When two people are in close sync with each other, they often give little hints of their close connection. For example, they complete each other’s sentences. Such mind reading, tuning in to an intimate partner’s thoughts, is fun, but usually fleeting.
Then one day your partner makes several wrong guesses. You are frustrated, not with his failure to read your mind, but with his failure to listen to you as you try to explain something. He was too busy trying to come up with the right word to hear what you were saying. Then it begins to dawn on you that you aren’t listening either; you are fumbling with his thoughts, rather than listening to his words.
In any long-term relationship, a million things can come along to interrupt relationship communication… babies, work, illness, in-laws… Every such interruption increases the need for clear verbal communication between you. It is unfortunate that this increasing need for clear verbal communication often comes at a time when you think you know each other quite well and don’t need to talk things out as much.
Life intrudes. Then one day you are in an argument with your partner and you blurt out, “You should have known that I wanted you to drive me home.” He’s confused, because he did offer help and you said you were ok. Then one day he says, “Why did you____? You know I don’t like_____.”
Before long each of you are saying to yourself after an exchange, “Guessed wrong…again.” At this stage, your relationship is still fixable if both of you recognize the problem and get help replacing the mind reading with communication.
A long-term relationship represents the best human opportunity for intimate communication with words. It’s not a guessing game, charades, or “What’s My Line?” You turn it into such a game at your peril.
If your relationship deteriorates into a guessing game and you do nothing about it, things can get worse. If he says, “There’s nothing to discuss; I know what you’re thinking and I know what you are going to do,” you are left with no opportunity for intimate communication. If you “know” this is the way he will respond, then both of you have become as predictable as each of you thinks the other is.
Allowing relationship communication to deteriorate this far and still be together is very unusual, because most people will separate long before they reach this depth of alienation. Nothing satisfying is left. Correction at this point may involve total suspension of beliefs about the other and rebuilding your relationship from scratch. You will need professional help, psychological or legal.
Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill maintains an active, in-office and telephone practice, focusing on healthy relationships and life after addictions. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide. http://drneillneill.com