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Relationship Counseling: Assumptions in Communication

Relationship counselors (in Vermont and elsewhere) often find that assumptions complicate relationships. Assumptions may help us communicate more quickly, but when it comes to our communication with loved ones, they can create obstacles, too. Here is an example shared by a friend of Vermont Talk Therapy:


A husband and wife are redecorating their living room. The wife wants to paint the room as part of the redecoration. She asks, ‘What color should we paint the room?’ The husband replies, ‘I don’t care, you choose’. The wife proposes a few colors and the husband replies each time that he doesn’t care. As the conversation progresses, the husband gets impatient and says, ‘I really don’t care. You make the decision’. Both parties in the relationship feel tense about the conversation.


On the surface this exchange may not seem noteworthy, but there are assumptions on both sides that might come to light if the husband and wife took the time to talk about the source of the tension. The husband may not have strong opinions on room color, but he’s assuming his wife would choose a color he likes. He is also assuming she is comfortable deciding on her own, which might or might not be true.


On the other end of the conversation, the wife might be assuming the husband does have an opinion, but he’s holding it back for some reason. Perhaps she’d like more input and by asking about specific colors she’s hoping he’ll react to one of the colors. She may assume his lack of interest means he’s not interested in the entire redecoration project.


If the husband and the wife don’t address the tension it may not cause problems, but they could also find that conversations about redecoration become more tense. It could become part of a pattern. Conversations about the house may become more and more stressful and therefore the couple begins to avoid them.


In the end, the couple managed to discuss why redecoration was a tense topic. Because of this discussion, they were able to untangle a stressful situation. They each explained what they meant and it led to a better understanding of what each of them was assuming in their conversations. Taking the time to have this kind of conversation helped them begin to look at other areas of tension that could also involve assumptions. We all make assumptions without taking the time to discuss the patterns of interaction in a relationship, those patterns can continue to cause stress over and over.


If you’re noticing tense conversations in your relationships or wondering why problems aren’t getting resolved, get in touch. Speaking with a Vermont relationship counselor might be a way to explore and resolve stressful patterns in your life.

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