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Cognitive Distortions & Partners

While cognitive distortions seem on the surface to be protective, in the long run, they can get in the way of learning to trust your judgment. Rebuilding trust means taking risks and, initially, taking the risk that maybe your thinking is wrong.  Have a look at the common partner cognitive distortions below and then the possible alternatives offered which could be more helpful.

1. Jumping to conclusions
– for example: ‘My partner’s late and hasn’t rung, so they’re probably acting out again.’

Alternative: There are lots of reasons why he may be late and hasn’t been able to ring, so, instead of worrying, I will tell myself that he is stuck en route and his phone is out of signal. When he gets home, I can find out what’s happened. 

2. Justification
– when you drink too much alcohol or become angrily abusive but tell yourself: ‘It’s OK for me to be like this after all I’ve been through.’

Yes, it’s understandable that you might engage in damaging behaviors, but it’s not helpful. Self-care and living by your value system, even if your partner failed to, is what’s most important right now. 

3. Minimisation
– this is a thinking strategy for not taking responsibility for your behaviors or justifying doing something you know is unhelpful. For example: ‘I know looking through old photos is painful for me, but I’ll only do it for 10 minutes.’

Alternative: Looking for 10 minutes is indeed better than looking for hours, which I’ve done in the past, but it would be even better for me if I didn’t do it at all and I take a positive choice towards helping myself to heal.

4. Catastrophising
– this is the opposite of minimization, for example: “He’s been looking at his phone, which means he must be on the adult apps again and must have acted out.”

Alternative: There are a lot of reasons why he may be looking at his phone. Rather than panicking about a possible worst-case scenario, I will tell him I’ve been triggered and ask him to agree that I look at his phone for reassurance.


5. Victim Stance
– this is when you give up on yourself and put yourself into the role of a victim who has no choices. For example: “I will never be able to survive this,” or “She will never be faithful to me and I will never be able to leave.”

Alternative: It’s understandable to feel like you’ve been persecuted by your partner. But instead of allowing yourself to feel like a victim, make the choice to be a survivor of trauma. Survivors of trauma would reassure themselves that they will survive, however painful, and that there can always be hope in the future.

6. Blame
– this is similar to justification, but rather than justifying via circumstance or environment, the responsibility is given to another, thereby disempowering the self. For example, saying: “It’s my partner’s fault that I feel like this or behave like this.”

Alternative: While your partner is fully responsible for the actions and behaviors that have damaged you, you are ultimately responsible for how you respond to them. Keep reminding yourself of that and take the power back by making a choice about how you are going to feel.