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What Is Cognitive Dissonance in Relationships?

It is fashionable nowadays to use scientific terms, and the expression “cognitive dissonance” can be heard literally from everywhere. But not everyone, including those who use it, understands what this means. We explain briefly and in simple words what it is and whether cognitive dissonance and relationships are compatible.

what is an example of cognitive dissonance

What Is Cognitive Dissonance: a Psychology Reference

So, what is cognitive dissonance in relationships and how does it manifest itself in our lives?

Cognitive dissonance (from the Latin words “cogniti” and “dissonantia”) is a state of mental discomfort of people caused by a collision, conflict of ideas, beliefs, values, or emotional reactions in their mind. The theory of cognitive dissonance was proposed by the American psychologist Leon Festinger in 1957.

Any situation that doesn’t meet our expectations for love and relationships can activate cognitive dissonance. There are often cognitive dissonances about the partner, destiny, jealousy as a sign of love, eternal love and passion, and so on. Unrealistic expectations regarding your partner are based on the following cognitive dissonances, which become cognitive distortions, “My partner must be able to predict my thoughts and desires,” “If he/she really loved me, he/she would do everything to please me,” “My partner should never hurt my feelings or be angry with me,” “Quarrels in couples are a bad sign,” “My partner will always be open and honest with me,” “Love means always being together,” “I need to try single women dating,” etc. In this case, in a relationship with a partner, it is better to forget about all beliefs that begin with the words “always” or “should,” “I would like to.”

It is worthwhile to understand that finding ways to avoid making a decision, solving a situation with less loss for everyone, or trying to reduce the influence by any means available doesn’t completely eliminate it. Getting rid of cognitive dissonance is characterized by powerful personal growth. Therefore, it is important to find the true causes of internal conflicts, thereby, get rid of cognitive dissonance in relationships and look for interesting hobbies for couples.

What Causes Cognitive Dissonance in Each of Us

Like any conflict, this one also has its own reasons. These causes usually affect our attitude toward ourselves. When we even unconsciously disapprove some of our actions and thoughts, we gradually become more and more dissatisfied with ourselves.

1. The discrepancy between the opinions of one person and generally accepted views

What causes cognitive dissonance? It can be about generally accepted notions, the so-called “truths,” people usually accept “automatically” without checking them and not thinking about their essence. The picture of the world constructed by public opinion seems harmonious and consistent until it intervenes (usually suddenly) by a person who has the same problem. His or her “personal opinion” may well correspond to the truth and we believe in it, even if it is wrong.

2. Unjustified expectations

Numerous requirements are put forward to the modern person. Sometimes a false impression about something is created. In fact, this is an image imposed by society, which everyone is trying to unconditionally follow. People can’t constantly exist at the limit of their abilities. Gradually, they accustom themselves to the fact that they don’t live correctly unlike other people. Unjustified expectations are the main reason why cognitive dissonance begins to develop. We feel that we don’t comply with any norms, can’t influence the situation that oppresses us.what is cognitive dissonance in relationships

3. Self-frustration

It is a common reason for the development of cognitive dissonance which forces us to give up. It seems to us that we are not capable of anything, and can make various mistakes. Problems unsettle us for a long time and deprive us of self-confidence. If we fail, then often thoughts of our own insolvency come to mind. Self-frustration contributes to the aggravation of cognitive dissonance.

People often drive themselves into terrible experiences precisely because they want to achieve great results, but they actually deprive themselves of moral strength.

4. Low self-esteem

It is a serious problem, which provokes cognitive dissonance. If we can’t realize our potential for some reason, then this circumstance puts extreme pressure on us and makes us doubt ourselves. Low self-esteem doesn’t allow achieving success. Even if people are talented enough, they don’t find a resource for achievements in themselves. They have to constantly be in the internal struggle, proving to themselves right to self-expression, and this circumstance is very morally exhausting. The inability to appreciate yourself is a common reason for the formation of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance and Relationships: How Does First Affect the Second?

