The Mating Grounds

Are You Sabotaging Your Relationships? How to Overcome Cognitive Distortions

How to Recognize and Overcome Cognitive Distortions in Your Relationships

Have you ever found yourself in an argument with your partner, only to later realize that some of the things you were thinking simply weren’t true? Or maybe you’ve noticed a pattern in your relationships where you jump to conclusions or see things in black and white, but don’t quite understand why you do it.

These types of thought patterns are called cognitive distortions, and they can have a serious impact on your relationships. What are Cognitive Distortions?

Cognitive distortions are irrational thinking patterns that can lead to negative thoughts and feelings. They are automatic and often happen without us even realizing it.

There are many different types of cognitive distortions, including selective abstraction, overgeneralization, catastrophizing, dichotomous thinking, self-reference distortion, personalization, making your partner responsible for your emotions, always needing to be right, expectations of perfection, magnifying, fortune telling, emotional reasoning, self-serving bias, fallacy of change, and the heaven’s reward fallacy.

Causes of Cognitive Distortions in Relationships

There are many potential causes of cognitive distortions in relationships. Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can contribute to negative thought patterns.

Chronic stress and childhood experiences, particularly those involving abuse or trauma, can also lead to distorted thinking. Additionally, learned behaviors and cultural influences can shape the way we see the world.

Impact of Cognitive Distortions on Relationships

When cognitive distortions take hold in a relationship, you may find yourself developing a negative view of your partner and the relationship itself. Negative thoughts can cause you to see your partner as the problem, even when that’s not the case.

Over time, these thoughts can lead to relationship breakdowns and make it difficult to resolve conflicts. Cognitive distortions can also cause distressed and anxious thinking patterns.

You may feel irritable, frustrated, or anxious all the time, even when there’s no obvious cause for those feelings. This can make it difficult to enjoy your relationship and feel connected to your partner.

Learned behavior patterns can shape cognitive distortions as well. For example, if you grew up in a household where your parents constantly fought, you may be more likely to see conflict as something negative and dangerous.

This can lead to avoiding conflict altogether, even when it would be healthy to address it.

How to Correct Cognitive Distortions

The good news is that cognitive distortions can be corrected with therapy. A therapist can help you identify your negative thought patterns and develop strategies to overcome them.

Therapy can also help you learn to think more logically and develop a more balanced view of your relationships. One strategy that can help correct cognitive distortions is to challenge your thoughts.

When you notice negative thoughts creeping in, ask yourself if they’re really true. Is it fair to assign all the blame to your partner when there’s also some responsibility on your end?

Is it logical to assume the worst possible outcome in every situation? By questioning your thoughts, you can start to see things in a more balanced way.

Another strategy is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment.

This can help you notice your thoughts and feelings as they arise, and develop more awareness of your thought patterns. In conclusion, recognizing and overcoming cognitive distortions in your relationships is crucial for developing healthy connections with others.

By identifying negative thought patterns and practicing strategies to break free from them, you can develop a more positive view of yourself and your relationships, leading to stronger connections with others. Don’t hesitate to seek out therapy if you think cognitive distortions may be impacting your relationships.

Your mental health is worth investing in.

Specific Cognitive Distortions in Relationships and How to Identify Them

Cognitive distortions can sneak up on us, especially in relationships when our emotions are running high. While there are many different types of cognitive distortions, certain ones are particularly common in relationships.

Here, we’ll explore some of these specific distortions and provide tips for identifying them in your own thought patterns.

Selective Abstraction

When you engage in selective abstraction, you tend to focus on the negative qualities of your partner and your relationship while ignoring the positives. For example, you may have a great date with your partner, but instead, you’re fixating on the one minor disagreement you had.

How to Identify It: Notice when you’re focusing more on negative aspects rather than positive ones. Chances are, you’re engaging in selective abstraction.


Overgeneralization occurs when you take one negative experience and make it into a broader statement about your partner or your relationship. For example, if your partner forgets to do something you asked them to do, you might think to yourself, “they never listen to me”.

How to Identify It: Pay attention to when you’re making sweeping generalizations based on one negative experience. It’s important to separate one particular incident from a broader pattern.


Catastrophizing is the tendency to jump to the worst possible conclusion, even when the evidence doesn’t support it. For example, if your partner is running late, you might imagine they were in a serious car accident.

