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No two people experience the world in the same way. Everyone has his or her own  particular picture or model of the way things are. Having this said, I often meet couples that know exactly what their partner thinks or wants. Or at least they think they know.

Let me give an example: The husband comes home from work with a cloudy look on his face. The wife instantly concludes that he is angry because she did not clean the house before he came home. The logic she used was something like this:

1.My husband looks angry.

2.He usually gets angry when I dissapoint him.

3.For sure he is angry at me for dissapointing him.

The wife might react in an offensive way, not questioning her conclusion until her husband tells her that he has a massive headache. The problem with her way of reasoning is that she relates her husband’s mood to herself, which is called ‘personalization’, a limited thinking pattern (Thoughts & Feelings, 3rd edition, 2007).

It could work the other way around as well. Expecting your partner to read your mind. Imagine I am trying to get my partner to be warmer and more supportive, without informing my partner. Every evening, when my partner comes home from work and fails to ask me how my day was, I get irritated. Most likely this does not encourage my partner to ask me questions or, as I hoped for, to be warm and supportive.

Sometimes you are correct, though. Sometimes your partner does know what you think or need or vice versa. However, especially in arguments or fights, it could be dangerous to read the mind of your partner, as your way of reasoning might be influenced by your (negative) emotions. Instead it might be a better idea to ask for clarification: “You seem upset tonight. Do you want to talk about it?” Or “I have the feeling that you are angry. Did something bad happen today?”

Do you know what your partner wants or thinks? Are you sure that your partner knows your needs?

 

– Esther is an assistant psychologist at Willingness.  She works with adults and couples.  She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on esther@willingness.com.mt.