Is Mind Reading Destructive?

There is a myth that says “If you love me, then you’ll know what I need.” This is called mind reading. Is mind reading destructive? Sometimes. When it is, it keeps you on the hook for a destructive, repetitive communication pattern. Here’s the skinny.

mind reading

There is a difference between your lover doing things for you that they know you enjoy, and you having the expectation, unspoken, that he/she will meet your unspoken needs. That is destructive to a relationship and is a typical communication pattern that allows the partner who is not speaking their needs to become judge, jury and executioner. It is an excellent way to build fear and anger in your partner, and borders on being emotionally abusive.

The mind reading communication patterns keeps one parter  on the hook trying to guess what the other wants. You get to guess what he/she needs, then you are placed (or you place yourself–more on that below) in the position of doing/saying the thing they need, and then they get to decide whether or not you guessed correctly. That would be the judge and jury.

Typically, you did not guess right, because, hey, humans are NOT mind readers. In comes the executioner. Your partner gets to decide to be angry, or worse, stonewall you—giving you the silent treatment—which makes you try to guess again. See the pattern? Here we go again in the not so merry circle of trying-failing-being punished. It makes you feel as if you never get things right.

But if you are the partner who is trying to appease your lover, and want to stop that sh*t, you must become more aware of the assumptions you make about your responsibility in this partnership. Here’s what you need to know and understand.

Mind Reading Antidotes

  • It’s not your job to fix others.
  • It’s okay if others get angry. (You have to learn to tolerate this strong emotion. It can be done!)
  • It’s okay to say no. Especially to unwanted sex.
  • It’s not your job to anticipate the needs of others, unless you’re a waiter or waitress.
  • It’s your job to make yourself happy, not your partner’s.
  • Nobody has to agree with you.
  • You have a right to your own feelings.
  • No one has the right to tell you how you should feel.
  • You are enough.

If you are caught in this pattern, the first step is to begin to recognize it when it is happening. Then step back and point it out to your partner, and ask if both of you can proceed in the discussion while being more aware of this. If either of you becomes angry or flooded in this effort, take a break.

And if you want help sorting this out, call or shoot me an email. I am in your neighborhood and ready to help. Or go to my contact page; there are several ways to reach me. Let’s figure out how to change those destructive mind reading patterns together!

Page Rutledge, LCSW, MSW, MPH is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker practicing in Wilmington, NC. She specializes in anxiety management and couples communication. Visit her website and blog at

P.S. For all my loyal readers, coming soon, I will be offering a new way to access therapy! Stay tuned.