woman deep in thoughtOver the past few days, a variety of things have had one particular word on my lips – assumptions. I’ve written before about the danger of holding assumptions that don’t have a basis especially when they haven’t actually got anything to do with the actual person, which you then in turn continue to base your perceptions and actions on, even when there is evidence that doesn’t support your assumptions.

The key times when I see assumptions creating issues is when:

We love and trust blindly based on assumptions which don’t hold true but we continue to ignore anyway as we prefer the illusion of the assumption.

We assume that someone who we feel attracted to possesses the values, qualities, and characteristics that some ‘we’ want to love should possess. We think ‘Wow I love that we can climb mountains, play football, and listen to John Mayer together’ and assume that makes you life partners even though it turns out, you don’t have shared values.

We look at people or a situation and make assumptions about it, not stopping to sanity check our perception.

A particular example of this is being with a guy and assuming that he’s a pillar of the community, liked by everyone and it’s just you that he’s a jackass with. But I’ve found on a number of occasions that much like how we apply a rosy glow and put people on pedestals, we apply it about their social standing too, possibly because we believe them to possess qualities or attributes that we think make likeable and popular people. What we may not realise is that sometimes these people are tolerated or maybe even liked, but not to the extent that we believe.

We make assumptions about how we think, feel, and act and assume that our partners think, feel, and act in the same way.

For example, people often say to me that they know that they wouldn’t do something so they assumed that their partners wouldn’t and even when they discovered that they did do what they thought they wouldn’t, refused to accept it. Instead, they became boggled by it or even denying it.

We assume that when we communicate something that the meaning is loud and clear and that everything we intended comes through.

In your mind, it makes sense and you hear you loud and clear. However, often, it can be that you’re speaking Chinese, they’re speaking French but you both don’t realise it and continue to assume that the other party is understanding you and become frustrated when they don’t. You’re assuming your communication style is understood or that it is even shared.

We assume that our partners understand why we are p*ssed off or hurt because we assume that people who love us and who want to make us happy know when we’re not happy, why, and how to fix it.

When they ‘fail’ to understand, we assume that it must mean that they don’t love us as much or that the relationship is doomed because they don’t instinctively know what your needs are…even if you don’t either.

We assume that what we are prepared to give in a relationship is what the other person needs because it’s what we are capable (or what we think we are) of giving.

Many of us give based on what we can give and assume our contribution is right or valuable even if it’s not what the other party needs. We can get very annoyed when our efforts are not appreciated even if it’s not what they wanted.

We assume scenarios or things that our partners would do in a hypothetical situation and get surprised when it turns out that actually, they wouldn’t.

We say stuff like ‘Oh well I know he wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t had A happen to him’ and then feel blindsided when he says that he actually, he would’ve done.

It’s important not to base too much of your life on assumptions to ensure that you’re not just going through the motions of life reacting.

Not assuming everything gives you pause for thought and you have a more conscious, considered approach to life where you can be far more empathetic because you truly put yourself in the other persons shoes or consider them as an individual entity instead of looking at you both as a unit that think, feels, and acts in tandem.

I found myself getting caught out by assumptions very recently where I assumed that what I perceived about someone’s social standing and their friendship was founded. A situation arose and I reacted based on the perception only to discover that my assumption was very wrong. This was an online situation and if you want to apply my experience to your own, be careful of blind assumptions about online relationships and things you see in the written word – it’s easy to knit them all together and make a person that doesn’t exist with a sandcastle in the sky.

I also spoke with a couple who had a misunderstanding and while trying to explain their misunderstanding to me, assumption after assumption kept coming up and each and every one of them was misplaced – remember that you are individuals and that if you put aside the assumption making for a bit, you stand to really learn about each other and appreciate each other’s perspectives.

In life, we do have to make a reasonable level of assumptions. In dating and relationships for instance, you ideally need to go in with a reasonable level of trust and assume that it is well placed based on whatever initial perceptions you have. Your interactions serve as a series of checks and balances – you’re either going to increase your trust because not only are they meeting or exceeding your assumptions, but they are giving you more reasons to feel trusting.

Or…you start out with a reasonable level of trust and your initial perceptions and you discover that the trust or perceptions are misplaced.

When we don’t go through life adjusting our assumptions and perceptions and applying our checks and balances, we end up loving and trusting blindly, and operating off an illusionary point.

It’s like operating your life in a fog where you’re really having relationships with your assumptions and reflections of how you’d like it to be or how you think it is, but not how it actually is.