How to Identify It: Notice when your thoughts spiral into a worst-case scenario. Take a step back and evaluate whether this is a logical conclusion.

Dichotomous Thinking

Dichotomous thinking is the tendency to see things in extremes. For example, you might think your partner is either perfect or horrible, with no in-between.

How to Identify It: Take note of whether you see things as black or white. If you notice yourself using extreme language, it’s likely you’re engaging in dichotomous thinking.

Self-Reference Distortion

Self-reference distortion is the belief that everything others do or say is about you. For example, if your partner seems distant, you might assume it’s because of something you did.

How to Identify It: Pay attention to whether you tend to take things personally. Remind yourself that not everything is about you.


Personalization is the tendency to blame yourself for things that aren’t necessarily your fault. For example, if your partner is in a bad mood, you might assume it’s because of something you did.

How to Identify It: Notice when you’re placing undue blame on yourself. It’s important to recognize that not everything is your responsibility.

Making Partner Responsible for Emotions

When you make your partner responsible for your emotions, you have unrealistic expectations for them to always make you happy. For example, you might expect your partner to always cheer you up when you’re feeling down.

How to Identify It: Notice whether you’re placing the burden of your emotions on your partner. Recognize that both partners are responsible for their own emotional well-being.

Always Being Right

Always needing to be right ignores the fact that other people’s opinions and perspectives are valid. This can lead to defensive conversations and conflicts that are difficult to resolve.

How to Identify It: Notice if you’re constantly arguing to be right rather than having productive conversations. Be open to other peoples’ perspectives.

Expectations of Perfection

Expecting perfection from your partner can set them up for failure and create an unhealthy dynamic. No one is perfect, and it’s important to have realistic expectations for your partner and your relationship.

How to Identify It: Take note of whether you’re setting unrealistic expectations for your partner. Recognize that imperfections and flaws are natural and human.


Magnifying is the art of taking small problems and making them seem like big ones. This distortion can cause unneeded stress and tension in the relationship.

How to Identify It: Pay attention to the more preferred details of your relationship. Consider whether you might be exaggerating small issues and blowing them out of proportion to fit this type of distortion.

Fortune Telling

Fortune telling is anticipating the absolute worse outcomes from a particular situation or conversation, often without rational evidence. This sort of thinking pattern might lead to mistrust in a person’s partner and a shift from reality to negative suspicions.

How to Identify It: Notice if you’re predicting negative outcomes before they occur. Try and base your thinking on rationality rather than fear.

Emotional Reasoning

Emotional reasoning is the process of connecting emotions with a particular situation instead of relying on facts. For example, your partner may have left the room to take a phone call, but you might immediately think they are mad at you.

How to Identify It: Recognize if you’re looking to your emotion as a confirmation for a particular situation and remove yourself from that pattern.

Self-Serving Bias

A self-serving bias is a thought pattern where individuals attribute their positive outcomes to their own achievements but attribute negative outcomes to external factors.

How to Identify It: Recognize if you’re taking responsibility for your wins and externalizing the shortcomings.

Fallacy of Change

The fallacy of change happens when someone insists on someone else’s behavior at the cost of personal change. The problem, in this case, is that if someone is unable or unwilling to change, trying to force them is an exercise in futility.

How to Identify It: Review if there’s a particular behavior you’re attempting to force on someone else without leaving room for personal growth. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy

The heaven’s reward fallacy is the result of sacrificing personal needs or desires only to pretend that they don’t matter to you.

It’s when someone keeps tally of sacrifices and expects an unattainable reward in return. How to Identify It: Keep the people around you aware of your needs, desires, and expectations to avoid such irrational expectations.

In conclusion, identifying cognitive distortions in your relationships is important for developing positive and healthy connections. By understanding these distortions and working to address them, you have a better chance of building meaningful relationships without sabotaging them with negative thought patterns.

With effort and mindfulness, it is possible to break free from these cognitive distortions and lead a more satisfying and fulfilling life. In conclusion, cognitive distortions can have a significant impact on our relationships and overall wellbeing.

By recognizing these distorted thought patterns and understanding the causes behind them, we can work towards correcting these behaviors and creating healthier connections with others. Whether through therapy, mindfulness, or simply paying more attention to our own thoughts, it is possible to break free from these negative cycles and develop more positive and realistic viewpoints of our relationships and ourselves.

Remember, investing in our mental health is always worth it and it can lead to greater happiness and fulfillment in all areas of life.

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