Thinking Traps in Relationships


We all have beliefs about the way relationships should be and how our partners should behave. This is normal, but when we hold these views rigidly, it can lead to unrealistic standards, inaccurate assumptions, and repeated conflict. Here are some of the thinking traps that can get in the way of intimacy and connectedness in relationships.

Jumping to Conclusions. Making assumptions about your partner without any supporting evidence. For example: Your partner is uncharacteristically quiet the first time they meet your family, so you assume they don’t like them.

Magnifying and Minimizing. Magnifying certain aspects of your partner’s behavior and minimizing all others. For example: You focus on your partner’s failure to ask about your day but ignore the other caring things they do or say.

Overgeneralization. Using one incident or habit to describe your partner’s behavior in general. For example: Your partner forgets your anniversary and you subsequently perceive them as neglecting all aspects of your relationship.

Personalization. Taking your partner’s behavior personally. For example: You assume your partner doesn’t care about you if they don’t do the dishes when they say they will.

All-or-Nothing Thinking. Seeing things in black-and-white. Things are either all good or all bad. For example: You have an argument with your partner and immediately think, “It’s over.”

Labeling and Mislabeling. Reducing your partner or your partner’s behavior to a label that obscures all complexity or nuance. For example: Your partner forgets to pay a bill, and you conclude that they are “worthless” when it comes to financial matters.

Tunnel Vision. Focusing only on behavior that fits your assumptions and judgments about your partner. For example: You think your partner is selfish and therefore see only selfish behavior, not all the generous things they do.

Biased Explanations. Assuming your partner has negative motives. For example: You think your partner is being nice to you only because they want something from you.

Mind-Reading. Assuming you know what your partner is thinking without evidence for your assumption. For example: You assume your partner actually doesn’t want to go out to dinner despite having made plans with you in advance.

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