To what extent is it true that healthy relationships should be based only on pure feeling?
Several studies support the idea that malfunctioning in a couple is related to the cognitive processes that originate our internal dialogue. Cognitive processes are those that mediate between the events that occur in a couple’s relationship and the consequences (emotional, cognitive and behavioral) of those situations.
From this it can be inferred that the things our partner does don’t displease us because of them, but because of our way of thinking about them. It is possible that throughout a relationship one has said to oneself:
“He thinks only of himself!” It shouldn’t be like that.
In fact, this is an example of a way of thinking produced by inappropriate cognitive schemes on the couple that will negatively affect the quality of the relationship.
Cognitive processes and quality of love relationship
Some examples of inappropriate ways of thinking are produced by the following processes:
- Selective attention : this is a process that refers to which aspects are given more attention within the relationship. In conflicting couples, there is a tendency to focus attention on negative behaviours of the other.
- Attributions : is characterized by the way in which the partner is made responsible for the events.
- Expectations : refers to beliefs about the behaviors expected in a relationship. When the difference between expectation and reality is high, there is more dissatisfaction in the couple.
- Assumptions : are the beliefs about the nature of intimate relationships and the behaviour of the partner that affect the relationship by attributing a series of traits to it that determine the way in which it interacts.
- Standards : are processes learned throughout life about the characteristics that couples “should” have. This implies dissatisfaction and disappointment with the discrepancies between the ideal and the ideal partner.
The two cognitive modes of thinking about the couple that we have seen before are divided, in turn, into two levels of analysis: automatic thoughts and cognitive schemes.
Automatic irrational ideas
The existence of automatic thoughts is inevitable, but some may arise to harm partner interactions. The latter are the ones that are tried to be modified first in therapy, being that certain typical ideas born of irrational judgments suppose a risk for the happiness in couple.
Some examples of automatic thinking are:
- He must be the ideal partner.
- Disappointing the other one would be horrible and would lose personal validity.
- My interests and needs should revolve around my partner, and/or his around me.
- If I dislike something, it’s better to keep quiet than to break our harmony.
- We must agree above all on those issues that are important or significant to me.
- Disagreements are destructive: you cannot live happily with different views on some issues.
- The other one will provide me with the happiness or satisfaction I need.
- We have to share everything.
- With the other one I will be so happy that I will be able to abandon other interests or other relationships.
- I have to be totally dedicated to making the other person happy.
- We should never argue.
- Since my partner loves me, he has to know my thoughts and desires without my having to communicate them to him.
- My partner can’t change, that’s the way it is.
- Men and women are different in the needs they expect their partner to meet.
- If you don’t pay attention to me, it’s because you’re not interested in me anymore.
- If I don’t feel jealous in my relationship, I don’t really love that person.
- Love can do everything, if we really love each other nothing can go wrong.
- If you’re in love, you can’t like or be attracted to other people.
On a second level are the beliefs or philosophical pillars that are called cognitive schemes from which the previous thoughts are derived . Some examples:
- Strong need for love : this idea emphasizes the need to feel loved in order to value oneself.
- Demands and requirements : refers to the absolutist idea of unconditional support and the idea that there can be no mistakes or incompatibilities in a couple who love each other.
- Philosophy of punishment and/or guilt : leads to thinking that the other person must feel guilty if he or she does something wrong and therefore punish him or her for it.
- Catastrophes : this is the belief that it is terrible that things do not turn out the way you want them to.
- Low frustration tolerance : refers to the idea of not being able to bear problems, and therefore fear of being hurt. In the light of this scheme, one demands a relationship without problems but immediate results.
- Emotions are uncontrollable : refers to the idea that happiness or unhappiness is achieved through the other partner.
On the other hand, the way a couple lives their relationship will be determined both by the peculiarities of each spouse (affective style, learning history, experiences in previous romantic relationships, etc.) as well as by the socio-cultural context (gender roles, cultural expectations, etc.).
All these characteristics will influence the interaction and quality that is created in the couple . In short, modifying these cognitive aspects from a rationality used to reach well-being in the couple is not only possible, but very useful.
You may be interested in: “The 7 keys to a healthy relationship”