DBT Blog

Dialectical Thinking in Relationships

February 14, 2018

Sometimes just changing our perspective about people and relationships can improve our ability to have more satisfying relationships.   The word "dialectical" means having two opposing views about something, but having a synthesis of the whole.    When we think dialectically about people in our lives, we are able to hold two ideas simultaneously, which improves our ability to be effective in coping with relationship difficulties.   

 

Let's apply this concept to relationships.

What dialectical statement resonates with you?

 

I can set boundaries with someone, at the same time that I love them well.

 

I can forgive someone for how they have hurt me, as I also acknowledge the emotional pain and negative consequences that may have resulted from his/her behaviors.

 

I can work my hardest to improve a romantic relationship and give it my all, at the same time that I cope ahead to accept and maintain my identity being single if for some reason the relationship ended.

 

I can reach out and extend to someone I care about, at the same time I maintain a level of distance to protect myself in the relationship.

 

I can validate my feelings of disappointment that someone did not meet my needs, at the same time that I extend grace and let go of grudges to this person for how they did not meet my needs. 

 

I can accept my feelings of loneliness I may feel in relationships and grow in my ability to spend time by myself at the same time that I choose to reach out for new relationships in order to decrease my loneliness. 

 

Even when someone criticizes me for a behavior I am engaging in, I can validate to myself that I am an ok and worthy person at the same time that I make effort to change my behavior.   

 

 

 

Now, let's look at the danger at not being able to think dialectically. For example, having all or none thinking in relationships might sound something like: "When someone criticizes me for a behavior I am engaging in, I must be a terrible person, therefore unworthy to be with this person." The result would be behavior where you withdraw or distance yourself.

 

Or, another example would be being involved in a romantic relationship and telling yourself, "If someone is not meeting my needs, I mind as well get out."  In realitiy, no one will meet your needs all the time, so the danger of this thinking would be having high standards and not coping well when the other person disappoints you.    

 

 

 

Who is a person in your life that you need to practice more dialectical thinking with?

 

What is a dialectical statement about this person or relationship will help you to cope more effectively?

 

What do you see is the fallout of having all or none thinking instead?  

 

 

 

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