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What Is Cognitive Dissonance In Marriage?

What Is Cognitive Dissonance In Marriage?

What Is Cognitive Dissonance In Marriage 1

What is cognitive dissonance in marriage? Cognitive dissonance affects our lives in a multitude of ways, often causing conflict and confusion.


When it comes to marriages, cognitive dissonance can be particularly perplexing. People often don’t realize the role this dissonance plays in interactions with their spouses. While an occasional lack of harmony is to be expected in any partnership, folks in unhealthy and abusive relationships may experience constant dissonance.


What is cognitive dissonance in marriage? According to Festinger (1975), cognitive dissonance refers to the way people feel uncomfortable when experiencing two conflicting beliefs and behaviours, values, or desires.


People attempt to favour one belief over the other in hopes of reducing the amount of dissonance, tension, or frustration felt.


This conflict of beliefs is very similar to the aforementioned dissonance found in music and is just like what motivates people to turn off harsh music, Festinger claims that cognitive dissonance creates pressure to internally reject one of the beliefs.


In many cases, however, cognitive dissonance can be helpful, allowing individuals and couples to tap into their values, beliefs, and desires and understand better how these things relate to their behaviours and interactions. This journey can be enlightening and often brings couples closer together.


So, What is cognitive dissonance in marriage? This internal conflict is essentially a discrepancy between two married people’s attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviours.


The Effects Of Cognitive Dissonance In Marriages

What Is Cognitive Dissonance In Marriage 2

Compromise is necessary for virtually any relationship. While deciding where to vacation or which board game to play won’t necessarily cause much dissonance, continuously compromising or ignoring one’s core values or desires to please a partner often results in internal conflict and relationship problems.


What is cognitive dissonance in marriage? Most of us have a list of qualities and values we look for in a potential partner when we’re dating. Perhaps your ideal mate loves children and wants to have a big family. Let’s say you have great chemistry with a man you met through a mutual friend.


Nearly all of your values align, but he’s not keen on having kids. He’d much rather travel the world, which you think you’d also enjoy. Despite your longtime desire to have a large family, you convince yourself that a life filled with travel will ultimately be more fulfilling.


Deep down, you know that being a parent is more important to you than globetrotting, but you ignore the red flags to calm the dissonance you’re experiencing.


Cognitive Dissonance And Infidelity


Another prime example of cognitive dissonance in marriages occurs when infidelity occurs despite the deep-seated belief that cheating is hurtful and wrong. Often, the person cheating justifies or diminishes the behaviour to relieve discomfort. Ironically, the affair may have started due to cognitive dissonance in the committed relationship.


What is cognitive dissonance in marriage? There’s a disconnect between reality and how the cheating individual perceives herself, her partner, and her relationship in many cases. Cognitive dissonance also occurs within the person who learns his partner is cheating.


This clashing of head and heart in both people often makes it difficult to make rational decisions and move on as a couple. Many duos turn to a couple’s therapist to help navigate the marriages after one or both partners are unfaithful. More on this later.

When Cognitive Dissonance Is Helpful

In some cases, cognitive dissonance can provide us with a much-needed reality check. Some people have a long list of personality traits, values, and other factors they’re looking for in a partner, and they’re unwilling to settle for anything less.


What is cognitive dissonance in marriage? The problem? This perfect person likely doesn’t exist, and without compromise, no potential partner will meet these unrealistic expectations.


For instance, let’s say a single man is looking for a partner who values financial security, time with family and friends, and shares his love of football. He goes on several dates with a woman he meets on a dating app.


They have similar values and plenty of things in common. Most importantly, she prefers financial stability to shopping sprees and loves spending time with her family and group of friends.


What is cognitive dissonance in marriage? The problem? The woman has never been to a football game and has no interest in the sport, but she appreciates the man’s enthusiasm. She wouldn’t mind accompanying him to the occasional game.


At this point, the man must make a decision. Should he continue to date this woman whom he can see spending the rest of his life with, or should he move on and attempt to find the “perfect” football-loving woman?


While cognitive dissonance often plays out in new relationships, it also creeps into long-term relationships, including marriages. Change and growth are normal, and at some point, most couples will deal with conflicting beliefs or values. In these cases, communication is key.


