And, (cringe) ... 4 ways to avoid it!
While the word "assume" actually means "to take for granted or accept without proof." Most of us are more familiar with the proverb, "When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me."
If you’re like me, you’ve made plenty of false presumptions in your life that left you feeling like a total ass. You’re only human and humans assume things by default.
We take things for granted because we don’t know how to communicate openly, or we’re afraid of complete honesty and vulnerability. We also talk to friends and family about our love and relationships dilemma instead of speaking directly to our partner (or listening to our own inner wisdom). We assume ... and, in doing so, often make situations mean something bad about us.
Here's a list of classic ways we make assumptions in our relationships:
- Thinking our partner should magically know what we want
- Anticipating how we think things will (or should) play out
- Taking things personally instead of seeing things for what they are
- Concealing our lack of knowledge
- Remaining in denial about what is
- Acting passive-aggressive about things
If you see yourself in any of those situations, it’s OK. You're doing your best in any given moment. And in some instances, making suppositions protects you from imaginary fears that can seem very real.
How Assumptions Destroy Our Healthy Relationships
Making presumptions causes enough trouble when it involves your co-workers or neighbors. But, in our most intimate relationships, "assuming" causes pain and worry that corrodes our happiness and connection. Typically when we assume, we see things through a lens of fear, causing us to misread behaviors, actions and situations. We basically draw the wrong conclusions, entirely misunderstand our partner's true intentions and experience (read: create!) conflict, as a result.
Then, you stop acting like your loving, authentic self. You continue to imagine more things that aren't true (and worry so much about them, they start to feel true). Those unpleasant feelings morph into resentment toward your partner, which results in even more distance between you. You can't relax. You stop trusting yourself and your inner voice, and, in the end, you start making questionable decisions as you react (rather than respond) to the waves of upsetting emotions you now feel (that you entirely created yourself).
Presumptions create an unhealthy dynamic that makes you both feel distant and wears away at your relationship.
What To Do Instead Of Making Assumptions
Here’s what you can do instead ... begin noticing when you make an assumption. How do you feel in your body? Stressed or concerned? Notice the thought(s) that preceded those feelings. Then ask yourself, "What did I just take for granted?"
Be with that question and let it rise up.
If you realize you made an assumption, it’s OK. Catch yourself and shift your focus away with one of these four alternatives:
1. Start asking questions.
When something happens with your partner or you’re not sure what he really meant by what he said, you might find yourself trying to figure things out with your friends or on your own. Instead, ask him questions in a kind and respectful manner about what you want to know. Men appreciate when a woman is direct and can better hear what you’re saying when you express yourself clearly. When communicating directly, you’ll feel heard, understood and seen for who you are.
2. Ask for what you want.
If there’s something you want from your man, just ask. For instance, if you’d like to spend more time together, and also communicate in between the times you see each other, let him know that is what you’d like. Ask if he's willing to do both. Then let go of any attachments you have about what you’d like and notice how he responds.
3. Respond from the present moment.
We tend to make presumptions based on our past experiences, which usually results in a disappointing outcome. Instead, respond from the present moment in every interaction. This takes you out of your past and lets you better create the future you desire.
4. Practice until you feel comfortable.
Integrating those alternatives into your love life takes time and patience. Practicing them may stretch your comfort zone. Practice one at a time until each feels natural. Once you feel comfortable with one, choose another to practice until it feels natural, and so on.
I promise the effort is worth it. Assuming hurts your partner, your relationship, and you. The alternatives above help reduce your assumption-making habit while fostering a closer connection with the man you love.
Janet Ong Zimmerman is the founder of Love for Successful Women, and creator of the Woo Course: 9 Juicy Ways to Bring Out a Man's Desire to Woo You. She helps successful women experience love with ease and clarity. Take the "Does he woo you?" quiz and learn if he is wooing, dating or using you.