Last year my husband went to a week-long creative leadership training. I love those kinds of things and was eager to hear all about it. One of the biggest takeaways he learned was this: be careful not to assign intentions to someone else’s actions.
As he explained it to me, I realized that I sometimes do this with people in my life. Do you?
In marriage, it’s easy to create problems that really aren’t there because we assume our spouse meant something they didn’t. For example, when your spouse doesn’t take the trash out or leaves dishes in the sink, it doesn’t mean he expects you to do it. Maybe he just forgot or planned to come back and do it later. Or when your wife didn’t tell you about something going on at work or with the kids at school, it probably wasn’t because she didn’t want you to know. Maybe she just hasn’t found a good time to talk to you about it. Conflict can arise when we assume someone else’s intentions.
There are so many scenarios that happen regularly in marriage where we get the opportunity to believe the best of our spouse or choose to assign intentions to their actions. When we catch ourselves assuming and ready to blow something out of proportion in our heads, let’s believe the best of our spouse. Then let’s open up communication and clarify our spouse’s feelings.
A great way to do this is to be specific about the action and how it made you feel. With the two examples above, it would look something like this:
- When you leave your dishes in the sink, it makes me feel like you expect me to do them. Is that the case?
- When you didn’t tell me about your work project/school issue with the kids, it makes me feel like you don’t want to include me. Is that true?
The dialogue can then open up from there and allows both of you to express your true feelings and intentions.
Believing the best in one another is an important step in enhancing trust and communication. As we practice this and communicate instead of assigning intentions, our marriages will be better for it.