The Lost Art of Mind-Reading

If you do an internet search with the phrase “the art of,” you’ll come up with countless results. The top ones include: the art of war, the art of getting by, and the art of seduction. But what is the one result that doesn’t come up? Mind-reading.

Despite what some books and movies may portray, mind-reading is a lost art form. The closest “superpower” that we possess to help us know what another person is thinking is empathy. Why then do we assume our spouses are experts at telepathy?

I admit I am guilty of this. Early on in my marriage I became frustrated whenever my husband wouldn’t do something I thought he should know to do. Didn’t he know I wished he took out the trash when it piled up and began spilling out of the garbage can? Didn’t he understand how much I disliked the sight of his socks on the floor? Actually, the truth was, he didn’t. And I couldn’t assume he did if I kept those thoughts to myself.

But what if you have been married for five, ten or even fifteen years? Shouldn’t you know one another well enough to not have to spell everything out? Yes, you do grow more familiar with your spouse’s needs and wants over time, but that doesn’t mean you are perfectly in tune with each other all the time.

Honestly, the longer I am married, the more clear it is to me why mind-reading simply does not work. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. It limits communication. The only communication you have when you expect your spouse to read your mind is with yourself. You begin to keep track of the times he/she failed to meet your expectations and start coming up with reasons why. He doesn’t care about me. All she thinks about is herself. He doesn’t know me at all. As your internal monologue increases, your desire to communicate with your spouse decreases.
  2. It lessens grace. You take on the role of judge in your relationship. Instead of viewing your spouse as someone deserving forgiveness, grace and second chances, you see him/her as someone deserving punishment. It becomes easier to accuse than to love. In fact, your love for your spouse becomes contingent on how well he/she performs.
  3. It leads to failure. You set your spouse up to fail. Just as one cannot pass a test without knowing the exam questions, your spouse cannot meet your needs without knowing what they are. There is no way for your spouse (or you) to win in your marriage when you hold him/her to an impossible standard.

Instead of expecting your spouse to read your mind, start speaking up. Reflect on your needs and wants and share them. Set realistic expectations and practice patience, knowing that your spouse is only human. Above all, remember the only One who can read our minds. Seek the Lord for guidance and comfort as you work on communicating with your spouse and trust that He knows the needs of your heart.


Liwen Y. Ho resides in California with her techie husband of more than a dozen years and their inquisitive son and fun-loving daughter. She has a Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Western Seminary and loves makeovers of all kinds, especially those of the heart and mind. She enjoys family beach days, white chocolate macadamia nut ice cream and the beauty of the written word. Learn about her life as a recovering perfectionist at her website or connect on Facebook.

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