Family Holiday Survival Guide

Reading Your Partners Mind

By Dr. Linda Miles

When Ann came to see me, she was in the process of counting how many times in the past year her husband had turned on the television when she wanted to talk to him—not that she had ever told him she wanted to talk. She left him oblivious to her upset, while her resentment built at his failure to magically “know” what was on her mind.

When we are young it seems as if our caretakers magically know when we need to eat and what they must do to take care of us. Children have a family romance in which their parents are always wise and good. This is extended to the whole world via the culture of children’s stories, in which wonderful things happen to the good guys and the bad guys get their due.

The Prince comes. The slipper fits. They live happily ever after.

In adulthood this can become the expectation: that our partners should always know what we need without our having to tell them. When our partner fails to read our minds and to “magically” know our needs, resentment builds. We can take our partner’s “blindness” as a criticism of what we want or as a failure to do their part in the relationship. I have seen many couples who both believe that the other one knows, “just knows,” what it is they need and is withholding it for reasons of perversity or vindictiveness. This leads to a kind of passivity and watching in the relationship. We wait and wait for our partner to recognize us by doing for us the thing we feel they should know to do. We describe this, as it has often been called as, “saving brown stamps.” Meanwhile, resentment builds and we cease to be a proper participant in the relationship.

Our belief that there is a force outside of our lives magically steering it toward love and happiness is deeply ingrained; usually it is only given up as a consequence of repeated disappointments. Even when it is, we can still become involved in trying to be the perfect person ourselves, believing that our slimness or muscularity will exercise a magical attraction on others around us. Thus women become anorexic and men spend hours at the gym. These behaviors often represent an attempt to keep our belief in magic alive.

Copyright 2005 Linda Miles Ph.D

Author, Dr. Linda Miles, is deeply committed to helping individuals and couples achieve rewarding relationships. She is an expert with a doctorate in Counseling Psychology, and has worked in the mental health field for over thirty years. She has been interviewed extensively on radio, TV, and in newspapers and magazines. Find more relationship ideas and relaxation techniques on her web site and in the award-winning book she co-authored, The New Marriage: Transcending the Happily-Ever-After Myth, and Train Your Brain: For Successful Relationships, CD.