Julie calls Brandon on her way home from work. She notices that he gives one word responses to her questions and doesn’t ask about her day. Julie assumes that Brandon is still angry about their argument this morning, so when she comes home, she doesn’t give him a hug and a kiss. Instead, she goes upstairs and locks their bedroom door.  

The idea that communicating telepathically is the gold standard in relationships is romantic, but completely misguided. The belief that our partner should magically know what we need leads to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and disconnection. Instead of aiming to interpret our partner’s behavior, we should try to learn their language.

When you mind read, you assume you know exactly what your spouse is thinking or feeling. You may unknowingly attribute malicious intent to otherwise innocuous behavior. When you’re attuned to your spouse, you are likely to notice subtle changes in their facial expression and body posture. In addition, you ask clarifying questions to understand what they’re experiencing. When you mind read, you assume you understand. When you practice attunement, you ask to understand.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling writes, “Only Muggles talk of ‘mind reading.’ The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by any invader. The mind is a complex and many-layered thing.” When we assume, we inadvertently send our spouse the message that their emotional experience is simple and easy to understand. Do your relationship a favor: be present, be curious, be kind.

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