way, but there is a point that I need to make. The point has something to do with the apparent importance of Valentine’s Day. I didn’t really understand the importance of said holiday until 1991, when, as a teenager, I found myself dating a certain girl named…umm…(for the sake of my marriage) let’s just say that I don’t remember her name. Prior to that year, Valentine’s Day was just another day. Sure, in elementary school, you handed out some cheap little cards to classmates and you were able to eat those heart-shaped candies that said, “Be Mine” and “Love” and stuff like that, but I was about to enter the adult version of this day, and, let me tell you, I wasn’t ready for what was about to hit me.

Valentine’s Day, 1991 fell on a Thursday. Throughout that entire week, I talked to “she-who-shall-not-be-named” every day. She said NOTHING about Valentine’s Day. All week, not one word. NOTHING! Now, there was a big dance that was supposed to take place on Friday, and we were, of course, going to the dance together. The dance dominated our conversations. We discussed things like time of arrival, departure, dress, etc, but NOTHING about the “holiday” before the dance.

I would be lying if I told you that I hadn’t thought about Valentine’s Day, but I assumed it was just as much of a non-issue to her as it was to me, so I never brought it up. Truthfully, I was scared to bring it up, because I assumed it wasn’t important to her. I didn’t want to put myself out there like that and look like some kind of idiot if it wasn’t a concern for her. Little did I know that I was doing a very adult thing that week by making…an assumption.

When the 14th came around, I carried on with business as usual, and so did she…until around 4pm. It was at that time that I saw this girl grow what looked like devil’s horns on her head — and transform herself from the sweet girl that I knew into a woman of wrath! It first began as she stormed away from the school building. Then it transitioned into the silent-over-the-phone-treatment, and that led to the I’m-not-answering-your-calls approach. The one call she did take, I distinctly remember her last words before I heard the dial tone. Upon being asked, “What’s wrong?” she said, “Think February. Think 14th.”…CLICK! To further show her literal disgust of me, she showed up at the dance the next night with someone else!

What I learned here, besides the fact that my girlfriend obviously had a dude on the side, was that there is real power in assumptions. If I had not assumed that Valentine’s Day wasn’t important and actually approached the subject, things may have turned out differently. What if I told her how I felt about Valentine’s Day? What if I asked her how she felt? I probably could have saved myself from the confusion and embarrassment that followed.

The word “assume” means to take without proof. Though I was introduced to this “power” as a teenager, I’ve seen it rear its ugly head in the relationships of adults in every stage of life. Husbands and boyfriends assume things about their partners, and wives and girlfriends reciprocate. We assume that our significant others know how we feel, or that, at least, they should.

How are these assumptions working for us? Well, they leave us feeling hurt, disappointed, betrayed, and resentful. See, this “power” exposes the real weakness in our relationship — our refusal to consistently and authentically represent our thoughts and feelings to our partners. If we clearly represented ourselves to our mates, then no one would have to assume.

What keeps us from representing ourselves to our partners? To tell you the truth, I’ve thought long and hard about that, and I keep coming up with the same answer. It is the same reason that kept me from mentioning Valentine’s Day 21 years ago: insecurity. Simply put, we don’t want to look like idiots. We are scared to expose ourselves that openly to those we love so much, because we don’t know how they will respond. We’re so scared that if we reveal our true feelings, our true selves, to our partners, they’ll somehow think we’re silly. Or worse — they’ll reject us altogether

Perhaps though, we should choose to look at this from a different perspective. See, all of us get involved in intimate relationships because we want to experience just that: true intimacy. We want to know, and be known, in an exclusive way. Well, because we love this other person so much, shouldn’t we want to expose our thoughts and feelings to them so that neither one of us has to assume anything? Is this scary? Definitely. Is it the only way to experience the intimacy we crave? Absolutely.

So as Valentine’s Day 2012 is upon us, give your significant other the greatest gift of an authentic, crystal-clear view of who you really are. Not just on February 14th, but for the rest of your time together. It’s the best way to say, “I love you.”

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