The “it’s just my bride” cognitive dissonance defence

March 22, 2011

in Beyond the Marriage, Marriage Killer, Seeing Clearly

Different directions © Robert Mizerek | Fotolia.com

I was reading an article entitled A hierarchy of excuses: The pathetic path of least resistance and had to go look up cognitive dissonance. I mean I sort of understood it, but wanted to be clear. In short, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort that comes from having conflicting ideas or beliefs. In terms of the article I was reading, it’s the discomfort that we have when our actions don’t match what we want to believe about ourselves. If being honest is very important to you, telling even a small lie will result in cognitive dissonance.

The article suggested there are four common ways we deal with this:

“We don’t like dissonance and emotional distress. We use various strategies to reduce it. I’ve written about his before in fact. We use strategies like rationalizing our choice, denying responsibility for our choice, distracting ourselves from the choice we made, or actually changing our behavior to better match our attitude.

I could elaborate on each of those, but I want to offer a fifth possibility – “she’s my wife, it’s different”. Is that cynical? Maybe, but that does not mean it’s not a real issue! I see many men who treat their bride different from how they treat everyone else in the world (and yes, women do it too). And by different I mean worse – sometimes much worse.

  • A guy who prides himself on his honesty lies to his bride regularly.
  • A man who is painfully punctual is late for things with his wife – or makes them late when they go some-place together.
  • A fellow who would never think of raising his voice with others, yells at his bride.
  • A man who dislikes emotional games plays them with his wife.
  • A guy who never resorts to manipulation in other relationships, does so with his wife.

I could go on. One other, that deserves special note, is the guy everyone counts on – if you need something, he will get it done, no matter what. But his wife does not know that man at home. Things he has fixed for so many others need to be fixed at their place, and asking him a dozen times for something is the norm.

Let me suggest to you that who you REALLY are is who you are at home. Let me suggest that your REAL values and priorities are the one’s your bride and family know – and love or hate. If thinking about how you are at home versus how you are everywhere else results in cognitive dissonance, may I suggest you skip denying responsibility, distracting yourself, or rationalising, and go straight to making changes?

Image Credit: © Robert Mizerek | Fotolia.com

3 comments
The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

@Sarah Baron - I think safe is part of it - the "I can be myself" sort of thing. And that's great, as long as "myself" is not a selfish jerk. I also think it's about not saving any emotional energy for home. A guy burns up all he has a work, and there is noting left when he get's home.

Sarah Baron
Sarah Baron

Wow! Great article. What is this about? As a woman, I see it often, but I don't understand it in husbands I see around me... Could it be that you are safe with her? I am saying this knowing that women are the same way with their husbands. Can someone please explain this to me? As a wife, I do my best to treat others the way I want to be treated... the husband is on the top of this list. Thanks for this great post, Paul. Sincerely yours, Sarah Baron Anonymous8

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