Your Partner Isn't a Mind Reader, Don't Treat Them Like One
Problems with communication are the biggest reason, by far, that couples come into therapy. For the most part, there are a variety of reasons why your communication fails. But there is one theme that continues to pop up in a lot of the cases that I see: the discovery that your partner fails to read your mind.
“They should just know that it bothers me when they don't call. They should know that calling me during their lunch break means a lot.” This is just one example of thousands. I’ve heard thoughts like these more than I can count, and each time the expectation is that your partner should just know. However, this is just simply not how people work.
Your partner not picking up on subtle cues that something's bothering you doesn’t mean they don't love or value you; they simply can't read your mind or know how you're feeling in every moment. This can be pretty destructive to your relationship too. For you, you're setting an unrealistic expectation which only makes you more frustrated when your partner doesn't meet this expectation. For your partner, they will likely feel unjustifiably attacked, and start to look at you as a nag or overbearing.
So what do you do? How can you communicate differently that satisfies both of you?
Communicate Your Needs Clearly
It would be great if your partner could read your mind, but since they can’t there has to be another way to communicate. Your partner will respond much better to what you’re saying if you spell your needs out.
Instead of saying, “You never even think of me!”, say, “It makes me feel really good when you call me during lunch. Can you do that more often?”
Although it might feel unnatural to state your needs and wants so explicitly, there will be a much better chance that your partner will make changes to address them. And your relationship will grow as they know what you want. And they will even be able to anticipate what you want – making you not need to be so explicit every time.
Hear and Understand Your Partner, Don't Just Listen
However, if you're the person who complains about your partner not reading your mind, the responsibility doesn't all fall onto you. For the other partner: don’t think you’re off the hook, there’s also some steps that you need to take. You need to hear and understand your partner, rather than just listen to them.
Instead of just saying, “I understand what you’re saying,” go further and say, “I can see what it’s like for you. You feel neglected, or that I’m not thinking about you when I don’t call you during the day.”
This will let your partner know that you actually do understand what they're saying, and that you hear them. Even if you genuinely understand them, they won’t know that if you don’t repeat back what they expressed.
Also, don’t sit around waiting for your partner to clearly state what they want or need every time. Give conscious thought to your relationship, specifically what you can do that will satisfy them. This will become easier and easier as they continue to clearly state what they wants, and doesn’t leave you to read their mind.
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