by Andrea M. Darcy
Assumptions are powerful little numbers. Masquerading as ‘facts’, they see you making choices based on little more than good guesses.
And assumptions in relationships can be particularly destructive, wreaking havoc in both your work, home, and social lives.
[Not sure what a healthy relationship even is? Read our Guide to Good Relationships.]
What do assumptions sound like?
- He didn’t call me tonight, so obviously he is not interested.
- My colleague didn’t invite me to her dinner party because she doesn’t like me.
- My boss talks to other employees more than me because he regrets hiring me.
- He’s so quiet, he’s obviously weird, I don’t want to know him.
- I can just tell he/she thinks I am not their type.
How are these assumptions? He might not have called because he had a family emergency. Your colleague might have had a partner who didn’t want anyone he didn’t know already at the dinner party, your boss might be attracted to you and nervous to talk to you, the quiet person might be your soulmate, and the person you are sure doesn’t like you really does.
How can I tell if I am making assumptions in relationships?
For the most part, you will be assuming you know what someone else thinks and feels.
Assuming you know how someone else thinks and feels never works because you are seeing things from your unique perspective and value system, which are rarely the same as the other person’s.
While you can know the facts about a situation or someone’s actions that you have observed, a person’s feelings and thoughts are only available to you if you ask them. And they must trust you enough to tell you the truth.
Not sure if you are or are not making an assumption? Ask yourself the following:
- What facts do I have to prove this thought is true?
- What facts do I have to prove this thought isn’t true?
- Is it my own observation, or did someone else tell me this and I assumed it to be true?
Also look at what others say to you in relationships. Do you often get told to “stop telling me what I think?” Have people said to you, “you are always putting words in my mouth”? Or do friends and partners say things like, “you always assume you know how I feel when you don’t?”
Then look at key phrases that indicate assumptions, such as ,“I’m sure that…”, “I can tell that…”, “I just have a feeling that…”, or “obviously, he/she…”.
[For more about what assumptions are and what you can do to stop them, read our connected piece, Why Assumptions Ruin Your Mood and How to Stop Making Them.]
Why do assumptions ruin relationships?
Assumptions lead to ‘shut down’. We stop being open and receptive to the other person, stop trying to connect, stop making effort, or even walk away from a relationship or quit a job, all based on our own assumptions.
Assumptions create constant tension and conflict . If we assume we know what another person thinks or why they did what they did, they can feel judged, trapped, or like they are never given a chance.
Assumptions can mean you don’t let other people see your good side. If you are always making assumptions about others you can come across as quite defensive. You might even, without wanting to, be seen as unkind.
And the end result is that assumptions can leave you feeling secretly quite lonely. They build a fortress around you that leaves others on the outside.
Why would I be making assumptions all the time?
It’s often down to a need to control others and situations. If not knowing how others think and feel makes you feel helpless, assumptions help you feel back in the driver’s seat.
Assumptions can also be a way of avoiding emotional pain. By always assuming we know what others think and feel, we avoid the risk of being vulnerable. We block out feedback that might hurt, but by so doing we also sadly block out learning the good things others would like to share with us, including real affection and love.
Making assumptions is thus also a habit of those who have a fear of intimacy.
How can I stop letting assumptions ruin my relationships?
Self-help and ‘bibliotherapy‘ can be a good place to start.
But if you feel you just can’t stop pushing others away and that your tendency to make assumptions is out of control or based on childhood issues, consider seeking support. A counsellor or psychotherapist can help you get to the root of why you always make assumptions, and will help you find new ways of behaving that mean you can learn to trust and feel connected to others at last.
Harley Therapy puts you in touch with some of London’s top counsellors and psychotherapists who work from three central London locations. Not in the UK? Consider Online Therapy, now proven as effective as in-person counselling for many issues.
Have a question about assumptions in relationships or want to share an experience? Do so below in our comment box.
Andrea M. Darcy is a writer, author, and coach. Find her @am_darcy