Dangerous Assumptions

Assumptions and disappointment AdobeStock_74685972 copyThis Marriage Insight is titled “Dangerous Assumptions” because some assumptions that we hold onto can be dangerous to our marriages. They can tip them over into the “warning zone” where survival is sometimes questionable. Others are not dangerous, but helpful.

Please let us explain. There are some assumptions or judgment calls that can be helpful. For example, before marriage, if you’re dating someone who is flirty with others, or cheats on you when you’re exclusively dating each other, you’re safe in assuming this person could take this behavior into the marriage. This could be a red flag warning you ahead of time.

You can catch him or her in that type of behavior and receive all kinds of “sorry’s” and promises that their behavior will change. But you’d be wise to keep your senses open and, on the alert because words can be cheap. Changed behavior, over a long period of time (and we do mean LONG) would be the only thing that should change your assumptions. Trust is built and rebuilt one day, one action at a time.

Now, when it comes to making assumptions after marrying:

“In certain marriages where trust has been breached, a little [or a lot of] suspicion is warranted, and trust must be regained. But our first thought (in a non-abusive marriage) should be to think our spouse has the best intention until we find out that’s not the case.” (Gary Thomas)

Reasonable Assumptions

The same is true of abusive behavior. If it starts before marriage, it’s safe to assume that it will continue. It could even ramp up after marrying. (Studies support this.) It would be dangerous NOT to assume otherwise. That’s when it can be wise to get out while you can BEFORE marriage. It’s a lot more complicated after marrying.

Also, if you and your fiancé are having arguments that are unhealthy, then you can assume that after marrying, you will encounter major problems. That’s when it’s wise to work out your ways of resolving conflict BEFORE marrying, so they are healthy and satisfying to both of you. Don’t ignore them, or you could be headed into a troubled marriage.

And then after marrying you will need to continually work on your individual ways of resolving conflict. It’s not a “once done for all time” type of situation. Marriage is a continual journey towards marrying your very different approaches to life.

We could go on and on… We hope though, that you get the point. Some assumptions and assessments you make can be good and helpful in the long run.

But what we want to address here are the types of assumptions where you believe you “KNOW” what your spouse is thinking. Yet in reality you do not. Your spouse’s past behavior may lead you to THINK you know what’s behind it all. You may think you know what will come next. But often you don’t. You’ve just allowed yourself to step into a closed-minded assumption. And that’s dangerous because it may cause you to act upon reasoning that isn’t true.

So, be forewarned.

Drs Les and Leslie Parrott give us this caution to prayerfully consider:

“Making assumptions shuts down constructive communication. It effectively halts our ability to gain further empathy and understanding of one another, because once we’ve made an assumption, our mind is made up. From there, it’s incredibly difficult to level with one another in a meaningful way—at least regarding the topic at hand.”

Do you see what they’re saying here?

Dangerous Assumptions

We thought and prayed about this a while ago when a wife wrote a long comment, which we posted on the Marriage Missions web site. She went on and on about things she KNOWS her husband is thinking and doing behind her back. As we read it, we didn’t know what to think. Perhaps she was right. But what if she wasn’t? She just judged and condemned her husband, despite his pleas that she was wrong.

“Being judgmental in a relationship is usually disastrous. That is because once we attach ourselves to a fixed characterization of our partner, we have a very hard time letting go of that assessment and seeing them differently.”

That statement comes from the book, 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married, written by Linda and Charlie Bloom. In a chapter titled, “There’s a Difference Between Judging and Being Judgmental” they write about a husband and wife named Paul and Cookie. Paul had done many things he admittedly shouldn’t have. But he eventually woke up to realize how very wrong he had been in the way he was living within their marriage. He set out to work very hard to show his wife that he had changed. He became more invested in the marriage, as he should have been all along.

But Cookie would have none of it. No matter what he did, it didn’t matter.

The authors wrote:

“Cookie continued to view him from her old perspective. It was as if she had taken a snapshot of Paul years ago and glued it into a photo album of her mind. She couldn’t turn the page but still had it open to the same old picture and kept staring at it. Cookie was lying in wait for evidence that Paul couldn’t be trusted. Since no one is perfect, of course, she found it.”

