Assumption Check

I hear a great many assumptions when I talk to people about their marriages. Some of the assumptions are based on evidence, some are not. Some were valid a decade ago but now are no longer true. Many seem to be more about the feelings and history of the one making the assumption than their spouse. It’s human nature, it’s what we do, and in marriages, we do it on steroids.

Challenge Assumptions © Marek |

I’ve seen some of this in the comments here. Sometimes I point it out, often I let others do so. Challenging someone’s assumptions is a good and loving thing, but it can easily cause all kinds of pain and frustration. It’s far better when we get good at regularly checking our own assumptions.

This is not an easy thing to do, but it’s a skill one can learn. Lovely Lori and I have both gotten much better at this the last few years. Here are a few thoughts that help me challenge my assumptions:

  • I’m wrong about something: I have come to accept I’m always wrong about something – usually more than a few somethings. So my job is figuring out where I am wrong.
  • I’ve changed: I’m not the same man I was a year ago, or even a week ago. I grow and change, and what I think and feel changes. What I want and need changes, and even what I enjoy changes.
  • She’s changed: My wife is not the same women she was when we married, or when we left Washington in September. She’s not even the same as she was a few days ago. Just like me, she is growing and changing. What she thinks and feels has changed, and what she wants, needs, and enjoys has changed.
  • Some things are no longer true: Because of the changes in both of us, some things once true are no longer true. What was a fact before is no longer a fact. If I still think it’s a fact I’m confused, and I’m making a wrong assumption.
  • My wife is a good willed woman: I know this to be true. If I were unsure I’d choose to believe it to be true until she conclusively proved me wrong. When an assumption clashes with my knowing my wife is good willed, I stop and check my assumption.
  • There’s more to it: Assumptions tend to be two-dimensional while life is 3D. What I assume may be accurate, but I may be wrong about why it’s so. Why is important – being grumpy because you’ve not had good sleep in a week isn’t the same as being grumpy for no good reason. The why also tells us if something is likely to be true for a short time or the long-term. It tells us when to hold an assumption at arms length and recheck it often.
  • My wife loves me: Sometimes this is a matter of faith. When life is hurried and stressed we don’t always show love as we should. While this is wrong, it does not mean we don’t love. When an assumption doesn’t fit with my knowing my wife loves me, I need to recheck.

As we move from one year to another it’s a good time to check our assumptions. Challenge them, make them prove they’re valid. If in doubt, throw it out! Get rid of the what is obviously wrong and then dig deeper on what’s left. If it’s true, why is it true? Might it change soon? Might it change if you challenge your husband over it? Might is change if you did something differently?

~ Paul – I’m XY and I’ve assumed so many things which were not true.

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8 Comments on “Assumption Check

  1. Grrrrr…….Paul! I don’t like this one. I thrive on assumptions. There, I said it. I don’t like the unknown. So if my husband, who is a “thinker”, doesn’t reply to a question or a concern in a timely fashion, I fill in the blanks in whatever way makes sense to me.
    Yes, I have my own “stuff” to deal with. I’m very competent, so most people think I’m confident. That is not true. I feel inferior to almost everyone. I believe negative comments instantly and see most positive comments or compliments as lies. I know this isn’t good, and I need to pray for the strength to deal with this.
    My entire life, well – until my sister moved out – I was told DAILY how fat I was, how ugly I was, how stupid I was – and I began to accept it as the total truth. My loving husband has been trying to battle these lies for years. But when you do that stuff to a kid, it sticks. Especially if parents and grandparents occasionally join in on the “fun” of “teasing.”
    Anyhow, last night a relative sent some old home movies from when I was in tenth grade. My sons were like, “Mom! You were NOT fat! Not even a little bit.” I was shocked at the videos. Yes, I was an athlete, but to see myself in such good shape – even better than my current shape – was mind boggling. My memories of myself are of a fat, ugly, “in the way” girl.

    So I do have a point. All of that baggage contributes to me assuming that my husband can’t possibly be attracted to me, no matter what he says. His lower libido doesn’t help. I’ve always assumed he falls asleep so early to avoid me, and to escape intimacy. Maybe his 60 hour work week tires him out. It’s just easier to assume I’m too ugly to be desired. I read about all these sex craving men who desire their wives – even when she constantly rejects him. So I figure if my husband doesn’t seem to crave me, when I am very sex positive, I must just not be good enough for him. So when he says he loves me so much, or he loves my body, I’m usually like “whatever”, and no I don’t believe him very often.

