Or, Why You Shouldn’t Always Listen to Your Friends
The human mind is truly a wonder, but its complexity is a double-edged sword. While it makes us capable of great things, it can also trick us into some nutty thinking.
It typically starts slowly, without your even noticing. You’re going through your daily routine, and you notice he hasn’t been picking up his socks lately, or she keeps leaving the lid off the sugar jar in the mornings after her coffee. Then it’s the thing he forgot at the store, which happened to be the one thing you really needed. Or she completely forgets about your date night, and winds up going out with the girls instead. And then there’s the damn socks again, and the sugar lid.
You talk to your friends about it, venting over the perceived pattern of offenses, and they help you paint a picture of someone who is selfish or losing interest in you. Keep in mind, these are the same friends who told you that you just HAD to see that Adam Sandler movie where he played his own sister in drag. They also raved about how that picture of you wearing the bra made out of coconuts would look great on your Facebook page (you didn’t really want that new job, anyway).
So, now, the job is done. You are now positive that your partner is a jerk. But is that really the truth, or just a trick that your mind is playing on you (aided and abetted by the same friends who thought that sending the male strippergram to your mother-in-law’s birthday party would be the perfect gift).
What may be happening is a psychological phenomenon known as confirmation bias. It means we have the tendency to look for evidence to confirm our beliefs about things, instead of looking for contrary evidence to test our beliefs.
For instance, in the case of the guy who leaves his socks on the floor and may have a memory issue with the shopping list, you might be noticing those things without really noticing other behaviors that contradict your conclusions — him walking the dog every morning before waking you up, or always going to the store for you because he knows you’re too tired or the fact that he thought better to get your mom a gift certificate for her favorite Italian restaurant for her birthday instead of sending the stripper. For the lid leaver and absent-minded date-breaker, you might not notice that she makes the coffee for you every morning without fail and that while she broke your date night, she surprised you twice in the last month by sending the kids to her mom’s house for the weekend so you could have uninterrupted alone time.
If you think some of these thoughts may be creeping into your head, we invite you to take this month’s relationship challenge. Are you ready?
- First, write down any negative beliefs you have about your partner.
- Next, challenge yourself (really challenge yourself!) to look for evidence or proof that disproves or contradicts your negative beliefs. This helps you test your beliefs about your partner.
- Finally, when you find proof that disproves your beliefs, let them know you noticed the good stuff they are doing. Acknowledge and thank them.
If you have difficulty with this challenge or feel your negative beliefs about your partner are true and you need help, please feel free to contact us. Whatever is going on, we might be able to help you both understand it, address it appropriately and move past it so you can focus more energy on the good stuff.
Drs. Chuck and Jo-Ann Bird