Part I: Do you have the Right Relationship Mindset?

Posted by on Jun 15, 2016 in Couples Counseling | Comments Off on Part I: Do you have the Right Relationship Mindset?

6 Ways Automatic Thinking Gets in the Way of Your Relationship

Distressed people tend to have automatic thoughts.

These thoughts are primarily spontaneous and seem to make sense to us at the time. They feel so true that we often don’t even stop to evaluate them. We just accept them and respond. Sometimes these automatic thoughts are accurate. Many times, they are not.

Automatic thinking also tends to be negative. It is rarely helpful; in fact, it usually makes a difficult situation worse. Since relationships are a big source of stress for most people, it is not surprising that we engage in a lot of automatic thinking when we are struggling relationally or have problems with our partners. In short, thinking this way can really mess things up!

Also, not a surprise, when automatic thinking takes hold, it tends to affect the way we act.

We may verbally attack our partner, withdraw from them, or just give up on communicating at all.

It’s very important for us to recognize when we’re thinking this way. Then, we can redirect and adjust our thoughts appropriately and avoid escalating relationship problems.

Essentially, becoming more aware of your thoughts allows for more positive, accurate responses and decision-making that will keep automatic thinking from driving our actions or making tense situations worse than they have to be.

Consider your own tendency toward automatic thinking. Familiarize yourself with these six common automatic thought patterns:

1. Labeling:

Attributing a negative, unchangeable personality trait to your partner.

“She’s so….,” or “He doesn’t care.”

Antidote: Pay attention to those things that contradict the label. Look for variability and exceptions.

2. Fortune Telling:

Predicting a future that will never get better. This leads to feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness in your relationship.

“He’s never going to change.”

Antidote: Focus on specific things you can say or do to influence the situation. Also, try to identify experiences that are positive for a more balanced picture of your relationship.

3. Mindreading:

Interpreting your partner’s internal motivations as hostile or selfish, without much evidence. Do you give your partner’s actions the worst possible spin? Mindreading is basically a refusal to give your partner the benefit of the doubt.

“ I know he ‘forgot’ to pick me up because he wanted to watch the game.”

Antidote: Check it out. Don’t make assumptions. Find out what your partner’s intentions really are.

4. Catastrophic Thinking:

Assuming the relationship is coming to an end when something negative takes place.

“We had a fight…our marriage is over ” or, “My partner said something ugly…obviously she doesn’t love me.”

Antidote: Remind yourself that all couples deal with problems. Relationships experience obstacles that can be managed. Consider obstacles to be opportunities. Look for new approaches to relationship challenges.

5. Emotional Reasoning:

Making conclusions about your relationship based on feelings of depression or anxiety.

I’m unhappy, my marriage must be in trouble,” or, “My feelings have changed…I must be falling out of love.”

Antidote: Remind yourself that emotions are changeable. They wax and wane and don’t always inform us correctly. Be aware that making decisions or assumptions based on your feelings may not be wise.

6. Filtering:

Focusing on negative experiences, but failing to recall the positive ones.

He doesn’t do this… She won’t do that.”

Antidote: Keep a list of your partner’s positive behavior to help put things in perspective and provide some balance.

Automatic thinking interrupts your hopes for your best relationship, almost before you realize it. To become more aware and more intentional are keys to turning things around. Recognizing your automatic thoughts allows you to make more conscious decisions to counteract your reactions.

For more examples of automatic thinking and their antidotes, see my additional blog post, Part II: Do You have the Right Relationship Mindset? 6 More Ways Automatic Thinking Gets in the Way of Your Relationship.

The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to redirect unhelpful thinking and take positive steps toward a better relationship.

Online Therapy Available NowRead More