    I’m trying to get better, and to do my part to make things better. It’s so crazy, it’s almost like I don’t want to believe him. I honestly believe he’s too good for me, although he disagrees.

    I really didn’t like this post, because it made me uncomfortable. But that usually means I’m being convicted, and all the more reason I should listen. So thank you.

    • @Me – Well as long as your marriage thrives on assumptions….

      Interesting contrast competent and confident.

      We do believe what we are told as kids, even when it’s not true. And we can come to remember things which didn’t happen or were not true. Very cool you got to see that first-hand in your life.

      Glad I could make you uncomfortable – I’ll try to do it again. I pray you will come to see yourself as God does, which likely has very little in common with how you see yourself.

      Paul Byerly recently posted…Write Your Own Marriage PrayerMy Profile

  2. Assumptions and filling in the blanks based on those assumptions can get us in deep trouble.

    @Me The way you saw yourself when you were young and the surprise you experienced when you recently saw those home movies reminded me of similar experience. I always thought of myself as “large.” I was the “thick” one. One day, my daughter pulled a long black skirt out of my closet that I used to wear for concerts in my college days. “Mom–you wore this? It’s teeny!” She was right, and I was shocked.

    Before I married, my husband said to me “I love you but I don’t ever want to have to love any more of you.” I assumed he meant “you are large, thick, and unattractive.” Now I understand he meant “I enjoy feeling attracted to you, it’s very important to me, and I don’t want to ever lose that.” He had seen what years of overeating had done to my mother’s health and wellbeing.

    The deeper question for us is “why would we marry someone we believe finds us unattractive?” What could that be about?

    • @IntimacySeeker – The deeper question for us is “why would we marry someone we believe finds us unattractive?” What could that be about?

      Nothing good. And it certainly would set up a lot of problems.

      In part, I think the issue here is how we define attractive. I’d have no problem with a woman I did not find physically attractive if she were attractive in the ways that matter – who she is and what she does. On the other hand, if what matters is no good, then no physical beauty is going to help.
      For me what a woman looks like physically is a very, very, very minor issue. It’s not even frosting on the cake, it’s sprinkles. I suspect most men are the same, or, at least, close to the same. Sure every man has preferences on physical appearance, but if they are at the bottom of a list of a hundred plus things he wants in a woman.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Write Your Own Marriage PrayerMy Profile

      • I think there are men who would put physical appearance at the top of the list. This is based on comments I’ve noticed from a variety of sources:
        When asked how things were going at the time, the husband replied, “Great! I had a beautiful wife …(then listed other components)
        Repeatedly voicing dismay over a friend who is divorcing a GORGEOUS wife.
        When wife asks if husband is pleased with her appearance before going out, he replies, “You look good like a good wife should.”
        Comment by a pastor/blogger: “The man with the best looking wife wins.”

        Some of this is likely due to God’s design and some to culture and media influence. Delighting in beauty and not overemphasizing it to the point of objectification can be a bit tricky.

        • @IntimacySeeker – Yes some men are that way. I prefer to think of them as boys in men’s bodies.
          Of course, the overemphasis on the physical can put a man in a bad place – he feels compelled to praise his wife’s beauty even if it’s not what he sees as more important,. This can make him seem shallow when he is not.
          Paul Byerly recently posted…The Light Is Better Over HereMy Profile

    • @IntimacySeeker – The deeper question for us is “why would we marry someone we believe finds us unattractive?” What could that be about?

      For me the answer to that question is easy! Well, since I have always believed that I was not attractive, then it would stand to reason that no man would be attracted to me. (I’m not saying this is logical, but what I thought). So when a man as sexy and as interesting and as kind as my husband wanted to marry me, there was no way I was going to pass that up! Ive always thought of myself as unattractive. If I waited for someone I thought was attracted to me, I’d still be single.

      We married young, and neither one of us was saved. We had no counsel from a church or even from family. Well, nothing beyond, have a buffet dinner and don’t get pregnant too soon! :) So needless to say we made a lot of mistakes along the way.

      It is by God’s grace that we both came to know Christ personally, and we are now able to grow together as Christians. We’ve been married over 20 years, and we are both just over 40, but in a lot of ways, it feels like we are just getting started. Like we are just beginning to figure things (including each other) out.

  3. I’ve been musing over the question I posed. I think I was confused about the whole “attractive” thing. If I was truly unattractive, then why did I have so many “suitors?” That seemed incongruous. Perhaps it felt safe to marry someone I believed found me unattractive, because I didn’t feel I deserved someone who felt otherwise. And perhaps this assumption stemmed from the way my father treated my mother.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Paul. You and Lori touch many lives.

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