Jun 242013 14 Responses

It’s Not My Job to Read Your Mind

I played golf on my anniversary.

I wouldn’t necessarily try that at your home unless you are absolutely certain your wife is okay with it and even then I would double check.

The round of golf was the last of a four-day golf tournament which I play in every year and which happened to end on our anniversary. I played because my wife said it was okay to play.

I believed her because that’s who we choose to be.

We choose to be a couple which is honest with one another about our thoughts, feelings, and expectations. We aren’t perfect. We fail miserably. Yet our desire is to be a couple which openly communicates with one another.

A guiding principle to produce this outcome is the understanding that I can’t read my spouse’s mind.

And I can’t expect her to read my mind either.

(This is an excerpt from Friends, Partners & Lovers. For more on communication, respect, and friendship, purchase the book HERE.)

I hear it all the time:

  • “If he loved me, he would know what I want.”
  • “I shouldn’t have to ask.”
  • “He should know what he did wrong.”

Even if he should know, he doesn’t. Even if you shouldn’t have to ask, you do. And even if you want him to know, he won’t until you tell him.

People are different. They see the world differently. They have different expectations. They have different experiences. (See: Why Jagger Can’t Find Sexual Satisfaction)

Men and women are even more different. We were created with different strengths and weakness. We are supposed to see the world differently.

Because of these differences, we can’t expect others to be able to read our minds.

Love is not the ability to know what our spouse is thinking without asking; love is taking the time, asking, listening, and acting in response to what our spouse tells us.

3 Actions Since You Can’t Read Her Mind

Because we can’t read each other’s minds, we must:

1. Take each other’s words at face value. If I say something, Jenny must assume I mean it. I can’t say one thing expecting her to interpret it as something else. If she says “yes,” she can’t expect me to understand, “I’m saying yes, but I really mean no so you better not do it.” If I say I’m okay with something, I better be okay with it. The same is true for her. When we fail to say what we mean, we must own our failure and not blame our spouse. If we later realized we said “yes” when we meant “no,” we must apologize for not telling the truth rather than blaming our spouse for not knowing what we actually meant.

2. Assume we don’t know what the other is thinking. Assumptions can be dangerous. If we assume we know what the other is thinking, we would be tempted not to ask our spouse their thoughts. By assuming we don’t know what the other is thinking, we are more likely to communicate. If you are going to assume, assume you don’t know. One of the greatest symptoms of assumptions is an absence of questions. Asking our spouse their thoughts or opinions is evidence we aren’t assuming to already know. When we fail to ask, we are likely making assumptions.

3. Be understanding when we get it wrong. Marriage is supposed to be difficult. We are supposed to get it wrong. Being wrong allows us to grow. If we never made mistakes, we would never learn more about one another or ourselves. We would never truly need the love on which our relationship is based. There are times in which I will try to read my spouse’s mind and shouldn’t. There will be other times in which Jenny tries to read my mind and will get it wrong. When tension is caused because we can’t read each other’s mind, the frustration should quickly change to laughter because we realize we are trying to do something which is not possible.

Jenny and I would love to be that couple who completely understands each other with such depth that we can complete each other’s sentences and know what the other person thinks before they even say it.

Because we want to be that couple, we do everything to share our minds, hearts, and feelings. Becoming that couple is not something that happens when a couple falls in love; it is a byproduct of a lifetime of communication, shared experiences, and learning to understand one another.

It’s not my job to read my spouse’s mind. It’s my job to share my mind with my spouse and to listen to my spouse as she shares her mind. (See: Top 10 Communication Posts)

Side-note to men:

If you are wondering how you can convince your wife to let you play golf on your anniversary, you can’t.

For many women, an anniversary is an important day where your time, attention, and gifts are vital to her feeling loved. That’s not true for Jenny. To her, it’s important that we celebrate our anniversary, but the specific day doesn’t matter. She doesn’t like gifts; she prefers shared experiences.

Every June we take a trip and celebrate our anniversary. Having taken our trip, I knew she probably wouldn’t mind me playing. I asked. She agreed. If I thought she would hesitate, I wouldn’t have asked. If she had asked me not to play, I wouldn’t have played.

If your wife doesn’t think this way, deal with it. Appreciate what you have and don’t try to change her.

If your wife thinks this way—doesn’t care about the actual day, doesn’t want gifts, and let’s you play golf—thank God and don’t brag about it (except via a blog).

14 Responses to It’s Not My Job to Read Your Mind
  1. Tim Tidwell Reply

    Great topic!

  2. dennyneff Reply

    Thanks for writing and sharing all these rich stories as they help me to have a greater appreciation of my Pastor and a greater love for him and his family. They also help me to learn what I should and need to be like and how I should behave. And I would never dream of holding one up to Beverly and say “See he gets to, why can’t I” (Snicker). God has given you a wonderful gift so thank you for glorifying him with its use.

  3. [...] when it’s actually not. These lies conceal how we truly feel. As I’ve written before, itR... kevinathompson.com/4-lies-to-never-tell-your-spouse
  4. […] It’s not my job to read your mind. It is written for marriage but it equally applies at work. ... kevinathompson.com/top-10-communication-posts-your-co-worker-should-read
  5. […] I wrote in “It’s Not My Job to Read Your Mind,” just because I can play golf on m... kevinathompson.com/just-because-you-can-doesnt-mean-i-should
  6. […] It’s Not My Job to Read Your Mind which I think is a vital idea at work and marriage. […... kevinathompson.com/top-5-most-read-posts-for-june
  7. […] spouse does a majority of the work has to be willing to ask (and actually receive) help. Remember i... kevinathompson.com/stay-happily-married-holidays
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  13. anon Reply

    I’m female but if a boyfriend told me he didn’t want me to do something I wanted to do on our anniversary because it was a “special” day, I’d hate it. I would resent it so hard. I agree with Jenny – the day doesn’t count. And besides, even if I thought it was a special day, I probably wouldn’t tell or ask my boyfriend not to do something he wanted to do, simply because I’d hate it in the opposite direction and I don’t want resentment to build. I’d just say he can do whatever he likes and then solve any disappointment internally or change my internal parameters. I don’t know if that’s the best way or not but it gets me out of ever having to do what people tell me to do (if I never tell others what to do).

    Anyway, I actually looked this up because I get annoyed at my female friends for not communicating clearly and then getting angry that I don’t “just know” what they want, or for assuming I can read their minds. But then I thought, well how often do I tell them that this particular trait annoys me? Am I expecting them to read MY mind and just stop it? In addition, I have met so many men who do this…please everyone. Stop hinting. You can’t expect me to always just know what you mean if you don’t mean what you say.

    So I guess I don’t think this is a gender thing, I think this is a people thing. Everybody conducts themselves by their own standards of behaviour and expects others to conform. So I think people “should” communicate with me clearly, but I resent having to tell them that. Ergo, I’m doing exactly the same thing and should change that myself.

  14. […] 4. If he truly loves you, you shouldn’t have to tell him what you are thinking. Do you always ... kevinathompson.com/misguided-marriage-advice

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