And this is a good time to remind those of you who are partial to letting your imaginations run riot – The danger of being someone who gets caught up in illusions is that you’re not making assumptions based on perceptions of the person – you’re making assumptions based on the reflection of your imagination. Really, they could be anyone or you could replace them with a cardboard figure – you’re not seeing them, you’re seeing your illusions which makes it an assumptive illusionary relationship.

Part of what created my huge epiphany and changed my life forever, was realising that not only had I dated yet another emotionally unavailable guy in a barely there relationship for five months, but I had assumed that if he had pursued me off the back of him ending a very long term relationship, then he must want to be in a relationship.

In fact, it was not the first time I had assumed that if I was pursued or whispered sweet nothings (nothing being the operative word) to, that it must mean that they want me and are serious, when in actual fact, they wanted me but were not serious or were serious about being Mr Unavailables and assclowns. It took me five months to let go of my assumption but my assumption had actually been challenged and shattered about two weeks after we got together and he started blowing hot and cold and easing his way out of whatever we had started.

If I had not only registered my discomfort but acknowledged it, I would have realised that I was wasting my own time in my own little assuming illusionary bubble.

I still have to make assumptions and so do you because you know what? – We haven’t got all the time in the world to be questioning and second-guessing every move.

We need to invest ourselves in relationships where there are shared core primary values and mutual love, care, trust, and respect and there are two parties living congruent with their values and being authentic. At least then when you make assumptions, they’ll be honest ones grounded in reality and when things shift or you have an error in judgement, you’ll be quick to acknowledge and adjust your perception.

While sometimes letting go misplaced of assumptions (and illusions) signals bad news because it turns out that the reality isn’t good for us, the flipside is that letting go of misplaced assumptions frees you up to enjoy reality.

If you’re making assumptions about your partner, not based on who they are or your experience but on other partners, or other experiences, and your beliefs, you’re missing out on the opportunity to get to know them as they are, and at least make your assumptions on them. Don’t limit yourself to a life based on assumptions that you don’t challenge, especially if they’re negative beliefs you’re holding on to and validating through a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, don’t limit yourself or you will end up in limited relationships with limited people having limited experiences based on…you guessed it…assumptions.

Your thoughts?


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14 Responses to Life Lessons: The Danger of Making Assumptions About People and Relationships

  1. MaryC says:

    Assumptions are a bitch. I assumed so much about my ex that our whole relationship seems unreal at times. I’m not sure how I could of missed so many red flags that were waving in the breeze but I did. He was having one kind of relationship and I was having another but my assumption was we were having the same relationship.

    Actually I now think deep down inside I did know it but I was too afraid to talk about it let alone acknowledge it. I was afraid if I talked about it it would be true but it didn’t make any difference it was.

    That lingering doubt, knot in my stomach, little voice in the back of my mind should of been enough to make me think twice but it wasn’t. I ignored all that and let my assumptions take over.

    Thanks NML for reminding me not to assume anymore.

  2. Moving on in 2010 says:

    I definitely made illusions of assumptions about my relationship with my ex-EUM. I realized late in the game that we definitely were not on the same page as it related to core values. He wanted a casual relationship but I, of course wanted something beyond that and didn’t heed the red flags (ie-blowing hot and cold).

    I, like Natalie was also pursued by my ex and assumed that we were into each other in the same way (primarily feelings and secondarily physicality, etc), but that was not the case. He was just looking for someone to fill his lonely time up with and unfortunately, I made myself the perfect target for it.

    • JJ2 says:

      I had the same “difference of expectations.” Only my last guy didn’t really know what he wanted. He just “went with whatever.” In my case, “physical” went out the window. He didn’t want it. I did! I guess he just wanted a companion/roommate (but didn’t know enough to say that’s what he wanted) and I wanted passion!

      How does one deal with that?!?!?!?!?

  3. Hilary Dewhurst says:

    MaryC – I was exactly the same, after 5 and a half years – out of the blue – my fiance suddenly over the phone started screaming at me to leave him alone, why do I keep phoning him, hes under stress, he just needs time and space blah blah. After trying for a couple of weeks to reconcile (reconcile what ? we hadnt fallen out – this was totally out of the blue) I took his ring back to him. This Sunday I had a call from a women who was obviously drunk, accusing me of being a stalker – why had I gone to his house, she was upstairs at the time and heard me. Seems she also was in a relationship with him, had known him for 16 years and it appears to me he told her Im just someone from work with a fixation on him. She claims she also works in the same place (we all work for the ministry of justice ha ha!) – is in”a position far higher than you will ever aspire to” . She knows me (she claims) but I dont know her and she could be walking past me, watching me every day. However, she kept phoning me that night asking for a girl to girl talk, she was “confused now”, I think maybe her eyes were also opened that night, He had told me at the start of our relationship his previous partner had left to take up a new job in Yorkshire, but I dont know when in our 5 and half years together she came back. Over the last year he did seem less communicative WHY WHY WHY did I not heed the warning signals. How the hell am I ever going to get over this shock and ever let anyone in again,. I am distraught but you know what – I refuse to be a victim, I told her she should get some self respect as it sounds like she is a victim too. Thank you to Baggage Reclaim and all of its posts, I WILL HEAL. – Hilary

