How We Look For Proof To Support Our Negative Stories
By Corinne Farago
Confirmation bias. We all have it. We experience it every day in the news, in our politics, in our workplace, and most directly in our relationships, where partners can suffer the consequences of confirmation bias on a daily basis.
Humans are wired to look for danger, and danger in relationships comes in the form of complaint and conflict. Conflict triggers threat and threat pumps Cortisol into our blood stream, preparing us for fight or flight.
When it comes to relationships, it makes sense then that our brains are far more skilled at noticing what’s wrong with our partner, than what’s right.
We all form biases in order to make sense of our experiences. Those biases then form stories we tell ourselves when we feel challenged by our partner. We look for the proof that supports the stories we already have formed in our minds.
If circumstances leave enough room for us to skew our interpretation of events, we’ll jump on the opportunity to be right, even if it makes us feel bad.
One of my couples is trying to heal from infidelity on the woman’s part. Even though the infidelity happened years ago, her partner’s negative bias of her remains firmly in place.
The story he formed from his bias is that she doesn’t love him, that he’s not a good lover, and that given the opportunity, she’ll betray his trust again, even though she repeatedly reassures him that none of those things are true.
If she has to work late, his bias leads him to imagine she’s lying about it. If she doesn’t want to have sex one night, his bias creates the story that she finds sex with him boring. If she doesn’t stop what she’s doing immediately when he needs attention, his bias is to feel that she no longer loves him.
You can see how his negative and fearful bias of her is his own worst enemy, and may very well lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When our relationships are laden with negative biases, we’re on the constant look-out for proof that we’re right, and we’ll selectively overlook all the information that proves otherwise.
We’ll place great importance on the disappointing moments, and pay less attention to the positive ones.
By focusing on the negative encounters with your partner, you’ll live your relationship assuming the worst, and you’ll probably get what you’re looking for.
In other words, whatever you put our attention on will become your destiny.
Changing Your Mind
Start to steer your brain toward the positives by introducing some simple habits into your daily life. This is how we rewire our brains, and it’s scientifically proven to help change the lens through which we interpret our world.
Give positive feedback to your partner about the things they did that day
You can do this in two ways. Actively look for the things your partner does that you appreciate, and express your appreciation out loud regularly throughout the day.
Form a gratitude practice with your partner. At night before you go to sleep, take turns expressing 3 things you appreciated about each other that day.
“I appreciated you asking me what I needed in town before you came home.”
“I appreciated the way you handled the issue with the neighbors.”
“I appreciated you pulling me close to cuddle tonight while watching TV.”
When we point out what makes us feel cared for and loved, we’re not only training our brains to notice the positives, but we’re training our partners by affirming their positive actions. (yes, just like dog training :-)
Become a Positive Jedi
Get good at shifting from negative to positive. Think of this skill like a Jedi warrior. When you find yourself sinking into the dark world of complaint and disappointment, remind yourself that there’s a lighter, brighter world that’s just as (or even more) true.
Look for the positives with Jedi-like precision. As you work on this skill you’ll build the muscle of your positive intelligence, making it easier to shift from negative to positive with ease.
Seek resolution rather than sweeping conflict under the rug
We are particularly susceptible to selective memory if conflicts with our partner are left unresolved. Lack of resolution keeps a negative incident active in our brains. Once an argument feels resolved, our brain files that event away as a memory, relieving us of ongoing rumination, and the biases that are formed by keeping that negative event in the forefront of our memory.
Learn communication skills that lead you through conflict to resolution. This is the primary marker of a long-lasting happy relationship.
Since we’re the only ones in charge of creating our stories and forming our negative biases, why not consider adopting a positive bias, assuming the best of your partner. With every 1 complaint, look for 5 appreciations.
See how this impacts your daily exchanges as well as your mental state.
Loving better is learnable. If you know you could love better, relationship coaching is a path that will help you learn to question the truth of your biases, and build stories that support a secure and happy connection.
Schedule a Discovery Call and let’s talk about outgrowing old habits and negative biases.
Confirmation bias. We all have it. We experience it every day in the news, in our politics, in our workplace, and most directly in our relationships, where partners can suffer the consequences of confirmation bias on a daily basis. When it comes to our relationship it makes sense then that our brains are far more skilled at noticing what’s wrong with our partner, than what’s right.
Vulnerability is actually a gift that descends upon us when we stop pretending to have it all together and admit to our human flaws and fragility. It’s a gift we give to ourselves and our partner, because it shifts our state from one of closed-off superficiality, to one of feeling and deep sharing. When one partner in a couple opens the door to vulnerability, they create space for their partner to join them there, and it’s in that space of shared vulnerability where hearts connect and intimacy is experienced.
Sex is probably one of the hardest things to talk about with a partner. It’s easy to take things personally because sex is deeply personal. Confessing your desires and asking for what you want takes courage and trust that your partner is going to hold your feelings with care. If sex is difficult for you to talk about the best thing to do is to start talking, but do it in a way that keeps you both feeling heard and understood.
One of the most defining moments in my life was losing a brother when I was 14 years old. One day he was there, and the next day he was gone. Life's big lessons are irrefutable, and usually hold within them great wisdom. When you lose a family member, you never forget that impermanence is built into existence, and with every loss comes a second lesson which is equally important to understand. Here’s the confronting truth about life that’s hard to avoid, but easy to ignore. You’re going to lose everything and everyone you care about in life.