It was just a matter of time before she would find something else to confirm her assumptions, even though over all, this was a stumble (see James 3:2). It was not a retreat on his resolve to be a good husband. So,

“After a while Paul began to feel like there wasn’t any point in trying because he knew that sooner or later, he was bound to lapse into an old behavior (even though temporarily), and Cookie would condemn him once again.

“Although he initially began to change his behavior for the sake of the marriage, he was now doing it for himself. He realized he had no control over how Cookie viewed him. Her intractable view of Paul made her the bigger loser. Being attached to her judgments prevented her from appreciating the changes Paul was making. She couldn’t see that their relationship had actually improved. Her attachment to her judgments was so strong that it prevented her from seeing the part she was playing in their relationship being stuck.”

They later divorced.

Understandably Fed Up

We can understand how a spouse can get absolutely fed up with promises that end up being broken. And sometimes it happens more times than you can count. All of this is disheartening! It’s especially upsetting how some spouses will promise the world, and they never, ever truly change. We get that.

But how truly sad it is, like in the case of Cookie and Paul, where there is genuine change involved and the benefit of the doubt is not given. We keep thinking of where we would be if God viewed us this way. What if redemption was never possible or given a chance? Yes, some spouses trample all over any redemption possibilities. But there are some who stop doing so and they aren’t given the opportunity to show this because of our assumptions.

That’s what we mean by “Dangerous Assumptions.”

Wake Up Call?

Please let this be a wakeup call to those who need it. Ask God if your assumptions are dangerous. Are you taking their voice away? Are you assuming more than you should?

We can’t tell you if you need this marriage pointer or not. But at the very least, be open to listening to God over this. Be careful not to hold onto your assumptions too tightly. Don’t allow yourself to go beyond the point of giving the grace that you should (if you should). We’re talking about the same type of grace God has and will continue to give to you.

You can miss out on so many blessings. Plus, you can cause damage to so many other innocent people (children, and others) who need to see grace in action.

But just as you excel in everything —in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us —see that you also excel in this grace of giving.(2 Corinthians 8:7)

Need Some Tips?

Concerning giving grace when it comes to making assumptions, here are a few tips:

• “Ultimately, assumptions create an emotionally unsafe environment in your marriage. The key to breaking them is self-awareness. Becoming aware that you’re prone to making assumptions can help you interrupt the pattern and guide yourself back to a more open-minded frame of mind, so you can pave the way for improved communication and understanding.” (Drs Les & Leslie Parrott)

• “Many of us tend to jump to negative conclusions about our spouse’s intentions, particularly when we’ve been embroiled in turmoil. Look for the good. That means that you need to shed the tendency to assume the worst when they’ve done something that feels hurtful or upsetting to you. Take a moment to consider what their best intentions might have been and try to see the situation from that perspective before you make any assumptions. When we look for the good in one another, we’re more likely to avoid assuming things that add hurt to our relationship. Jumping to conclusions puts us in a position to add insult to injury, so slow down and prioritize positivity.” (Drs Les & Leslie Parrott)

• “Assumptions can too often cause misunderstandings. With your spouse, to gain better clarity and offset future problems: “Explore goals and symbols together. What does ‘money’ mean to you? What does ‘home’ mean? How about ‘intimacy’? Each of these words is a symbol for a broader idea. Explore what kind of goals you have around these ideas and how you can work towards them together.” (The Gottman Institute)


• “Believe the best instead of assuming the worst. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, ‘Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.’ Paul wraps up his great passage on biblical love with these four powerful statements. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that love believes all things. Marital love ought to believe the best about the other person instead of assuming the worst.” (Scott Kedersha)

• “Ask questions instead of making assumptions. Apply Proverbs 18:2 all day, every day. ‘Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.‘ Our world would be a much better place if we all learned and applied this verse. If I apply this, then I will ask questions instead of making assumptions.” (Scott Kedersha)

Below is a great prayer to put before the Lord on your own behalf. We have done this and hope you will too:

• “Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.(Psalm 19:13-14)

We pray this at least some of this has been helpful as you take all of this to the Lord in prayer. We’re praying for you!

Cindy and Steve Wright


To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:

7 Essentials - Marriage book


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2 responses to “Dangerous Assumptions

    1. We thank God that He impressed upon us to post this when we did! Thank you Jesus!