Did you know that 80 percent of the time women bring up issues in heterosexual relationships? That’s according to Dr. John Gottman who studied hundreds of couples from the 1970s onward.
I’m not surprised. In our 12 years of marriage, I’ve been the one to dredge up most of our trouble spots.
It could be that he’s working too much. Or that I need more “me” time. Or that he needs to get that thing he promised to get done, done. Like yesterday. Or last year.
But it recently dawned on me that there was one thing that was unduly—and unfairly—putting pressure on our marriage. And that one thing was assumption.
Yes, that’s right. Not my unrealistic expectations of my spouse. Not incompatibility. Nor a lack of communication.
It was simply that I was assuming certain things to be true. I was letting my imagination embellish the plain, old (usually boring) truth.
I was, essentially, creating a narrative in my mind, and gradually turning it into the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
If the hubby happened to be quiet, moody and unresponsive, I would imagine that he was upset with that remark I made in front of friends at dinner the previous night. And off I would go on a mental tangent, a kaleidoscope of thoughts and internal conversations.
“He should really stop being so sensitive,” I would think to myself. “After 12 years he should know I didn’t mean to say that. He’s becoming more sensitive and withdrawn these days,” I would conclude.
If he happened to be out frequently with his buddies, I would imagine he didn’t need me anymore. That I was a nobody on his priority list because, obviously, he didn’t want to spend time with me. I would create a pity party in my overly inventive mind.
We slap on labels and story titles in haste. Each little incident becomes an intriguing narrative about our spouse’s failures or the state of our marriage. Our assumptions can become our own worst enemy.
We’d rather have a drama play out in our minds, and experience a myriad of emotions that have little basis in reality, than simply think the man is quiet because he is tired. Or he needed some downtime with his friends and it has nothing to do with me or the state of our marriage.
I would venture to say that often, it boils down to insecurity. Our assumptions play out our fears that we’ve buried under layers of busyness or silence.
The solution is pretty darn simple: stop assuming. That’s easier to type than it is to live out. But when I catch myself drifting along a tide of make-believe, I need to anchor myself with what I know to be 100 percent accurate about my spouse, my marriage, and my family.
In fact, in Philippians 4 it says we ought to think of things that are true and excellent and lovely and admirable. It starts with the word true—a word that leaves little room for assumptions or imagination.
The next time your thoughts weave themselves into a story worthy of a Pulitzer, stop. Ask yourself if there is a simpler, more truthful, explanation to a situation that you and your spouse may find yourselves in.
Sure, you can still be the one to bring up “issues” in your marriage. But we owe it to ourselves and our marriages to ensure that they are not simply a figment of our imaginations.