Assumptions and Saving Your Marriage

Save a marriage by understanding your perceptions. In a marriage crisis, we make assumptions that can help or harm the marriage. If you understand just one of those assumptions, you can start saving your marriage.

A marriage crisis makes it difficult to process information. If you are trying to save your marriage, I hope you will find this article to be helpful in taking a step back and thinking about your perceptions.

Let's face it: we all go through every day, even every hour of the day making assumptions. We have to. Otherwise, we are constantly caught trying to check everything out. This morning, I got in my car, turned the key, put the car in gear, and off I drove. I didn't take the time to check the brake cables, or really any other part of the car. I just assumed it would work.

On my drive to the office, I assumed that other drivers would follow the rules of the road. They would stop for stop lights, go the speed limit (or some close approximation), and would stay on their side of the road. I had to make that assumption, or I would be trying to process too much information.

Those kinds of assumptions that we make help us to live our lives in worlds with too much information. We basically take shortcuts through the information with our assumptions. But those assumptions can go much deeper.

For example, we make assumptions on what someone believes when they say they are a Democrat or a Republican. Often, these assumptions prove accurate. But sometimes, a Republican holds some traditionally Democratic beliefs, and vice versa. Then, our assumptions may get us into trouble. We might speak to someone, assuming their beliefs, and find we have offended them.

Then there are assumptions we make about people based on our experience of them, but more importantly, our interpretation of those experiences. You see, there is no such thing as an accurate recounting of an event or experience. We read into everything that happens. We notice some things, we ignore other things. You see, our senses and our brain are filters for anything happening. Our mind is a secondary filter. By the time we are perceiving something happening, it is already sifted through several filters.

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone over a disagreement? I see it on a daily basis in my office. A couple has a disagreement, then when they discuss it with me, one could believe that they were actually describing separate events! They get into a fight about the fight they had! Both believe something very different happened. Our filters really can get in our way!

Over time, we build into our filters some of our beliefs. And the one I would like to highlight here is whether we believe the other person is doing the best he or she can. We have a built-in assumption one way or the other. Either we believe the other person is doing the best he/she can or we believe he or she is not.

After almost 2 decades in the therapy office, I am truly convinced that people really are doing the best they can, where they are. Notice that there are two parts to that sentence. The second part is crucial: "where they are." People may be able to do better, but I never have people saying "you know, I'm just not trying."

Well, admittedly, there have been a few, but those few were really only kicking themselves for not doing well enough. They were doing the best they could, but had internalized someone else's belief that they could do better.

So, everyone is doing the best they can, where they are. They may end up doing better later, but given where things are, they are doing their best.

Now, imagine believing this. If you truly believe it, you can more easily be sympathetic for when the other person falls short.

Apply this to saving your marriage. We can easily get to a point, as a marriage is in crisis, that we just see our spouse as having given up, or not doing the right thing, or being ignorant, or being useless. . . you get the picture!

But what if we start with assuming that he or she is really doing the best he or she can, given where he or she is right now! Then we can be more empathetic. Perhaps what he or she is doing is not working, but that is different than not working at it.

Let's face it: we only have control over our own lives. As much as anyone would like a spouse to get in there and save a marriage, we have only ourselves to affect change. And if we are more empathetic, understanding, and looking for the best, the better the chances that we will get that returned to us.

The starting point to saving a marriage is to shift our own perceptions of a spouse, and as we assume that the spouse is doing the best he or she can right now, the softer our perception becomes. The softer our perception becomes, the more room we allow to see our spouse more clearly. The more clearly we see a spouse, the less reactive we become. And the less reactive we become, the easier it is to relate. Then, we have moved down the path to saving a marriage.