The Silent Trap At The Center Of Most Breakups — That Most People Don't Even Notice

Don't assume you know what your partner is thinking and feeling.

doubled image of a couple, woman looking over man's shoulder in a devious way Solomin Viktor / 

What do you think is the biggest mistake you can make in a relationship?

(Hint: it's probably one of the biggest reasons for divorce.)

For apparent reasons, extreme situations like cheating and abuse destroy dating and committed relationships, especially marriages.

However, in my estimation, "assuming" is the worst miscalculation one can make when dealing with another person. 

Continued assumptions can cost you your relationship. The worst part is, it's not always easy to realize you're doing it.


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Whether dating, committed or married, those wrong assumptions often cause latent tensions, festering anxieties and frustration in your friendships and professional relationships. 


One study of 52 divorced individuals revealed that the third most significant reason for divorce was "too much conflict and arguing."

I know that's a general statement, but how do most conflicts arise? 

You guessed it — by assuming that you know how your partner is feeling and what they're thinking.

Even if you're right more often than you're wrong, when you're wrong, thoughtlessness can be costly. This is increasingly problematic when you're wrong far more than your correct.

This leads to feelings of apathy and bitterness. It is the ultimate form of self-aggrandizement.

How do you avoid this catastrophic mistake? 

As an expert on Human Behavior, Master Certified Coach and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, I've worked with countless couples and organizations that have mutilated their potential due to poor communication. 


The good news is I have discovered a few simple ways to identify this problem and some simple things you can do to begin correcting this instinctive yet counterproductive habit and enjoy a long, happy, committed relationship

First — let's explore why you and your partner might make assumptions instead of effectively communicating.

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Why do couples make assumptions?

Making assumptions is a habit that likely develops when we get too comfortable in the relationship

Often relationships start with a deep concern for our partner's thoughts and feelings; unfortunately, far too often, this is for very self-serving reasons.


Typically, concern for their thoughts and feelings is your way of hedging your bets to ensure that you keep them and their attention focused on you. When you were still unsure of where you stood and concerned that your partner might leave, you didn't dare make assumptions about what your partner was thinking or how they felt.

Once the other party relaxes and becomes more vulnerable and available, your hypervigilance significantly drops. This results in your partner feeling far more tolerated than celebrated.

Who in their right mind enjoys that?  

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The deceptive comfort zone

As you become more comfortable in your relationship — you start to take liberties with communication. Because you've gotten comfortable and "assume" you know your partner better, you make the mistake of thinking you know how they're feeling and what they're thinking.

Even worse, you base your assumptions on your previous experiences with them or someone from your past. 

Making matters worse, the longer you've been with someone, the more you might assume that you know all there is to know about them. The problem with this warped logic is people are evolutional. Their beliefs, preferences and values are ever-evolving. 

Consider this. Would you give your best friend this advice if they came to you with a critical relationship issue?


"Don't ask them why they're upset or acting weirdly. You already know the reason they're feeling so kind of way. It's probably the exact same reason as the last time you fought. Just assume that's how they are". 

As with everything else — it can be hard to see one's own flaws when it comes to communicating. Especially when choosing not to do so.

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A big reason people break up 

When you assume you're doing a disservice to yourself and your partner. Every conflict offers an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and deepen your connection.

But you can only do this by listening and accepting that you may not know the whole story. Why matters.


Moreover, their "why" does not need your approval, nor does it need to make sense to you. It simply needs to be acknowledged and respected.

Without deliberate, intentional and empathetic communication, your relationship is set up for mediocrity. Or worse, it's doomed to fail. 

It's evident that assuming instead of communicating leads to misunderstanding and discontent. Conflicts will remain unresolved, and they will fester until your relationship is disinfected. 

If you and your partner suffer in silence and feel misunderstood, your emotional connection will be lacking at best.

This contributes to a lack of physical intimacy as a result. Good communication accompanied by emotional and physical intimacy are the pillars of successful relationships, so it's no wonder even the best-suited relationships are subject to failure without them.


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How to reduce the odds of a breakup 

Most relationships could benefit from putting yourself in your partner's shoes.

Would you want your partner to assume they know exactly how you're feeling without asking you for your input? Your answer is probably no.

When people disregard your perspective and don't consider your feelings, doesn't it make you feel like they don't care? Moreover, If you want your partner to be a mind reader — you're setting yourself up for a major disappointment. 

Sometimes we don't realize we're in the habit of making assumptions. Consider your influences.


Maybe you come from a family that doesn't know how to communicate. If you don't know how to explain your feelings rationally, how could you possibly encourage or allow your partner to express theirs?

Learned behaviors can be the hardest to shake. 

It can be challenging to identify your habits and where they come from, but it's easier to develop better ones once you accept that you have a communication problem and have room to grow. 

The next time you assume you know your partner's thoughts, ask yourself these questions.

Are you the same person you were five years ago? Or even six months ago?

I'm willing to bet you're not. We're constantly changing and adapting to situations in our lives. How can you expect your partner to stay the same if you don't?


You can't hold your partner to an impossible standard and expect your relationship to be successful. 

What are your assumptions based on?

You might find that you're insecure or fearful of a particular outcome. Maybe you have a hard time with acceptance or forgiveness so you think your partner is the same way.


But you have to give them a chance to prove you wrong. And if they don't prove you wrong, you're aware of the problems you must work through. 

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Don't let your assumptions lead to divorce 

You might be worried about how your partner will react to a change of belief or opinion. Especially if it's a core belief you both held when you first met, started cohabitating or even got married.

But you've been living and growing together, so don't count out the possibility that they might evolve. 

If they aren't on the same page, see if you can find common ground. Odds are you'll be able to resolve the conflict, which is impossible if you stay with your misguided assumptions. 


You and your partner get to choose whether a conflict helps you grow closer together or further apart.

But you don't get to choose for your partner. Let them communicate for themself.

Communicate your needs and feelings for yourself. Mutual respect and reciprocated empathy are critical components for success in any relationship.

Since you're aware that making assumptions is one of the quickest paths to irreconcilable differences — commit to working on yourself and communicating with your partner.

If you're both committed to avoiding assumptions and talking through conflicts, your relationship will be much more fulfilling.

When you're both fulfilled, your relationship can go the distance.


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Dr. D. Ivan Young is an ICF Credentialed Master Certified Coach, Certified Professional Diversity Coach, National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and a Certified Master MBTI Practitioner.