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Infidelity: Cognitive Therapy for the Hurt Partner and Unfaithful Partner
Infidelity continuing education addiction counselor CEUs

Section 13
Track #13 - Keys to Effectively Remove 7 Cognitive Blocks

CEU Question 13 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Couples
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed guiding couples through high cost behavioral change to help a relationship survive an infidelity crisis.

On this track, we will discuss overcoming the resistance to behavior change in cognitive behavioral therapy. We will specifically discuss 7 cognitive blocks that can create resistance to making behavioral changes.

Remember Keith and Natalie from Track 11? As Keith and Natalie began working on their Trust Enhancing Chart, they began to experience some resistance. Keith stated, “we both really liked the idea of the chart at first. But some of the things Natalie’s asked for, I just balk at. I think it’s the same for her. Does this mean I’m not committed as I thought? Are we just doomed?”

I explained to Keith and Natalie that experiencing resistance to behavioral change is normal and natural.  I stated, “experiencing resistance does not mean that you’re a bad person, or that you don’t want to improve your relationship. Instead, resistance usually means that you have some deep-wired assumptions that are getting in your way.”

Share on Facebook 7 Cognitive Blocks-Awareness Technique
I encouraged Keith and Natalie to work on overcoming their resistance to change by working through the Cognitive Block Awareness technique in our session. I began by explaining 7 common types of cognitive blocks that relate to helping couples survive infidelity. I asked Keith and Natalie to carefully consider which of these blocks they may have experienced.

-- Cognitive Block # 1 - "I Don't Have the Right"
A first common cognitive block that partners may experience is the belief that “I don’t have the right to ask my partner to change for me.” I explained to Keith and Natalie that this common attitude cuts you off from your partner and yourself.

I stated, “this cognitive block prevents partners from finding out whether their partner is willing to respond to their grievances, and robs their partner of a chance to make things right. If you experience this belief, try to think about why it is so hard for you to request something from your partner. When did you first experience a feeling of the lack of entitlement. Did a parent punish me when I tried to speak up? Did someone teach me not to ‘burden’ others with my needs?”

-- Cognitive Block # 2 - "It's Better to Keep my Dissatisfaction to Myself"
A second cognitive block that partners may experience is the belief that “if I say what I need, I’ll just hurt or anger my partner, and create more conflict. It’s better to keep my dissatisfaction to myself.” After Shawn’s affair, he felt addressing his wife Kerry’s alcoholism would only rock the boat. However, Shawn knew that he had strayed because Kerry’s alcoholism made her unavailable to him.

Shawn also recognized he would never be satisfied at home until Kerry addressed her addiction. Shawn stated, “growing up, my mom would actually smack me if I questioned her authority. I learned to be quiet if I had a problem.” After Shawn became ready to honestly speak to Kerry about her behavior, Shawn found that some of his dread of speaking up lessened.

-- Cognitive Block # 3 - "They Should Already Know"
In addition to beliefs that “I don’t have the right to ask my partner to change” and “I should keep my dissatisfaction to myself to avoid conflict”, a third cognitive block that partners may experience is the belief that “I shouldn’t have to spell out what I need, they should already know”. I stated, “It is important to remember that your partner cannot read your mind. It’s your job to articulate your needs. If your partner doesn’t anticipate your needs, it doesn’t mean that he or she does not love you.”

-- Cognitive Block # 4 - "If I Have to Ask, I Don't Want It"
A fourth cognitive block that partners may experience regarding behavioral change following infidelity is the idea that “If I have to ask for love, I don’t want it”.   Keith stated, “sometimes I just need to hear Natalie say that she loves me. But if I have to ask her to say it, it just doesn’t count!” I stated, “needing to hear a verbal expression of love is a valid need, just the same as the other items you have placed on your Trust Enhancement Chart. You might add that you need to hear Natalie say ‘I love you’ to the chart, but add that you only want her to say it when she is sincere.”

