Thoughts that are related to couple conflict and parenting are typically negative, often unhelpful, and may be exaggerated completely untrue, and can create or worsen conflict between you and your partner. And these negative thoughts may lead you to experience negative emotions and engage in negative behaviors with your partner and/or children that disrupt the whole family and your sense of peace at home. Examples of the types of cognitive errors or distortions (i.e., problematic thoughts) that people often have related to couple conflict and parenting include:
- All or nothing thinking – Seeing things in rigid black and white categories
- Ultimatums – Using words that are extreme and definitive like “never” and “always”
- Overgeneralization – Looking at one event or situation that did not go well or as expected and assuming that a pattern of similar events has begun
- Negative mental filter – A negative worldview that involves focusing more on negative details than positive ones
- Personalization – Viewing yourself as the cause of a negative event or situation, or making something about you that has nothing to do with you at all
- Jumping to conclusions – Assuming the outcome of a situation or assuming that you know what someone else is thinking, feeling, or doing without any evidence of this
- “Should” statements – Using statements like “I should be ___” or “He shouldn’t do __”
Negative thoughts that are instantaneous and immediate in response to a situation are called automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). Examples of ANTs that people often have related to couple conflict and parenting include:
- “We are a crazy family.”
- “Arguments are inevitable with my partner.”
- “We will never agree on parenting.”
- “He did that because she doesn’t think I’m a good parent.”
- “I should be better at this. I’m failing as a spouse and a parent.”
- “I already know what she’s thinking.
Next, we will use the principles of unhelpful thoughts, emotions, and behavior to formulate an activity plan designed to counter these and promote healthy alternatives.