Always Assume the Best
I acted in haste when my partner made a comment that I took completely out of context. On a whim, I accused my partner of being cold and callous. Moments later, we dove deep into a heated argument. I felt worse than ever afterward because I knew my person, the one that loves me, would not want to deliberately hurt me. How did I allow this to happen?
Assuming the Worst Leads to Misunderstanding
Misunderstandings are a part of life – they happen in any partnership. But, when we presume the worst instead of assuming the best in our partner, we misinterpret words and actions, and this places enormous pressure on our partner and our relationship.
The vitality of a relationship rests upon healthy communication. Assuming the worst in a partner puts a damper on communication as their words and gestures are doubted and overanalyzed. “What did they mean by that?” “I didn’t like their tone – what is really going on?” “I know where I stand with her/him. Their comment and the look on his (or her) face says it all!”
When the worst is assumed in our partner, it distances the relationship. It leaves the partner struggling for ways to communicate that will not be misconceived. They feel as if they are walking on eggshells and struggle to just be who they intrinsically are.
Assuming the worst in our partner is often rooted in our needs and how we falsely believe our partner perceives this. As if our partner can read our mind, we think, “I just need for them to give me extra care today.” “I just need for them to offer to help me.” “I don’t need any sort of attitude today; I’ve had enough of that from others.”
So, when our partner comments or gestures, and we think of it as not being what we need, we feel offended, and we strike back. Typically, we’re striking back at nothing. Our partner cares and loves us – they have no intention of hurting us…but they aren’t reading our mind, and nor should we expect them to.
Here is an example of what this can look like.
You are hungry. You had a stressful and busy day. You do not feel like cooking dinner. You just want to chill out. You want your partner to take care of dinner, but you aren’t going to tell them this because “as always – they should know.”
You tell your partner that you do not feel like cooking, that you are hungry, but you don’t want the hassle of making a mess. Your partner responds, “That’s okay. I don’t blame you. You don’t have to cook. You can make some sandwiches. I am easy.” Your response is filled with resentment, “I am hungry! Don’t you care about me? Why don’t you make your own sandwich? I don’t matter to you!”
An ugly exchange of words follows suit. Later that evening, once you sit down and have a calm conversation, your partner says, “I misunderstood you. I knew you were hungry, but I didn’t know that you wanted me to make something for the both of us. I do care about you. That really hurt.”
Your partner thought of that situation one way, and you pre-conceived it as another. You didn’t ask them to make dinner, you assumed that they would offer. When they did not offer, you were already deep in your self-protective thoughts, and you put your partner to the test. Your anger spewed and an argument flared up. You were stressed, tired, and had a busy day, and this commonly is the situation from which misunderstandings erupt.
Assume the Best to Nurture Your Relationship
When we assume the best, we give our partner and our relationship space to be their very best – we cultivate an environment where open and honest communication thrives.
When we assume the best, we operate by a standard of giving grace. We give our partner the benefit of the doubt.
Our partner can have a bad, stressful, or busy day…and we aren’t going to expect them to read our mind – knowing that they may also have had an exhausting day. When we assume the best, stress and bad days are just a part of life itself – they are not mechanisms from which arguments erupt.
When we assume the best, we stop making assumptions and we stop being preoccupied with self.
We no longer say, “How could he not offer to make sandwiches for the both of us!” Instead, we take a deep breath, we slow down, and we compassionately explain that we are tired and perhaps that we both need to take out the lunch meat and bread and just relax for the evening.
When we assume the best, we cultivate the space for intentional communication – communication that can clear the air for the times when we do not understand what our partner’s words mean.
When we assume the best, we do not let the health of our relationship rest upon our imagination. We know who our partner is. We know what their intentions are, and mind-reading is not a part of it.
What You Can Do to Begin Assuming the Best
Assuming the best in someone starts with you.
It starts with communication, and the best communication starts with observing and listening. Take a moment to observe your partner and to listen to what they are trying to convey.
Observing means knowing when you (or your partner) are tired or stressed, and understanding that these can be some of the most difficult times for open communication – and when extra effort is needed.
Assume the best by remembering that your partner does care for you. Be mindful of any efforts you might make to mind-read – efforts to perceive what is “really” being said. Instead, perceive that every word or gesture from your partner is coming from a good place, and not from a position to hurt or upset you.
Are you ready to make this love work?
Sometimes, it is difficult to break the cycle of assuming the worst. It can be difficult to figure out what triggers intense hurt feelings that turn into arguments, and when you feel you have done all that you can do to restore your relationship to health, it may be time to reach out for help.
This LoveWorks is more than therapy – it is a process of relational transformation that takes advantage of the most relevant, accessible, understandable, and up-to-date information available.
We want to help you and your partner to develop a deeper connection, recognize and fight dysfunction, and heal your relationship.