Conflict and arguments are an inevitable part of any relationship. They might not be very severe, like a little spat or disagreement that's forgotten about the moment its done, but what if those tiny fights plant seeds of doubt in your mind? What could those seeds grow into?
Many people struggle with distressing or self-sabotaging thought patterns that come to roost within a relationship, causing divides and tension that could lead to a breakup if not kept in check. They're far more common than you might think, and who knows, you might be engaging with one of more of them without even realizing!
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All In Your Head
Relationships are a delicate, demanding thing. For some couples, the bond is extremely strong, with very little that could break their ties or cause enough strife to separate them. Things might be a little flimsier for others, the two teetering on the edge of a breakup.
One aspect that can cause a relationship to shift towards the latter is your own thoughts. That's right, your own thought patterns can be extremely harmful, doing nothing but damaging the connection you have with your partner. Below are seven different thought patterns that can hurt your relationship, leading to conflict, arguments, and potential splits.
Overgeneralization is when we assume one instance of something can apply to every situation out there. It tends to involve very definitive and restrictive language such as 'never' or 'always', and doesn't allow for nuance. For example, we would be overgeneralizing if we said our partner 'never' pulls their weight or is 'always' ungrateful.
To change this, you have to learn to adopt grey ways of thinking. Before placing complete, 100%, unwavering blame on your partner, think slowly and critically about whether or not the statement you're about to make is actually truthful and not one feeling being blown into bigger proportions.
To catastrophize is to take any situation and make it feel, appear, or seem much worse than it is, sometimes even warping it into the worst possible scenario. This often happens after conflicts, thinking our partner will never forgive us over a tiny spat or argument. Catastrophizing is also often only done towards ourselves. You would forgive your partner if they did the same, but you think it's inexcusable since you did it.
To avoid catastrophizing, address how you feel immediately as it arises or right after the conflict, similar to a 'never go to bed angry' rule. Have your partner reassure you that whatever happened isn't a big deal so you can both move forward in peace.
To 'should' is to think things 'should' be how we picture them. Our partner 'should' start doing the dishes more, they 'should' be more romantic, they 'should' let you know when they're working late.
No matter how true any of these statements may be, simply thinking them isn't helping anybody. There is no law in the universe that agrees with you, dictating what your partner should and shouldn't do. That miraculous day where they subconsciously pick up on all the 'shoulds' you've been thinking and start doing them will never happen. You have to tell them, that's the only way anything will get done.
Personalization is when we believe everything to be our own fault, even things that realistically have no connection to us. Every little thing is done to spite us, as a sign of disapproval towards us, or as a passive-aggressive means of communicating with us. If our partner left for work one day without locking the door, personalization might lead us to think they did it on purpose as a sign that they wish danger upon us, when they probably just forgot.
This might be a bit mean, but this really is a selfish way of thinking. Assuming your partner to be that backhanded (especially if they have no history of it) is rather mean. You're not giving much credit to the person you love and their ability to communicate their feelings with you if you think this way.
Remember that, if you do think positively of your partner, they wouldn't treat you like this, and they'd want to address any issues. If you don't think positively of your partner, why are you still together?
Emotional reasoning is when we give our feelings a lot more credibility than we should. It's easy to give into emotional reasoning, as our feelings are very real...they're just not always reliable. The heart makes for a terrible brain, so it should not be able to run your thoughts or play too big of a part in your decision-making, especially within a relationship.
You have to see your emotions for what they are, which is your own body's reaction to something external. Your feelings are not indicative of the truth of a situation, just how you feel about a current answer, so you should not put too much stock in them as proof of anything.
False Sense Of Responsibility
Having a false sense of responsibility is when we believe we have more power or influence than we really do. This often manifests in thinking we have to shoulder the weight of all our partner's feelings, that we're solely responsible for their happiness, that if they're upset it must be our job to work and work until they feel better etcetera.
Of course, this isn't the case. This feeling usually comes from a place of love, but it's still damaging to both parties. Not only are you stretching yourself extremely thin by babying your partner, but they may begin to feel smothered, or lose their ability to regulate their emotions otherwise. Their emotions are not your chore, and while it's normal to want to help our significant other feel better when they're sad, we're not responsible for what it is they're feeling.
This one is rather self-explanatory, yet it still remains an issue. Mind reading is assuming we know what our partner is thinking, then letting those thoughts grab hold and pull us down.
You know what they say about assuming, right? No matter how much 'proof' you think you have about any given thing, you cannot say with certainty that you know what your partner thinks about something. This is often a manifestation of doubts more than anything else. You may think your partner is disappointed by a new hairstyle because they didn't seem excited to see it, but for all you really know, they actually love it! The only way you can find out for sure is to ask.
What To Do To Stop These Thought Patterns
Shifting away from these thought patterns is, of course, much easier said than done. It takes practice, discipline, and desire to shift away from these harmful ways of thinking that do nothing but hurt us and our relationship.
To help, Psychology Today suggests using the TEA exercise to work through harmful thoughts.
Thoughts: Write down thoughts you're having about your partner.
Evidence: Take a few moments to fully calm yourself and deescalate and heightened emotions. After that, take a look at what you wrote and examine it for evidence. Are you 100% certain that it's true? Are you telling the whole story? Could there be anything else at play here?
Alternative: Come up with at least one alternative way of thinking about the situation that could be more accurate than what you wrote.
Putting In The Work
We all want to do well by our partners, that's no surprise, but for those with issues relating to anxiety, worried and distorted thoughts can make their way into an otherwise happy relationship. This isn't your fault, nor is it your partner's, but just because it's not anyone's fault, that doesn't mean that work shouldn't be done to combat them.
Fostering a healthy relationship does require some personal, internal work, work that allows you to be the best version of yourself you can be for your partner's sake. You two will become stronger for it, and you'll come out the other side a wiser, better person.