Open and honest communication is essential in relationships because it ensures that you're both on the same page. Since neither of you can know what the other is thinking or intending if they don't make it clear, signals can easily get crossed and you can misinterpret things that they do or say, which can land the two of you in an argument before you even realize exactly what's going on. Knowing about some of the innocent behaviors your partner is doing that you're misinterpreting as hurtful can help because you might think twice before jumping to conclusions about what your partner meant by something and getting unnecessarily upset about it. Though you're certainly entitled to feel hurt and express that to you partner when necessary, having an idea of what sorts of things are commonly misinterpreted can save you the hurt and heartache, as well as saving you a potentially difficult conversation.
"As an anger management specialist, I spend a lot of time talking with my clients about their misinterpretation of others’ behaviors which often lead to feeling of hurt and then anger reactions," Alisa Kamis-Brinda, LCSW, LCADC, a licensed clinical social worker and owner of Serenity Solutions, tells Romper by email. "Oftentimes, when we feel hurt by others’ words or actions, it is because we are taking their actions personally. However, in many situations, another person’s behaviors are not meant to intentionally hurt us. In many cases, the person’s behavior is a result of how they are feeling and their behavior is how they are trying to cope with it. Learning how to use empathy can help when we feel hurt by other’s behaviors."
Thinking about why your partner might have said something can sometimes help you from misinterpreting or having your feelings hurt unintentionally when these kinds of behaviors come up in your own relationship.
1. They Offered Advice, But You Wanted Them To Listen
Sometimes, when you talk to someone about something, you really don't want them to try to solve the problem or offer up advice, you just want them to listen to you. However, it can be difficult to tell when someone wants to receive advice and when they don't. Jennifer Seip, MA, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper by email that this is commonly misinterpreted. If they swoop in with unwanted advice, it can sometimes upset you. Saying that you're not looking for advice straightaway can help prevent this situation from becoming an issue.
2. They Spent Time With Friends Without You
You likely both have your own friends, which is totally fine, but when it feels like they're choosing time with their friends over you, that can sting. "Everyone needs some time with their friends without their partner," Rachel Lamson, a premarital coach at For Keeps, tells Romper via email. "But the partner can often view it as an insult. Instead, try compromising on when [or] how often you each get separate time."
3. They Treat You How They'd Want To Be Treated, Not How You Want To
Seip says that this, too, can be commonly misinterpreted. Since they've likely been taught that it's best to treat others as they want to be treated, they might think that they're doing something good, but not everyone wants to be treated the same way in every situation. If that's not how you wanted the situation handled or how you wanted to be treated, you might be left feeling hut or disappointed.
4. You Want To Be Intimate, But They Tell You They Don't Want To
It's 100 percent OK for your partner to tell you that they don't want to be intimate and you definitely need to respect their feelings, but sometimes you might misinterpret what they're actually saying. "The partner who wishes to engage in intimacy often interprets the other partners’ response as rejection, whereas the partner who does not wish to engage in intimacy at that time simply feels tired from a hard day at the office and needs time and space to unwind, or has other things on their mind that is distracting them from feeling romantic at that moment," Dr. Carol Atkinson, PhD, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist, tells Romper by email. "If the couple fails to clarify exactly what is occurring, the situation can likely lead to conflict."
5. They Went To Bed Without Winding Down Together
You might not always go to bed together every night or even spend much time together every single night before going to bed, but sometimes one or the other of you might misinterpret that behavior and think that the other is sending a message when they're not, which can cause hurt feelings and conflict. Lamson suggests that if you're feeling disconnected from your partner, you should say something about it and ask for time together to reconnect, rather than just assuming that something is terribly wrong.
6. They Vented About Something
Venting can be awfully helpful on those horrible days when it feels like nothing will go right, but if you don't understand that that's what's going on, you might misinterpret a partner's venting and think that it indicates something more serious. Women's Health noted that when your partner vents about something, you might think that they're serious about what they say, so if they say that they're unhappy with how things are going, you might think that they're soon to end the relationship.
7. They Made A Joke That You Definitely Did Not Find Funny
Not all jokes are funny, and if you think that your partner is making a joke at your expense, pointing out something about which you're self-conscious, it could definitely result in hurt feelings — and understandably so. "It's great to have a sense of humor in a relationship, but partners sometimes joke about things that actually bother their partners," Lamson says. "Have an honest conversation about what is off limits. Especially in front of others."
Ultimately, talking to each other about these things and communicating openly are some of the best ways to prevent misinterpreted behaviors and hurt feelings. Though what they're doing is innocent enough, if you don't understand why they might be doing something or what they mean by it, it can be really easy for you to misinterpret.