Black and white, good and evil, “yes” and “no,” love and hate, freedom and affection. Our whole life is a series of choices, sometimes contradicting each other. In a difficult situation that requires a decision, we often find ourselves squeezed in the grip of our own doubts, opposite feelings, and desires. But how does it affect our relationships? Look at these cognitive dissonance examples.

1. They believe their loved ones are responsible for happiness

It is one of the cognitive dissonance examples in relationships. But you are the only person who is responsible for how happy you are. The blind faith of another person only looks charming. The feeling of happiness, spiritual comfort, and other fetishes of mankind comes from within, from your head, and doesn’t arise through some external influences. If things were different, probably medicine would have already learned to “implant happiness.”

2. They think that there should be no problems in a relationship

It is complete nonsense! Fortunately, love doesn’t destroy a person’s personality, and therefore, clashes of characters, beliefs, and outlooks on life are inevitable. It is thanks to the existence of such contradictions that you have not yet died of boredom in your relationships. It is thanks to them that you are developing, you are reviewing your own positions on certain issues, and so on.

3. They can’t trust people

Convincing yourself in this, most likely, you really wouldn’t be able to build truly intimate relationships. You are afraid of repetition, so you will not let anyone into your world. But what if we tell you that all people are different, and the possibilities of the Universe are not exhausted in one single person who deceived you? Perhaps it is time to let go of your paranoia and trust people.

4. They think they have to adapt to partners

The worst thing you can do for yourself in a relationship is to adapt to your partner and be comfortable for him or her. Someone is happy with such a life. Everyone has their own priorities. But look at relationships through the prism of health and psychological well-being. An attempt to push yourself into someone else’s framework doesn’t fit into a healthy life.

5. They think jealous means love

What is an example of cognitive dissonance? Look, for some reason, many are inclined to be offended if their partners are not jealous. In fact, jealousy is a powerful experience that can torture both partners to death. It appears from the illusion of a lack of attention and love, from a loss of control over reality (and over another person in particular). Jealousy is normal. Another question is how this problem is solved. And here we come back to trust in a couple.

How to Resolve Cognitive Dissonance: Key Steps

It is normal that people try to get rid of psychological discomfort by all means. If they decide to turn to specialists, they will advise, first of all, the following.

1. Analyze the situationcognitive dissonance in relationships

So, how to resolve cognitive dissonance? Calm down and make an objective assessment of the situation. Try to take it under your control: first, determine what negative emotions you are experiencing, and then try to find the contradictions that these negative feelings cause you. Appreciate the importance of conflict for yourself. What role do you play in this conflict? How does cognitive dissonance affect your daily life? What consequences may arise in your life because of it?

2. Act

Sublimation of negative emotions into vigorous activity is one of the best ways to resolve social cognitive dissonance. Go in for sports, immerse yourself in creativity, read an interesting book, or watch a movie recently released, offer your help to those who need it, feed homeless animals, etc. You shouldn’t have a minute of free time!

3. Use relaxation techniques

What is cognitive dissonance? It is a kind of mental stress. Meditation, affirmations, austerities, yoga, psychological classes, and other relaxation techniques will help you clear your mind of unnecessary thoughts and get rid of negative attitudes, find a way out of an unpleasant situation, and change your life for the better.

4. Learn to forgive

Don’t engage in self-flagellation, self-discipline, and self-blaming. Ideal people don’t exist! Each of us makes mistakes, and there is nothing to worry about. If you get all the information about the current situation, make up a complete picture of it, and build a new line of behavior, you can avoid many negative phenomena. This method is more suitable for people who can analyze and draw conclusions.

5. Understand the reasons

After all, a sense of cognitive dissonance is your personal reminder. Sometimes it’s even useful to strengthen the sense of dissonance. For example, to get rid of a bad habit, you need to learn as much as possible about its consequences; to achieve the goal – read the success stories of great people, to see the difference with your story, and take action.

Action Always Works

So, we strive for psychological comfort and harmony, therefore, we experience internal tension when a contradiction arises. It is impossible to completely avoid cognitive dissonance because new knowledge is always compared with past experience. A rational approach to smoothing out cognitive dissonance is to consider each situation with an open mind, think critically, and develop an optimal behavior strategy with maximum benefit.

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