In relationships, it is crucial to remember that actions and intentions are two different things. Of course, we all hope our intentions are conveyed by our actions, but in reality, this doesn’t always happen. Partners often miscommunicate – and misinterpret one another. There are times when our actions don’t get the response from a partner that we intend. Such misunderstanding is a standard cause of upset in relating. In addition, we commonly forget what our intention was, as we react to our partner’s mistaken response, instead.

The card INTENTIONS reminds you that behind all of your partner’s actions or words there are intentions. Yet in relating, all we ever experience is each other’s actions. We can only guess at each other’s intentions. Depending on the nature of our guess, we react positively or negatively to our partner. But there is much room for error in our guesses.

Say you are standing in line outside a theater. A man walks by, knocks into you, and stomps on your foot. He just keeps on walking. No apology! How do you react inside? Suddenly you notice that he is tapping the sidewalk with a white cane. Now how do you react? Then someone tells you this person just pretends to be blind so he can knock into people! Now how do you react? With each interpretation of his motives, your reaction changes.

Unfortunately, people in relationship tend to blindly think that they always know what their partner’s intentions are. Making such assumptions often causes trouble. Do you recall ever misinterpreting your partner’s words or deeds? We all know that others sometimes misinterpret us. Sometimes we even notice when we do it to others. Many problems arise out of misunderstood – or poorly expressed – intentions. When you react negatively to your partner, how often do you pause and wonder if they might really have a positive intention, but are not expressing it in a way that you can understand?

Instead of pausing to question what might really be going on, we usually react instantaneously – leading to one reaction after another and creating great upset. The way out of this trap of action and reaction is to discuss our underlying intentions. Revealing ourselves in this way can help diffuse issues that are based on blind misunderstandings – and open us to discuss what we really mean, need, or want in a situation.

The card INTENTIONS invites you to pause whenever you are about to react. Rather than immediately assuming that your partner has negative intentions, open your mind to the possibility that you are mistaken and that their intentions may be positive – even if it seems the opposite. Ask your partner what’s going on or what they really want or need.

This card also encourages you to stay aware of your own intentions and to notice whether you get responses consistent with what you intend. It’s all too easy to blame a partner for not understanding you, or not responding in the way you want. But blame really doesn’t help. It’s far more empowering to recognize miscommunication and change how you express yourself. If you keep doing what you always do, you will keep getting the responses you’ve always gotten. So, if you want a different response, do something different!