How Cognitive Dissonance In Relationships Impacts Your Life

 In your relationships, honesty is the most important thing to you. Still, you find yourself defending your partner’s secretive actions all the time. This internal conflict is one of the best examples of cognitive dissonance in relationships.

Our relationships can be severely harmed by cognitive dissonance, a psychological term for mental discomfort brought on by holding two conflicting beliefs and behaviours. It happens to all of us occasionally. Building deeper, more satisfying connections requires knowing how it functions and how to overcome its challenges.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

 The term “cognitive dissonance” refers to social psychology and was first described by Leon Festinger, who used it to describe the unease that arises when an individual’s actions and attitudes are inconsistent. 

In order to reduce the dissonance, people try to reestablish psychological equilibrium when faced with this inconsistency by changing their beliefs and behaviours to restore harmony.  (Festinger, 1962 ).

To reduce cognitive dissonance in relationships, people usually change their opinions, behave differently, or add new cognitive components (Festinger, 1962).

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Cognitive Dissonance In Relationships: Example

Let’s take Sarah and David’s romantic relationship. Sarah places a strong importance on managing her finances. She spends less than she should and saves money for the future. On the other hand, David loves making impulsive purchases and places a higher value on the present.

Here’s how she might experience cognitive dissonance in relationship:

Dissonance. Sarah witnesses David making a significant, unplanned purchase. This clashes with her belief in financial responsibility, causing mental discomfort.

Justification. To reduce her cognitive dissonance and rationalize David’s act, Sarah could justify it by telling herself, “He deserves a treat after a long week.”
“It’s just a one-time thing.”
“Maybe I’m being too uptight about money.”
Consequences. These defences may be effective in the short term, but future spending binges may bring up the dissonance again. This may result in:
Fights, arguments, resentments, and later on, conflicting beliefs could harm their relationship in the long run.

Related: Resentment In Relationships: How To Identify And Overcome It

Cognitive Dissonance in Friendships

Consider Sarah and Emily, longtime friends with similar political opinions. Over time, Sarah becomes environmentally aware, but Emily remains indifferent. Sarah may have cognitive dissonance when Emily doesn’t want to discuss environmental issues. 

Torn between keeping the connection and sharing her values with Emily, she may feel uncomfortable or frustrated in their relationship.

The early bonds in your long-lasting friendships are frequently formed by shared experiences, such as meeting in school or connecting over shared hobbies. You and your friend will inevitably change all over time, bringing about changes in values and perspectives. 

These developments might bring about differences between you. But preserving your friendship doesn’t mean severing your bonds—instead, it means adjusting and aligning your moral principles. 

RELATED: Friend Or Frenemy? Unpacking The Levels Of Friendship

Cognitive Dissonance in Abusive Relationships

If your partner is abusive, you may justify the abuser’s behaviour by convincing yourself that they are not indicative of their actual behaviour. 

For example, you may dismiss their hitting you during a fight, telling yourself they were just stressed and didn’t mean to. You may place the blame on yourself for their selfish behaviour, believing that you in some way incited them for the relationship to work, which are some signs of cognitive dissonance in relationships. 

Cognitive dissonance occurs as the result of this internal conflict between the reality of abuse and your feelings of love. It’s a coping technique for dealing with the harsh truth of your partner’s behaviour, contrasting with your romantic perception of them.

Abused people may rationalize the abuser’s behaviour and downplay the mistreatment to make the relationship work. Those in abusive relationships may struggle to decide whether to stay or go because they may view the violent episodes as isolated cases that don’t reflect their abuser’s character.

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How to deal with Cognitive Dissonance in Relationships

Cognitive dissonance in relationships may affect your everyday life, but it doesn’t have to ruin your relationships. There are actions you can take to make your relationships more balanced. Positive transformation can start with acknowledging the dissonance when our ideas and behaviours differ from our beliefs. 

One can make more logical decisions by removing oneself from the emotional attachment by taking a step back and looking at the situation from an outsider’s viewpoint.

Recall that situations that undermine your sense of self-worth are the ones where cognitive dissonance is most common. It helps to maintain neutrality and lessen the need to defend your image when approaching the decision as though it were for a loved one.

Final Words

Automatic cognition makes daily tasks like driving home and brushing your hair manageable. However, forgetting, like losing keys, has downsides and requires attentiveness.

That’s where mindfulness comes in. It requires acknowledging discord, pausing, reflecting, and making long-term decisions. Mindfulness helps you easily handle dissonance, aligning you with your genuine self and long-term goals and fulfilling healthy relationships. 

RELATED: The Power Of Inner Healing: Self-Transformation

FAQS

What is cognitive consistency?

The psychological condition of cognitive consistency occurs when an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours match. It encourages people to align their thoughts, feelings, and actions to eliminate mental dissonance. 

Cognitive dissonance occurs when these factors conflict, forcing people to change their beliefs or behaviours to resolve it. Cognitive consistency shapes decision-making, social interactions, and mental health.

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