I finished a Wilbur Smith novel a few weeks ago. The ending unsettled me.
In the second last chapter, the main character’s wife finds “evidence” that her husband has just been with another woman. All the signs were there. Her assumption could easily have been correct. But it wasn’t. Things weren’t as they seemed. It ends with her taking her own life.
Because of an assumption, a husband lost the wife he adored.
Because of an assumption, a young child lost his most significant attachment.
This really disturbed me. I felt like throwing the book out the window. If you’ve ever watched the movie “Silver Linings Playbook”, you might remember the scene where Pat (the main character) reaches the ending of a book, yells “what the fuck?”, and tosses it through the window. This scene resembled my reaction upon reaching that part of the book I was reading. The only difference was that I didn’t actually throw the book. I treat books like gold.
I had been wanting to write this post since that evening, but hadn’t gotten around to it. But then today, something came up that reminded me about it. I’m not going to go into what it was, as I want to keep some of my relationship details just between me and Elizabeth, where it belongs. I’m not one of those people who will call up their family or friends to complain about their relationship. It’s okay to discuss these things in therapy, but that’s about it. That’s a personal choice.
I accidentally stumbled on something that looked very suspicious (regarding Elizabeth), and my automatic reaction was one of shock, horror, and I felt the blood drain from my face. I went ice-cold. The assumptions came fast. When I became aware of these thoughts and the accompanying emotions, I decided to take a step back. It wasn’t easy, as the adrenaline was coursing through my body. It was difficult to focus. Once I had calmed myself down enough, through the square breathing technique I read in my CBT for Anxiety Workbook (it works!), I started challenging those thoughts. The strangest thing is that deep down inside I already doubted those assumptions, knowing that Elizabeth wouldn’t do something like that, but the feelings and thoughts were so intense that it kind of muted that doubt every few minutes. I knew the thoughts wouldn’t stop (I struggle with obsessive thoughts), or that I would continue to go around in circles with my thinking, so I did what I believe everyone should do when situations like this arise. I asked Elizabeth about it. I told her what I had seen, and asked what was going on.
Something like this had happened before. Not to such an extreme, and nothing this intense, but still significant none the less. I had held onto the assumption I had made, and indirectly accused her, which she quickly picked up on of course. That day, after talking through that, Elizabeth and I had made an agreement. We would ask one another when things like this happen, and not let assumptions rule until we have a chance to talk things through. I remembered that, so this is what I did.
After we had spoken about this thing today, she thanked me for asking her and not accusing her of something that wasn’t true, or automatically running with, and believing the assumption without having spoken to her about it and listening to her side of it. I feel like our relationship has strengthened as well. I’m more secure in it than I’ve ever been.
Anyway, it was not what it had initially looked like, and those assumptions actually didn’t even make sense. They didn’t add up, but the facts did. What she told me, the truth, made complete sense. She even sent me proof, even though she didn’t have to do that, because I trusted her word. There was no fighting, no argument, just a mutual exchange of information and facts. I chose to trust her. I still choose it. She told me that something like this might come up for her in the future too, and then she’ll also ask me before making major assumptions and letting those assumptions dictate her behaviour. I like this agreement. It works. I do trust her… More than I have anyone else in any of my previous relationships. She’s geniune, and has been completely open and honest with me from the start, so I have no reason to doubt her.
In the past I would have believed the assumption though, pushed her away, and vowed to never trust her again. I’ve dealt with lots of negative consequences due to believing the assumptions my mind threw at me. We can’t stop that initial sting, that initial doubt, anger, or any other unproductive emotions that pop up. But we can choose what to do with it once we’re aware of them. Do we challenge them, or do we let them consume our minds, causing further distress? The choice is ours.
Assumptions can be dangerous, as I saw in that novel. I know it was only a novel, but these things happen in the real world as well. That’s the scary part.
The saying “assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups” is a true one. The “ass” in “assumption” rings true as well.