Have you ever assumed that a loved one will know what you want, only to have them demonstrate that they really don't? Have you ever assumed you know what a loved one wants, only to find you have missed the mark completely?
How often do we think that someone "should" know? How often do we assume carelessness or even malice, over something completely outside their awareness? How often have we thought "If only I'd known..."
I have a friend who has been happily married for many years. One day this friend shared some frustration. Each time their partner washed their hands in bathroom, they would shake their wet hands before using the hand towel. This would leave droplets on the mirror behind the sink. It was frustrating! Had they ever mentioned this to their partner? "Of course not! It's not a big deal." But still, every time the partner came out of the bathroom, my friend would go and clean the mirror, never saying a word.
It is easy to assume everyone knows or sees the same things when we have shared experiences. Just because we were all there, doesn't mean we all noticed, or that we saw things the same way. We also learn to make sense of experiences in a different way over time, as we access and alter our memories.
The more I have worked with families over the years, the more I value both the differences and the similarities in my own family. I have learned to respect their different perspectives and realise that we all think, feel and act differently and that's OK.
Over the years I have also realised just how different my siblings' experiences were, even growing up in the same family. We were always fairly independent, but there were still many shared experiences and times spent together. I hadn't realised just how much our perspectives varied, even about those shared experiences. These differences have informed our relationships with each other and with our parents, then and now.
A few years back my family gathered for a family dinner and we discussed the issue of organ donations. It was during one of the public campaigns and that had prompted someone to talk about it. We were quite surprised to find that not everyone in the family felt the same way.
The way to get a shared understanding is to:
So, I recommend having those important conversations about things we think our families should "just know" and be ready to be surprised.