Intention vs Perception

One of the great destroyers of marriage is perception. You intend something for good, and he perceives it another way. He intends something as a compliment, and you take it another way. I see a great deal of this in the comments on my blogs. A man or woman gets it in his or her head that their spouse thinks a certain thing, or feels a certain way, or likes or dislikes something, and that perception becomes their reality. He says “orange” but she’s sure he means pink, and nothing he says can change her mind. She says black, and he sees green.

Intention vs Perception

If you’re on the receiving end of this it’s frustrating, and you have limited power to do anything about it. Be clear, and be consistent. Repeat it often enough, and it should start to sink in.

If you’re the one who is seeing or hearing something other than he’s saying, you have the power to question it. Why are you so sure he means something different than what he’s saying? Is it possible there’s another explanation for what you think proves he’s lying to you?

By the way, a great deal of this comes from our past. If your mother said your feet are too big, you won’t be predisposed to believe your husband when he says he likes your feet. If a past girlfriend said he was horrible at oral sex, he may refuse to do it on you even if you assure him it was great the few times he tried it. 

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I’ve had this topic scheduled for a couple of weeks, so don’t perceive it as being because of some recent comment!

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8 Comments on “Intention vs Perception

  1. Great post, Paul. One very wise therapist we had told us, “There are facts, feelings, and perceptions. It’s extremely rare that they all come into perfect alignment.” When a spouse “decides” that their partner thinks or feels a certain way, it hinders intimacy. It says, “I refuse to understand the real you; I’m committed to the version of you that I’ve created in my own understanding.”

  2. A huge part of this is “consistency.” Like, an example would be if a husband is frustrated that his wife doesn’t believe him when he says she’s beautiful (or variation: sexy, desirable, thin). If he is consistent in his actions, then there’s a lot of blame on her. She needs to deal with her insecurities as her problem.

    But if he is sending mixed messages, she’s never going to believe the “beautiful” message. If he says she’s beautiful, but two days later pokes at a bulge on her belly or makes a negative comment about her outfit, then she will not believe it when he says she’s beautiful and will believe he is willing to lie to her. A guy may think, “but I never told her that she wasn’t beautiful!” But to a woman, these are all related — you can’t simultaneously believe she’s beautiful AND pinch her love handles AND say that she looks frumpy. And, fairly or not, one direct hurtful statement is literally worth hundreds of compliments. (That may seem unfair, but look at it like this — how many times would you get to say “I hate you and wish we’d never gotten married”? Saying something like that even once can cause YEARS of pain and mistrust. Saying something cruel, or even thoughtless, about an area someone is sensitive in does exponentially more damage than it seems like it should.)

    • Hey SunnyDee, I’ve been thinking about you lately! I agree with you, for the most part.

      “But to a woman, these are all related — you can’t simultaneously believe she’s beautiful AND pinch her love handles AND say that she looks frumpy.”

      Men can be clueless. (So can women.) There could be a man who sees and adores the true beauty in his wife – not by media standards – he CAN affectionately pinch those love handles that he adores about her, and say she looks frumpy if he feels like she is dressing in an unflattering way that hides her beauty, all the while still believing that she is beautiful. (i.e. baggy sweats, maybe even unflattering mom jeans or something. I am NOT saying we should be asked to dress provocatively!) These would be poor moves on the man’s part, and he should understand that it sends the wrong message to the woman.

      However, if due to these actions the woman decides that he doesn’t really think she’s beautiful, instead of talking to him lovingly about how the mixed messages affect her and opening the lines of communication, then she is guilty of exactly what this post is about. Maybe it’s better said “the man can’t expect a woman to believe it” rather than “the man can’t truly believe it and also do these other behaviors”….???

      • I agree with what T said concerning pinching flab and frumpy comments.

        My hang up is that hubby will remark on everyone else’s beauty and not my own. Even after taking great strides to dress and present myself how he likes, I have gotten nothing. It is killer to hear him wolf whistle at an actress in a movie, but never look up from his phone while I strip before bed. Thankfully, he doesn’t really do that anymore and pays me more compliments. Funny, when I stopped giving a d**n, he started giving one.

    • Sunny-Dee, you’re SO right about consistency.

      It took a long time for my wife to believe that my greeting her with a fistbump rather than a hug and kiss were a way of telling her she’s special.

      For me, hugs and kisses were cheap currency, but the fistbump was reserved for brothers-in-arms.

      It took time and conversation…and consistency. But we are the stronger for it.
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 361 – My Final PrayerMy Profile

    • @sunny-dee – You are absolutely right on this, but it gets tricky because he may not see certain actions as inconsistent with his words while she does.
      Lori is overweight (as am I) and we both know it. That in no way makes her less beautiful in my eyes.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…I’m Not Getting What I DeserveMy Profile

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