People who have been in long marriages or relationships get to know each other rather well. They can often anticipate what the other person might say or do or think or want, you get the picture. In loving relationships, partners might sometimes have a reliance on each other to know what each other wants without having to tell or explain, and sometimes they can and do just that. It might help them to feel loved, recognized, and appreciated. The “knowing” of the other person is experienced through a positive filter.
In a divorce, this feeling of knowing may get you into trouble. At a time when emotions run high and hurt feelings and anger are readily available, the ability to trust your sense of the other person is compromised. A negative filter makes it difficult to notice or remember the good qualities of the other person. You may be in a position where you feel the only thing you can do is be self-protective and look to see what he or she is doing that may be wrong or blame-worthy.
What you lose is your curiosity about the other person and you gain the belief that you can predict the other’s thoughts, motives and actions – and it isn’t a very pretty picture.
You may believe that if you can anticipate what your ex-partner will do, you might be able to know what to do in the face of the inevitability of their wrong-doing. You may also want to distance yourself from being at fault for what difficulties there are in your co-parenting relationship.
The Sixty to Seventy Percent Rule – I have developed a theory I think illustrates the problem with suspending curiosity and believing your thoughts about another person. As mentioned above, when we know another person very well, we are often able to anticipate their thoughts and actions. My belief is that we are good enough at it to be correct about sixty to seventy percent of the time. If you are truly empathetic, you might push that up to eighty percent. However, most people are probably in the sixty to seventy percent range. This means that if you are right sixty to seventy percent of the time, you are wrong thirty to forty percent of it. Or, for you empaths, twenty percent. The problem comes in knowing which is which. How would you know if you were in your sixty to seventy percent range or your thirty to forty percent range? Difficult to know without checking it out by asking the other person. Becoming curious about your own thoughts helps create a bridge to the other person. You may find you are still right a good portion of the time – with confirmation. You will also find out where you may be making assumptions that are false and which might also feed your negative feelings about your ex-partner.
When you stay open to the possibility that you do not necessarily know what your partner will say or do and you monitor your assumptions about them, you maintain the possibility of having a channel of communication that is less fraught with argument and disappointment. You may still not like what he or she is thinking or doing, but you will at least not like it from the standpoint of knowing what it is they are actually thinking or doing.
It is also important to be curious about your own thoughts and feelings. There is a saying that goes “Just because you think it doesn’t make it true”. Our thoughts and feelings are not hallmarks of reality. In one divorce, a mother insisted that she get the family home and could not understand why there was a disagreement from the father about this. She just knew this was the way it should be. After much discussion, she began to realize that her belief was based on the fact that when her parents divorced, her mother got the house and as far as she knew, there was no disagreement about it from her father. She continued into the conversation, knowing why she believed she should get the house and also being more open to other possibilities. Maintaining curiosity about yourself and others helps to keep you grounded in reality.
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