Long-term relationships can be wonderful. Whether it’s your best friend, sibling, business partner, or lover, having a relationship that lasts for years, decades, or over the course of a lifetime can mean trusting that that person cares deeply about you, will remain with you, and knows you deeply. They’re the person that can watch you walk into a room and within 5 seconds know something isn’t right when everyone else thinks you’re just fine. You can give them a look or say a couple of words and they know you want to leave the party instantly. Being known so well, and knowing another so well, is a wonderful experience.
However, this kind of intimate knowledge can also really have its pitfalls. Feeling like we know someone so well can lead to making assumptions about the other, and assumptions can lead to inaccurate interpretations, resentments, strife, and boredom in relationships.
For example, while it can be wonderful to feel like you can easily read the expression on a loved ones’ face, we might, in fact, misread their facial expression or body language. Additionally, when we assume that our loved one is attuned to us and therefore must know how we feel about something it can easily lead us to resentment that may not be based in truth. Also, if we assume we know what our loved one wants or needs we can miss the mark on what they actually need.
In addition to assumptions we react/respond to, often assuming we know someone can cause people to fall into prescribed roles in a relationship that eventually make them feel trapped. For example,if one person is the “planner” and the other is the “spontaneous one,” the planner might grow resentful of always having to figure things out and the spontaneous one might end up resentful that they don’t end up doing what they’d like to do.
The antidote is deceptively simple (and may even seem silly in a relationship that has lasted 20 years or a lifetime) but it can make a big difference: ask. Ask the questions that seem obvious but give the other person a chance to tell you what’s true for them. The answer might confirm what you thought (which is never a bad thing) or it might give you the opportunity to be a better friend/sibling/partner/coworker to someone you care about. Some of the questions you might ask are: