Origionally published: June 19, 2014
by Elliott Kronenfeld, LCSW, CST
When I work with couples, one of the earliest things we do is look at how we communicate. We begin with the basics of starting to look at our words and tone so that we can hear and understand each other. As we get deeper into our process we begin to look at something far more challenging, and potentially more destructive than our words. We begin to look at our assumptions.
All too often, it is the assumptions in a marriage that cause the greatest hurts and divides between two people. Assumptions about a lot of things. Assumptions about our partner’s feelings. Assumptions about our partner’s motivations and intentions. Assumptions about our partner’s understandings. And, most damaging of all, assumptions of our partner’s assumptions about our experience and take on a situation.
People I work with can often get frustrated when I challenge them by asking them if what they are talking about is fact or assumption. I mean, after all, if you have believed something for years and used that as your primary lens and modus operandi, wouldn’t you be unsettled if you were asked to consider a whole new truth? We get in the habit of checking truths before we move on. So, we now have to ask…what is the truth?
This is a much more complex question than I can answer here, but suffice to say, the truth is whatever one person identifies as their own experience. The assumptions and truths we are discussing are not about science or the color of the sky…it is about experience. I experience pain, but you assume I am experiencing anger. You experience loneliness and I assume you are experiencing jealousy.
Being able to open the lines of communications in a relationship often takes a neutral third party who can help hold a lens and translate for a couple. This does not mean the couple is in dire straits… it is about learning to communicate in new and more effective ways.