It is often the case that we tend to remember negative things more strongly than positive things. When a partner says something negative to us, it can stay with us for months or even years, it can completely destroy us emotionally. Whereas when a partner says something positive to us, such as how much they value us and how much we mean to them, it can often just bounce right off.
How strongly something sticks in our memory may depend to a great deal on the assumptions we have about ourselves, our value and worth, our partners, and our relationships. Here are some assumptions that seem to cause relationships to go poorly, and some assumptions that help nurture strong and healthy relationships.
Destructive assumptions to make in a relationship
- I need to be everything to my partner, and he or she needs to be everything to me. We must have the same hobbies, interests, ideas, and friendships or our relationship won’t last. If we don’t all of our free time together our relationship will fall apart.
- I am not pretty enough/not smart enough/not sexy enough/whatever for my sibling.
- A relationship should just grow and blossom on its own. Once the relationship is started, we should automatically be happy and if we run into any turbulence that means the relationship was not meant to be.
- It is my job to make my mom/dad/son/daughter/brother/sister/partner be happy. If my partner is not happy, I have failed. (Conversely, it is my partner’s job to make me happy.)
- Sexual attraction means that we must enter a romantic relationship. If I feel strongly attracted to my family member, we must be together.
- My partner is my adult son or daughter so it’s okay for me to treat him or her as a child, not take him or her seriously, or not treat him or her with dignity, respect, or compassion.
- My partner is my mom or dad so I can continue to behave immaturely just like when I was a child, expect him or her to do all the hard work, and sacrifice his or her own happiness to make me happy.
- We aren’t meant to be together if our relationship runs into problems.
- My brother keeps saying things like “I love you”, “I enjoy spending time with you”, “I find you sexy”, “I’m attracted to you”, “I value our relationship”, “You’re the best sister ever!”, “I want to bring you home and introduce you to our parents”, because those are the things you’re supposed to say when you’re in a relationship with your sister. Those words don’t truly mean anything.
- If I want to protect my relationship with my adult son or daughter, I need to keep him or her on a short leash. If I let him do whatever he wants, her would leave me, ignore my needs, disregard me, or otherwise mistreat me. Only by maintaining strict control over my partner can I be treated the way I need to be treated.
- My dad or mom only wants to be with me because he or she gets turned on by incest, he or she doesn’t actually love and appreciate me for who I am.
- If my partner masturbates or watches porn, it means I am not sexy enough. I am a failure; my partner wishes he or she had a more attractive sister or brother.
- My sibling is with me because I tricked him or her, or because we lived in the same house while growing up and I was convenient at the time.
- Given the choice, if someone his or her own age came along, my adult son or daughter would prefer that person over me, and would rather be with that person.
- If my sister spends too much time with our dad, she’ll leave me for him.
- If my brother spends too much time with our mom, he’ll leave me for her.
- My uncle or aunt doesn’t REALLY love me…not really. When things get rough, I can’t really count on him or her to be there for me.
- If someone prettier/sexier/whatever comes along, I’m screwed.
- I cannot talk openly to my partner about things like my own sexual desires, especially if I think they’re weird or unusual, because if he thinks I’m too weird he will dump me.
- Adult consensual incest is taboo where I live therefore I’m a bad person for being attracted to my relative, or our relationship isn’t meant to be.
- I love it when my partner does some specific thing for me. Therefore the best way to show my love to my partner is to do that same thing for him or her.
- My partner’s exes are threatening to me because I believe that my partner would secretly prefer to be in a traditional non-consanguinamorous relationship with them than with me. And anyone my partner finds attractive is a threat to me because my partner would secretly prefer to be with that person rather than me.
- If my partner behaves in a possessive or jealous way, that is proof that he or she loves me.
- If my relative talks to someone of the same gender I am, it means he or she is trying to replace me.
- My sibling just likes me because he or she read about consanguinamory.
Constructive assumptions to make in a relationship
- My partner wants to be with me, and loves and cherishes me.
- Relationships and friendships come in many forms. Sexual compatibility, or even love, doesn’t necessarily mean that we are compatible relationship partners. It’s sad when that happens, but sometimes two people just aren’t good romantic partners, and it’s OK to recognize that fact and to build a friendship that honors and cherishes our connection while still allowing us to have relationships with people we ARE compatible with.
- My sibling and I don’t need to be absolutely everything to each other. Having hobbies, interests, and even friends that we don’t share in common doesn’t mean the relationship is in danger.
- If my partner is jealous or possessive when I’m not doing anything wrong, this is an expression of my partner’s insecurity that has nothing to do with me. My partner’s insecurity is not necessarily my responsibility, though as a compassionate and loving partner I can certainly help support my partner in overcoming it.
- Open communication is needed for a healthy sex life and a healthy relationship. I can count on my partner to listen to what I have to say with respect and compassion. My partner values me and wants to have a healthy relationship with me.
- My partner enjoys spending time with me and finds me attractive. I add value to my partner’s life which nobody else can replace.
- My partner says things like “I love you”, “I enjoy spending time with you”, “I find you sexy”, “I’m attracted to you”, “I value our relationship” because those things are true.
- If my partner enjoys spending time with another family member, it’s because they enjoy spending time together as family.
- Not everything is about sex. My partner can talk to someone of the appropriate sex, or even be friends with someone of the appropriate sex, without it being about sex or about replacing me.
- Relationships can encounter problems. What happens when we do encounter problems depends on our decisions.
- When we encounter problems, it doesn’t necessarily have to destroy the relationship, especially if we can still remember to behave with compassion and respect for one another.
- Different people express and recognize love in different ways. It is important for me to recognize how my partner best receives expressions of love, and to understand how my partner expresses love.
- My partner is with me because he or she wants to be with me. I offer value to my partner, and given a choice, my partner would still choose to be with me.
- Not everything my partner does is about me. The things my partner does are not always a reflection on me. If my partner looks at porn or masturbates, that has nothing to do with me at all.
- In reality, my partner HAS free rein to make any choice he or she wants. If he or she wanted to leave me, he or she could find a way to do that. The fact that my partner is still her tells me he or she wants to be with me.
- Happiness is something that my partner and I can each help to encourage and promote in one another, by reciprocally treating one another with compassionate and dignity, and by encouraging one another to pursue our happiness. However, my partner can’t make me happy, and I can’t make my partner happy.
- It’s natural for relationships to encounter occasionally difficulties from time to time. A relationship that experiences difficulties is not necessarily bad, unhealthy, or doomed; it is only if the bad times outweigh the good times that I need to examine whether or not the relationship is healthy.
The things listed in “constructive assumptions” aren’t always valid. Some families have people who are abusers, manipulators, liars, and assholes who will happily take advantage of any or all of these basic assumptions.
However anyone who can’t be trusted to abide by these positive assumptions, or who proves the negative assumptions true, doesn’t make for a good partner. The best way to deal with such a person is to not be in a relationship with him or her.
So underlying all of these premises is a Premise Zero, which is:
- I am worthy of love and belonging, to be treated with a basic minimum of compassion, respect, and love. It’s better to be single than in a relationship in which these things are not true. By starting with these positive, constructive assumptions, I can build a healthy relationship. Partners for whom these constructive assumptions are not true are not worthy of being my partner.