What is cognitive dissonance in marriage? The problem? Many individuals and couples struggle to communicate effectively. Later in this article, you’ll find a list of helpful resources for effective communication.


The Role Of Cognitive Dissonance Plays In Unhealthy And Abusive Relationships


What is cognitive dissonance in marriage? In unhealthy and abusive relationships, victims often question their perception of their abuser and the relationship as a whole. When the abuser’s mood shifts abruptly, the victim is filled with confusion, and cognitive dissonance comes into play.


While the victim loves the abuser and fears being apart, she knows deep down that the abuse cycle will continue. These contradictory thoughts and feelings perplex the victim, making her feel anxious, frozen, and unable to make rational decisions.


To calm the storm inside her, the victim might justify or downplay her abuser’s behaviour. This often becomes a vicious cycle that is incredibly difficult to break. In most cases, a trusted individual must validate her feelings and confirm her reality before the victim can break free for good.


The Solution

Once you break it down, cognitive dissonance seems to present more challenges than are typically acknowledged. However, if most of the distress is evoked due to the unconscious nature of cognitive dissonance, then familiarizing yourself with the concept seems to be a good starting point for better attending to the judgements and decisions we tend to make daily.


The following strategies can be very helpful in alleviating cognitive dissonance in relationships of any nature, such as platonic, parental, professional, or romantic.


  1. Reflect on Your Values

Reflecting on your values and the ones you regard as the most important is a wonderful place to start working on your cognitive dissonance. Some research has hinted that re-affirming your values may be effective at reducing the effects of cognitive dissonance, and although we tend to hold our values very close to us, it can be surprisingly challenging to sit down and write them down.


Reaffirming values also can decrease the chance of experiencing forced compliance, or being made to feel as if some level of authority is persuading you to violate your better judgement, values, attitudes, and beliefs.


Further, because dissonance tends to favour the short-term solution more times than not, making a physical list may be very beneficial to visualize what will benefit your long-term mental health and well-being.


As in any relationship, especially romantic ones, a big challenge seems to be retaining one’s sense of self while simultaneously being flexible enough to meet your partner’s needs.


What is cognitive dissonance in marriage? One may find themselves reluctantly making excuses for their partner here and there, but since humans tend to be motivated by cognitive consistency, this pattern can become very habitual very quickly. Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in a person ignoring red flags and finding themself in abusive relationships.


Thus, if one is more attentive to their values, what they want in the long run, and how they rationalize judgements, they will be better equipped to reduce their dissonance healthily.


  1. Aim to Be More Mindful

It is important to note that reflecting on your values is only worth as much as how well you enforce them. This may seem hard in the beginning, since our actions become quite habitual over time. The unconscious nature of cognitive dissonance seems to render this type of processing in the realm of automatic cognition.


Automatic cognition is what allows us to walk down the stairs, brush our teeth, or drive without fully thinking about the action we are engaged in. However, if you have ever misplaced your keys, or walked into a room forgetting what you needed, you have experienced the downside of automatic cognition and may be in some need of mindfulness.


The first component of mindfulness is the practice of directing your attention to the present moment. In everyday life, this would look like being more consciously aware of when you feel dissonance, so that if and when it arises, you may be more capable of taking a deep breath, regrouping, thinking about all of your options, and making a final decision based on your most important long term values.


The second key to mindfulness is non-judgment. For example, if you do catch yourself experiencing dissonance, recognize that this is normal and try to not let your ego hold you back from living the life you want to live.

What Is Cognitive Dissonance In Marriage Conclusion

What Is Cognitive Dissonance In Marriage Conclusion 1

What is cognitive dissonance in marriage conclusion? Even with value setting and practising mindfulness, there may be some situations in which the dissonance is too overwhelming. If you find yourself in this kind of decision-making paralysis, it can be extremely helpful to consider what you would recommend to a friend if they were going through your circumstances.


What is cognitive dissonance in marriage conclusion? It is important to keep in mind that cognitive dissonance is the most present in situations that are important to one’s self-concept. In other words, if you take the perspective of a third-party outsider, the self becomes one step removed from the situation, leaving much room for more objective, rational, and level-headed decision-making.


Ruling out the decision as if it was for a friend leads to more objective appraisals, breaking the habitual and self-threatening nature of cognitive dissonance.

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