Ever heard of confirmation bias? An over-simplified short definition would be “seeing only what you expect to see”. More accurately, it means searching for or interpreting data in a way that favours what you already believe to be true. A common way this plays out in life is in what news we choose to follow – conservatives follow conservative stations and commentators, while liberals follow liberal sources and commentators, libertarians follow libertarian commentators, and so on. Rather than looking at all sides and possibly finding information that conflicts with what we want the truth to be, we limit ourselves to things that will support what we want to think. While this is comfortable and common human nature, it does not allow us to deal with reality well.
I see several ways that confirmation bias can hurt your marriage:
- You become convinced that your wife is something (a nag, grumpy, always negative) and you only see what she does that fits that label, while missing what she does that conflicts with the label.
- When you and your wife argue, you seek out support from friends who you know will agree with you, rather than looking for impartial people who can help you and your wife come to an agreement.
- When your wife says you are wrong about something, you hit the Internet to find sources that “prove” you are right, rather than honestly looking for the truth.
- You are so sure she will say no to sex, you do not even ask – and some of those times she would have said yes!
Confirmation bias is easy, natural, and comfortable, but it insulates us from reality. If we do not even confront reality, we can never deal with it. My suggestion is that you fight confirmation bias not just in your marriage, but also your life in general. Truth, real truth, can stand up to scrutiny, and a bit of scepticism is healthy.
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” [Acts 17:11 ESV]
Image Credit: © Paul H. Byerly (with a hat tip to Heath Hinegardner)