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If you have or have had a partner, you probably have experienced misunderstanding in your relationship at one point or another. Research shows that when we fail to check our assumptions in a relationship, we often feel disappointed in our partners when, in reality, we are disappointing ourselves. According to Psychology Today, three assumptions tend to cause the most relationship issues.

The first is that you should dismiss your partner's past because your relationship is a “new beginning.” It is fair to not want to go into the details of your partner's past relationships, but you must have a firm grasp on their childhood at the very least. This will help you gain a better understanding of your partner, and even if you don’t want to know anything at all about your partner's past relationships, asking him or her to describe them might be essential to fully understanding your partner. Knowing what problems they have had in past relationships might help you find patterns so that you can encourage positive behaviors and work through negative ones effectively.

For example, if your partner does not talk about his or her emotions, and has told you that a previous partner of his or hers asked your partner to stop being emotional, you can reassure him or her that it's okay to be open with you and remind them that your relationship is not like the previous. Not knowing this piece of your partner’s past might lead you to become angry and confused rather than sympathetic. Moreover, childhood is a huge factor in a person's life and you must ask questions about how they were raised to understand them today.

The second assumption that you might hold in your relationships is that you know your partner's needs and wants. At the beginning of a romantic relationship, there is an emphasis on accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. This means you probably (without realizing) disclosed only things you thought your partner would like to hear when getting to know them, and they most likely did the same. Psychology Today posits that we have a “paramount motivation” that typically drives us to “present an idealized version of ourselves,” one which can’t be maintained indefinitely. With time, you might see more unappealing attributes of your partner that you did not see at the beginning of your relationship, so it is important to understand that the needs and wants you thought they had could be entirely different when they start to truly open up to you.

The last and most common assumption is that our partners will behave and react the same way we would under the same circumstances. Because we think we know our partners so well, we often delude ourselves and interpret our partner's behaviors through the lens of our own psyche. We project onto them motives for their behavior that reflect our predilections and habits. So, if you are upset with your partner for their actions, it is not wise to suggest that those actions were “out of character” or that you know them better than they know themselves. Playing the role of a mental health professional and telling your partner their behaviors are unacceptable based on your own beliefs is damaging. When your partner behaves in a way that you don’t like, ask him or her how they interpret their behavior instead of interpreting it for them. For example, interpreting your partner's saying something hurtful as purposeful will create a negative bias towards them when, in reality, they might just be having a bad day.

Healthy communication and open-mindedness are key in a relationship. It may be hard to accept that your partner has a past and that you don’t know them inside and out. Not knowing them perfectly is what makes communication so important, and you should always feel safe to open up to your partner if you feel misunderstood.

– Juliet Weschke, Writer

Source: Psychology Today

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