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Marriage Counseling Myths: “You Read My Mind!”
Your Spouse Can’t Read Your Mind: How Marriage Counseling Can Help
In marriage counseling, you’ll learn how to communicate and express your needs to your partner. And so many of the communication issues you and I will experience in our relationships in life are tied to a common idea. We want to believe that other people can read our minds! (Related Article: Building Emotional Intimacy)
That sounds silly, but think about all of the times you may have hoped that your partner would pick up on your subtle hints about something that was bothering you. Or maybe you have hoped someone would understand your intentions and be forgiving when you make a mistake. These situations where we try to communicate unspoken messages are times when you may have hoped someone would look at you and (hopefully!) know what you are thinking. (Related Article: Marriage Myth- “You Complete Me”).
Today, you will learn about communication skills, and how marriage counseling can help you set better expectations for communication in your relationship.
Theory of Mind
First, let’s back up and talk about how we are able to put ourselves in each other’s shoes in the first place. That’s where a concept called theory of mind comes in. (Source) When you were somewhere around 3-5 years old, your mind began to experience some big changes! At this age, you were beginning to learn how to play with friends and interact with others. And with that change, you began to develop the ability to infer the actions of others so that you could create meaningful social connections with your playmates. In other words, you began to develop theory of mind.
But why is it important for you to be able to infer the intentions of others? If you can put yourself into someone else’s point of view and perspective, you can have empathy for them. You can guess how they will react to certain situations. You will know when you should comfort them or confront them. Without the ability to guess what someone is thinking, it would be very difficult to have meaningful conversations with the people around you.
You’re Not a Mind Reader
Now, you might be asking yourself, wait, I thought this article was about how I CAN’T read my partner’s mind? So, why are you talking about theory of mind anyway?
Here’s where this idea can apply to your marriage and show that it’s okay to not read your partner’s mind. Theory of mind is great and all, and you actually get better at it as you age and interact with more people. However, theory of mind is not meant to be a tool that helps you read the exact emotions and intentions of every being you come into contact with.
Theory of mind is a very useful and critical tool that you use in your marriage to be able to empathize with your spouse and be
vulnerable with them in return. However, most of what you perceive from your partner is an educated guess based on your own view and perspective. Now, that doesn’t mean you will always be wrong when it comes to inferring their thoughts and feelings. But it’s important to develop communication skills with your spouse to help fill the gap between your partner’s mind and yours, and vis versa. You will never be able to literally read each other’s minds. (Related article: Marriage Counseling: Promoting Partnership).
Even the best couples (I should really say especially the best couples), rely on good communication skills to verify the inferences they make about each other. They use communication to understand the why behind their feelings and behaviors, and offer a safe place to express themselves. It’s a gift to have theory of mind, but it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, make you a mind reader in your marriage.
The idea that you and your partner are only truly compatible if you can predict each other’s thoughts and actions with 100% accuracy is unrealistic, and will lead to frustration for both of you. The happiest couples use their judgment to make reasonable assumptions and inferences, and they use communication to create the emotional connection they need to thrive. (Related Article: Couples Therapy).
Marriage Counseling Gives You Tools
Marriage counseling, as much as you might hope, will not make you a mind reader. Although, that would be very cool, you will still learn many valuable and relevant communication skills that can help you and your partner come to a better understanding. The communication skills in couples counseling help you to bridge that gap between what you assume and what you really understand when it comes to your partner’s mind, and vis versa. Ready to get started? Start marriage counseling today in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork.
Written by Lauren Adkins