In a relationship dynamic, perceptions play an important part regarding how we interact and perceive a spouse or family member throughout the course of our interactions. For example, if a wife sees her husband as ‘over sensitive’ or ‘touchy’ this may influence how the two of them interact. Consequently, because our perceptions influence how we view people they tend to superseded other cognitions. This also means that perceptions can change. New information that we practice can alter the way we dialogue with our partners. However, some people may find it extremely difficult to alter their perceptions likely as a result of life experience. For example, if a man generally sees his wife as a selfish person he will likely hold this view in his general perception of her. This also means that if his wife does attempt to change, the new information and changes will always be judged in the light of that initial perception (she is selfish). A well-trained therapist combined with good rapport, can help people challenge this rigidity.
Sometimes we may hold distortions that are not initially apparent. Therapy can help bring awareness to these distortions:
Selective Attention: The tendency to fixate on certain aspects of an event that occurs in a relationship and to overlook other important aspects (e.g., focusing on other people’s words and ignoring their actions).
Attributions: Inferences (conclusions we make based on evidence) about factors that may influence a partner’s actions (e.g., thinking that a partner didn’t respond to your message because he or she wants to control the situation or make you feel bad).
Expectancies: Making predictions that a particular event will likely occur (e.g., expression feelings about something will result in your partner ‘blowing up,’ in anger.
Assumptions: Beliefs about a person’s characteristics (e.g., a wife assumes that men don’t need emotional support).
Standards: Beliefs about characteristics that people ‘should’ have (e.g., partners should have no boundaries between them and everything should be open, including thoughts and emotions).
Being mindful and questioning your thoughts will help bring better awareness of distortions you hold about your partner. This in turn will help you become aware of what thoughts need to be challenged or modified regarding your relationship.