    • Regeneration says:

      Hilary, am sorry to hear what happened. I had some guy years ago that I was with for a couple of years, we lived together. He asked me to marry him etc but I kept pushing back as his behaviour was erratic (he was also verbally abusive among other things).

      Turned out he had a gf of seven years, she found out and came and told me. They’d split for a short while but when she went through it all it made sense… the times when he disappeared when we’d had rows etc. He even took us on the same trips, either because he got a kick out of it or to help with the lying.

      You will never get an explanation out of him, and if she’s not talking to you reasonably cut contact with her too.

      People who do stuff like this always lie, he eventually said to me he did it to control the situation, that he didn’t want to hurt anyone (yeah right) but there are a million different reasons. I think he was a sociopath or a narc… way they act doesn’t make sense. And though the other partner has been hurt too, they equally won’t be in a state or the position to say that much that will make a difference. I initially wanted to contact her again, but then again she’d been with him longer than me, and what was the point. He’d treated us both badly and we knew it.

      I just try to question people more now and ask for explanations on “weird” behaviour, I’m still getting there. It did really hurt at the time but it gets better the longer you are away from them.

      Look after yourself.

      • aphrogirl says:

        These stories are a bit wrenching and recovery work from betrayal of the assumption of honesty is all one can do. The liars/ schemers are so damaging to the foundation of trust needed for meaningful human interaction. The EUM I knew schemed a lot in his head, and was very good at strategy and calculating. But, when his plans and schemes went out of control, or not as planned, the erratic behavior appeared. At the time I was not aware of what was gong on…I have never known anyone, or had any experience with someone like that before.

        As it was happening, I found it pretty disorienting, but tried to stay stable and comforting thru his distressing behavior. I now see I was just a character in his sad, tragic drama, someone he tried to manipulate the way he wanted in his story, and that was why I always felt something was weird/ unhealthy all along.

        Eventually, even if their schemes do not collapse, trying to stay stable with these types proves unworkable. Its hard for us to fathom how they can do things because we have values that keep us from engaging in that level of destructive deceit.

        I keep repeating to myself, you cannot have an honest or healthy relationship with a liar. Liars always end up behaving weird or erratic. Weird behavior, that makes me feel bad, or does not get resolved right away, is now a new deal breaker for me.

        I had to work hard to restore my faith in humanity after knowing the EUM. For awhile I had to protect myself by trusting no one. But now I am coming to realize I was naive and inexperienced with this level of unhealthy behavior and it was something I could only learn about by experiencing. Best wishes to those here in the initial stages of healing from loving these people.

    • MaryC says:

      Hilary….Yes you will heal but I won’t lie its a long long journey. Take all the time you need. Take care of your mental/physical/spiritual needs and don’t let anyone minimize your pain or ask why you’re still sad/mad about things. Everyone heals in their own way and time but you will heal and come out an even better person for you will realize the strength you never thought you had.

      See you on the other side…

  4. i am not completely agree with you. Assumptions about people & relation not dangerous but in long life you can not assumption about people and relation.

  5. JJ2 says:

    This not only applies to romantic relationships, but to FAMILY relationships, too! I have this same issue with a FAMILY member, and the family member refuses to believe any of this.

    I think this happened with my last relationship. I would talk and talk and talk, and he just “didn’t get it.” I’m having the same problem with the family member. I’ve talked and talked and talked, and the family member acts like they “get it” but just keeps on doing the things that cause the arguments.

  6. Wendy says:

    This sounds like the ex and me. I assumed, wrongly:

    1. He pursued me madly in the beginning, so he must have been really in love with me.

    2. He must have been a terrific person because his co-workers and our friends thought so.

    3. I wouldn’t lie or cheat in a relationship, so he wouldn’t either. I wouldn’t pursue someone madly for months, only to lose interest in them quickly — so how could he do that?

    4. He’d been separated for a long time and had had previous girlfriends, so he was ready to move on from his marriage.

    5. He’d had problems with his separated wife and two previous girlfriends because they were b*tches; he needed a woman like me who would be good to him.

