October 3, 2007

Assumptions, expectations, and reality.

We make a lot of assumptions. Assumptions are beliefs we hold to be true, like the other drivers on the road will follow the traffic rules, our job will still be there when we get to work, our children will grow up and have good lives, the TV shows we watch will be on at the usual times. So assumptions are really based on conclusions we make from our past experiences, like all dogs are vicious, that our father will continue to be irrational, that Richie the bartender at the Hilton will always smile when he sees me, and that children cry on airplanes.

So when we get into a new relationship, we often assume that this guy will behave like the previous ones and sometimes we're surpised when he doesn't. But worse, we often assume that he has the same rules in dating that we do, like we should always spend Saturday nights together or that we should see each other a certain number of nights per week or that he should call every day. And when the guy doesn't do those things, we feel hurt. I have one friend who has a script in her head that dictates what the guy should do on the first three dates. When the guy doesn't pick a certain type of restaurant on the first date or bring flowers on the second date, she assumes he is a jerk. And he has no clue what she expects.

But really, think about it, what if he doesn't have a list of our assumptions? What if he's never had a relationship when seeing each other on Saturday night or calling every day is assumed? In the previous post, I talked about a women friend of mine whose boyfriend only made plans with her after he made other plans and didn't make time on the weekends to see her and she was really quite upset, thinking that she wasn't important to him. I urged her to have "the talk" about it and she did and was quite surprised at his response. He didn't get defensive or bring up things about her that he didn't like, which she assumed he would because that was the behavior of her previous boyfriends. What he did was to tell her that he didn't know those rules or her assumptions, because she had never voiced them and he had never had a relationship before that required what she said she didn't get from him. And he was happy to comply and made a commitment to see her every Wednesday night and at least one full day on the weekend. And that he had searched all his life to have the intimacy they were starting to develop, but that he just needed her to tell him what she expected and that he would do his best to meet her needs.

Assumptions turn into expectations and we feel hurt when our expections are not met. And it's all unspoken and usually we don't even realize what our assumptions are or that our assumptions are not another person's assumptions. So it's important to figure out what our assumptions are and then we can tell the other person what we expect. Or we can realize our assumptions for what they are, some preconceived ideas about how we expect the other person to behave and then we can choose to put them aside or, drum roll here, we can tell the other person what they are and ask him to comply. Another win-win situation here!

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