Why your partner doesn’t just need to know what you want
As the above examples demonstrate, many people assume that a good partner will be able to instinctively know what you want, how you feel about certain things, and what will make you feel loved. According to this thinking, you shouldn’t tell your partner how to take care of you, because if they’re the right partner for you and they really love you, they’ll “just know.” If you have to directly tell someone to do something meaningful to you, then it’s not worth it, because they clearly don’t care enough to do it themselves, without being asked.
But Sosa says there are flaws in that line of thinking. “The common, socially constructed narrative of relationships is that being able to anticipate our partner’s needs is a sign of love,” she explains. While that sounds good, she notes that it’s like “expecting others to read your mind.”
That’s because, first, what each of us wants from our relationships and our partners will be vastly different. One person may appreciate big, romantic gestures from a partner, such as big surprises and public displays of affection, while others may not care for such things at all. One person may find sharing a hobby with their partner very important and meaningful to them, while others don’t really see it as a requirement for a satisfying relationship.
Our needs and preferences can also change depending on the context or over time, adds Sosa. “As humans, we are in a state of constant fluctuation. One day we need emotional comfort, the next we need concrete steps and decisions.”
No matter how much your partner might love you, expecting them to correctly guess your every want and need, and how you’ll feel in any given situation, isn’t reasonable or realistic.
“Expecting our significant other to decipher our inner workings (the ones that even we have a hard time understanding!) can set us up for frustration and ultimately resentment,” says Sosa.