Aaron Beck isn’t just another self-help writer; he is one of the most influential minds in modern psychology. He created cognitive therapy, one of the most well-regarded and proven therapy techniques, and while most of his books are written for psychologists, this one is a gift to the masses. Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding outlines cognitive therapy and applies it to one of our most important areas of life: our partnerships. It’s perhaps one of the best books on marriage out there–and could help you in other aspects of life, too.
- Love Is Never Enough applies cognitive therapy to relationship issues, showing how cognitive distortions and other negative assumptions can derail a relationship.
- “One of the main reasons we argue with our spouses is that we misunderstand them and judge them unfairly,” Beck writes. “We do this because of our cognitive distortions–the flaws in our logic that occur frequently when we’re upset.” These distortions include: mind reading, framing, overgeneralizations, labeling, defensiveness, tunnel vision, catastrophizing (making a small issue into a big one), personalization, negative bias, all-or-nothing thinking, either-or thinking and more.
- There are three main steps to changing your story about your partner. “Step One: Recognize and correct your automatic thoughts. Listen to your thoughts about your mate and determine what your thought spiral is. Step Two: Test your predictions. Step Three: Reframe your perspective of your mate.”
- Start by noticing any automatic thoughts you might regularly have about your partner–thoughts like “He is so uncaring.” “Examine them and look for supporting evidence, contradictory evidence, alternative explanations, and more logical inferences … Ask: What is the evidence in favor of my interpretation? What evidence is there contrary to my interpretation? Does it logically follow from my spouse’s actions that my spouse has the motive that I assign to him or her? Is there an alternative explanation? What evidence is there on the other side? Have there been times, recently, when my spouse has been friendly or loving?”
- The cognitive distortion of personalization is what happens when you consider yourself the cause of your spouse’s behavior despite the fact that it has nothing to do with you. An example of this type of thinking is: “She’s in a bad mood. It must be because she’s angry at me.”
- Labeling is another cognitive distortion. This is what happens when you label someone’s entire character negatively rather than labeling their behavior or actions negatively. This often involves name calling. Some examples of this are: “She’s a weakling because he did not ask for a raise.” “He’s a nag because she wants me to quit drinking.” “He’s a slob because he doesn’t pick up his clothes.” People also may use the same type of flawed thinking in evaluating themselves as well, as in: “I never do anything properly. I always antagonize people. I’m a failure.”
- All-or-nothing thinking will also get you in trouble in your relationship. “If your spouse is less loving than usual, for example, you might conclude that he or she no longer loves you … There is either total love or total rejection, total consideration or total inconsideration—nothing in between.” Avoid this trap by reminding yourself that what’s happening is what’s happening now and it likely hasn’t and won’t happen forever.
- In particularly difficult moments, snowballing thoughts often occur. An example of this distortion is as follows: “Why is he silent? He must be angry at me. I must have done something to offend him. He will continue to be angry at me. He is always angry at me. I always offend people. Nobody will ever like me. I will always be alone.”
- Mind reading is dangerous, too. That’s when we make assumptions about our partner’s intentions instead of staying curious and open-minded.
- Overgeneralization occurs when a partner uses “always” or “never” statements. Try using the word “sometimes” instead, and see if your partner becomes less defensive.
- Tunnel vision, or screening, occurs when one negative detail is selected at the expense of the larger experience. This happens when after a party a couple attends together, one partner points out the one thing they didn’t like about their partner’s behavior in the car on the way home.
- Taken together, these and other cognitive distortions can lead to the formation of a negative cognitive set: an overall negative perspective of your partner. Clearly, this is not ideal. The goal of questioning your assumptions and distortions and changing your thinking about your partner is to build a new overall perspective of them–one that is fair but also positive. With this change, fewer misunderstandings will occur. And cognitive changes can be made by just one partner will greatly affect both people’s perspectives of each other and of the relationship, even if the second partner doesn’t do cognitive therapy exercises themselves.
- Creating a new perspective on your partner is the difference between reacting to your partner being late with the internal response, “Something may have happened to her” rather than, “If she really cared about my feelings, he would be on time.”
- The book also discusses some differences between genders in communication patterns, saying that women seem to be more likely to ask personal questions, to use encouraging utterances during a conversation and to respond more fully and enthusiastically to their partner. On the other hand, they might be less likely to question their partner or argue for a different perspective. They might value getting along over getting ahead.
About the Author
Aaron Beck is an American psychiatrist and psychotherapist who helped pioneer the field of cognitive therapy. He developed cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the 1960s as a result of his research and clinical work. He proposed that our thoughts, beliefs, and interpretations of events significantly impact our emotions and behaviors. Beck’s cognitive therapy focuses on identifying and challenging negative or distorted thoughts and replacing them with more realistic and adaptive thinking patterns.
His approach to therapy has been widely influential and has proven effective in the treatment of various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders. Beck’s work has expanded beyond therapy and has been applied to areas such as stress management, relationship issues, and personal growth.
Beck has authored numerous books on cognitive therapy, including Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders and Prisoners of Hate: The Cognitive Basis of Anger, Hostility, and Violence. He has also received several prestigious awards for his contributions to the field, including the Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research.
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