As a relational therapist, I often come across variations of this mind reading statement when working with couples,
“If they really loved me, they would just know what I need.”
This assumption usually comes to light when I’m exploring frustrations that exist within a relationship. They are due to unmet needs. Furthermore, when I start exploring the origins of these frustrations, it appears that many of these needs and expectations usually are not communicated.
The communication quandary
In my work, I often find that many individuals feel perplexed as to why their wants and needs must be communicated to their partner. They often respond to me with something like,
“My partner should have known what I needed without me having to tell them.”
However, unfortunately the mind reading mindset creates a fantasy that cannot be fulfilled. The fantasy states that love gives our partners this ultimate superpower of being able to mind read.
Now, I could understand how this idea of mind reading can manifest in relationships. When in a relationship there often is a perception that nobody knows you better than your partner. Additionally, the longer your relationship is, the more that perception creates an expectation that a partner should instinctively know what you need. Then those needs become expected without having to explicitly communicate them.
Mindreading facilitates disappointment
The truth is that your partners are not superhuman mind readers. They cannot just tap into this power to identify what exists in your mind. When this expectation is created, it becomes an unfair way to evaluate your partner, and sets them up for failure. It may appear that what you are thinking, feeling, and need in that moment is obvious. However, if you are not bringing those needs, expectations, or feelings to the surface, they will go unnoticed. Over time, when needs go unmet, frustration and disappointment tend to build. Eventually, this frustration and disappointment will result in resentment towards your partner. Further, when resentment is unmanaged, it is detrimental to the health of a relationship.
A practical solution for your mind reading dilemma
A solution to overcoming your mind reading dilemma involves action and change in mindset. The first step is asserting your needs, desires and expectations with partner when they come up.
I know this sounds like a daunting process because it involves a level of vulnerability. However, I would challenge you to lean into the discomfort, because it will only help you to create a more fulfilling connection.
But again, the solution also involves more than just asserting needs. It requires letting go of this unrealistic expectation that your partner possesses a superpower. They have separate feelings and needs from you. Your partner most likely has a different perspective and expectations of how they want to experience love, affection, or care in a relationship.
I know that it can be difficult to live outside your own perspective unless you are confronted with new information. But, if there is no clarity about what you need, then your partner will never know how to fulfill it. They will continue to interact from a place based off of their own understanding. Then, if you still find it difficult to let go of this mindset, it might be helpful to consider whether or not you would want them to hold you to the same standard.
Lastly, if you are still skeptical that telling your partner what you need will make their response less meaningful, Dr. Jeffrey Berstein, a licensed psychologist, who works with couples sheds light that could help debase some of these doubts. He expresses,
“healthy love is strengthened by the willingness to understand.”
This idea demonstrates that just loving someone does not automatically give you the ability to understand their needs. It also demonstrates that understanding in a relationship is a complex process that takes the willingness of two people to facilitate. You are responsible for helping your partner understand you. Their willingness to understand is what makes this interaction meaningful. I would challenge you to think that their response is what matters and shows their investment in creating a healthier love with you.
I understand the temptation to believe that your partner can read your mind, but remember it is a fantasy. Hopefully over time, recognizing that your partner is human will give you the ability to express yourself freely and let mind reading be for actual superheroes.