    6. He loved me because I loved him.

    All of these assumptions were all wrong. I don’t know who I was in love with. Some fantasy man, certainly not him.

  7. Linda says:

    Wow, Hilary, I feel for you. Been there, done that. I found out too that despite the fact I was in a “committed” relationship (alone apparently, committed to my fantasy obviously), all his friends thought I was just somebody interesting that he knew. The OW was told I was crazy and delusional. So were the friends once the situation began to unravel. I was the bad seed.

    He always made up excuses why I couldn’t meet his family and when we bought a car and I wanted to show it off, he came right out and asked how he would explain it to them! And no, I couldn’t go over there with him. He parked blocks from the house, so he said. Red flags, red flags, red flags.

    You will get over this eventually, but it’s a long road and it takes perseverance. You have to want to get over it, just like you have to want to see the truth in your relationships.

  8. raven says:

    I think for me the hardest one is not assuming that connection means anything – it’s not the quality of the connection, it’s the quality of the man that matters. I refuse to disbelieve in love though and I’m beginning to trust the connection – *that* is real and you need a bit of magic in a relationship. But NML is right – it’s the context in which that connection arises which you have to question. The last guy I met, I had (seemed to have …) the most complete connection with that I have ever had – spiritual, emotional, physical (though I didn’t sleep with him, but kissing and dancing etc), intellectual and initially it was wonderful. Then after 3 weeks he started to manage down my expectations so I called him on it and he said ‘let’s finish it now then’. To this day I don’t know if he thought I would respond with ‘oh no, please don’t …. etc’ but I said ‘ok then, if that’s what you want’. He then said ‘I don’t want to hurt you, and I hurt people’ and I could feel on one side my ‘oh he’s a decent guy he doesn’t like to hurt people’ and on the other NML’s words and decided to opt for relationship sanity. Since then I’ve discovered he’s an alcoholic, he’s close to bankrupcy, is a porn and sex addict and as soon as we split up he went back to his previous ‘fallback girl’.

    I thank NML for a lucky escape.

  9. Ashlee says:

    Oh goodness, i can relate so much to this. I got involved with my ex three weeks after the person who was essentially his father had passed away. And assumed that he was pursuing me because he genuinely liked me (we had known each other for a while before this) and wanted some support while grieving… not because he was just trying to distract himself from his grief. Then, when I started to suspect what was really going on, I assumed that he just wasn’t handling grief well but would respond properly to other tough situations in life. Yes, so naive, but I managed to convince myself of it at the time. Finally I’m realizing that i was just seeing someone I wanted to see based on assumptions. He is, in reality, the type of person who will go to almost any length to avoid facing his own problems and pain, even if it means taking advantage of someone’s time, feelings, and heart. He said exactly what I wanted to hear in order to keep me around to distract him from himself. And then in the end, after he started to see that I truly DID believe him when he said he was going to marry me “someday”, it was the whole, “i need to focus on getting my life in order” thing, which I assumed to be genuine only to find that three weeks later he’s “hanging out” constantly with some other girl. BLAH. I went back to him two more times only to have the exact same scenario happen when we broke up. I’ve finally gotten smart though and am moving on FOR GOOD. I’ve realized that just having a good “connection” and sharing interests do NOT mean anything necessarily. It is a super bad idea to assume that because those things are there that this person’s motives are healthy. It was because of my assumptions that I kept going back to him and “explaining away” the red flags in the relationship, all for the sake of connection and shared interests. It’s hurting a lot to realize all this, but I’m glad that I’m finally finding the truth.

  10. Sarah says:

    I am very glad I found this today. I made insane assumptions about my last guy, also a barely there relationship of 5 months in which I spent the last three wondering if we were, in fact, even dating or a couple. I assumed that because he was 40 and we worked together that he wouldn’t screw me around (wrong). I assumed that because he came running at me in the beginning, so sure he liked me and wanted to be with me that he was serious about having a relationship (wrong). I assumed that “single” meant “unattached” (way wrong). I assumed that how I felt and thought was how he felt and thought. I read all kinds of meaning into every email, text, conversation, assuming that what I thought it all meant was what it meant. I assumed he meant what he was saying, even after his actions no longer matched. In the end, all those assumptions caused us to come apart in the most hurtful, humiliating way possible. Now, we have to coexist at work and his solution is just to pretend that it never happened and hope I play along. I haven’t. I assumed he would apologize and try and fix it. Seems I was never right about anything to do with him.

    Thanks for the wise words.

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Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.