We are each unique. So it’s no surprise that each couple is unique – in how we relate to one another, how we get along and how we don’t. The strengths and problems of each couple are not generic, but there are common communication traps through which we all may stumble.
In my last post, we looked at the problem of all or nothing language and the way it negatively shapes how we interpret the qualities, words and actions of others and prevents us from seeing the whole person with whom we had fallen in love.
Here is another common communication trap.
2. Inaccurate Mindreading It’s great when we’re so used to our habits and preferences that we know just what the other wants. It makes meal planning and gift buying much easier.
Mindreading can push us apart when it’s not so accurate and it leads to anger and resentment towards one another. We can make incorrect assumptions about our partners’ motivation behind acts of commission and omission.
If our partners’ forget an important date, we might assume that they don’t really care about us though this probably isn’t the case. If one person doesn’t give a hug, a kiss or another expected expression of affection, the other might conclude they’ve fallen out of love.
Sometimes we assume that our partners know what we want and how we feel even if we don’t express this in words. Some people decide to leave a relationship when their needs have not been met. Too often they make this decision having never expressed those needs.
Hurt or angry feelings can fester and brew in our own minds. If we don’t check out our assumptions and express how we feel early on, we can grow further apart while our negative feelings simmer and eventually boil over.
Bringing the First Two Communication Traps Back Home: Take some time to reflect on your most important relationship. Can you see any examples of all or nothing thinking in yourself? How did you see your partner when you first met? How do you see your partner now?
If there’s a big difference in how we see our partners, we have to ask if they have really changed that much. How much of the difference is in the way we have come to see them today? What good qualities are we minimizing or ignoring?
Most of us are guilty of mindreading – making assumptions about someone else’s motivations, most frequently in a negative way, and then reacting to those assumed motivations.
The next time your partner does or says something that is hurtful, express how you feel and check out the intent. Often we don’t realize the effect of our actions on one another. We all need some feedback especially if it comes with the goal of improving our relationship. This is better than blaming the other for how you feel.
If there is something that you need that you are not getting in your relationship, express that need. Don’t assume that your partner is intentionally holding back on you. Ask for what you need.
Next: Emotional arguments or when it might be better to go to bed angry.