-- Cognitive Block # 5 - "We'll Be Back Where We Started"
Keith stated, “I know this sounds paranoid, but sometimes I worry that once Natalie knows she’s got me back, everything’s going to go back to the way it was.” I explained to Keith that this fifth cognitive block partners experience regarding behavioral change is common. Have you treated a client who has experienced this cognitive block by believing that their partner is trying to deceive them? Has your client stated something like, “my partner just needs my income. Sure, it seems like they’re making changes, but it won’t last!”

I stated to Keith and Natalie, “if you believe your partner is consciously or unconsciously deceiving you, you may find that growth and recovery is very difficult. If you always read duplicity into your partner’s high or low risk behaviors, how can you ever be comforted or reassured by them?” Clearly, this cognitive block can interfere with the effectiveness of the Trust Enhancement Chart exercise. I explained to Kevin and Natalie that the goal is not to get rid of skepticism, but to suspend skepticism long enough for the healing process to take hold.

-- Cognitive Block # 6 - "He Should Change First"
A sixth cognitive block partners may experience regarding behavioral change is the belief that, “my partner is the one that hurt me, so he or she should change first.” I find that I observe this cognitive block more frequently in hurt partners. I explained to Keith and Natalie that this attitude is understandable, but can disrupt the natural flow of a mature relationship.

I stated, “scorekeeping like this can lead to highly competitive behaviors that interfere with trust enhancing exercises. This may satisfy a sense of indignation, but scorekeeping does not help heal trust. I encourage you to adopt the attitude that ‘the best way to change my partner’s behavior is to change my own first’. Although this may not seem ‘fair’ at first, this may help to create an environment where your partner is more likely to fulfill your needs.”

-- Cognitive Block # 7 - "I'm So Angry"
In addition to the beliefs I don’t have the right to ask my partner to change; I should keep my dissatisfaction to myself to avoid conflict; I shouldn’t have to tell my partner what I need; If I have to ask for love, I don’t want it; as soon as I start trusting again, we’ll be back where we started; and my partner hurt me so they should change first, a seventh cognitive block partners may experience regarding behavioral change is the belief that “I can’t act in trust enhancing ways when I’m so angry”.

Do you remember Ellen from Track 2? Ellen stated, “right now I’m so angry at Paul that I can’t even look at him. How am I supposed to work on these trust exercises if I can hardly stand to be in the same room?” I explained to Ellen and Paul that this attitude is understandable but counterproductive.

I stated, “anger makes us feel less exposed and vulnerable. But in the end, this anger may deny you the opportunity to test what you and Paul are capable of creating together.” I asked Ellen to try a reframing technique called the Anger Adjustment with me. As I explain this technique, consider whether this Anger Adjustment is similar to a reframing technique you may already be using with clients attempting behavioral change.

Share on Facebook Anger Adjustment Technique
I stated to Ellen, “the first step in the Anger Adjustment is to ask yourself whether you are using the cognitive error of emotional reasoning. Emotional reasoning occurs when you assume that because you feel something strongly, it must be true. For example, if you are angry, you assume you have a right to be angry.The next step in this technique is used when you find yourself reassuring yourself of your right to be angry. Instead of spending the time justifying your anger, instead ask ‘is this anger useful? How will this serve me?’ Consider that this may be a time when it makes more sense to act in service of your relationship, rather than in service to your feelings. If you act in a loving way, you might find that you begin to feel more loving.”

Would this Anger Adjustment technique be useful for your Ellen?

On this track, we have discussed overcoming the resistance to behavior change in order to help couples survive cheating. We specifically discussed 7 cognitive blocks that can create resistance to making behavioral changes. These 7 cognitive blocks are, I don’t have the right to ask my partner to change; I should keep my dissatisfaction to myself to avoid conflict; I shouldn’t have to tell my partner what I need; If I have to ask for love, I don’t want it; as soon as I start trusting again, we’ll be back where we started; my partner hurt me so they should change first; and I can’t act in trust enhancing ways when I’m so angry.

On the next track, we will discuss helping couples who have experienced an infidelity crisis to talk about the affair. We will also discuss two techniques for enhancing intimate listening, the Cross-Over technique, and the Disarming technique.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 13
What are seven cognitive blocks that can create resistance to behavioral change following an infidelity crisis? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Answer Booklet.

 
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