What You Must Know About The Brain And Love
You may ask yourself some version of the question, Why does my relationship feel so hard so often?
You may sometimes think it must just be chance, a privilege of the lucky to have a lasting loving relationship.
That’s just your brain being lazy. Because a relationship that is full of ease and connection is not about being lucky. It is about being skilled and having real knowledge and determination.
Last week we talked about some of the beliefs that help keep my love strong now. I hinted at how beliefs are so key to how we feel and act in our relationships. Today I’ll explain more and get you started on practicing a love enhancing skill.
Love seems to start in the heart and just happens naturally at first. But love persists between your ears.
The peace and closeness you want with your partner starts in your own brain, with your thoughts about your partner and your relationship.
Though there is a ton to say on this topic, let’s start with one concept today. Have you ever heard of the Confirmation Bias? It can help you to understand how love persists in your own mind.
The Confirmation Bias is defined in the dictionary as: “The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories”.
Basically, there is too much stimulus in the world for our brain to take in. So in order to process things and be efficient, our brain filters information, choosing what is relevant to us based on our beliefs. In other words, it looks for evidence to back up what it already believes to be true. And it doesn’t pay attention to —it dismisses— anything outside of what we already perceive to be true.
So, for example, if you have noticed for a week or three that your partner is distracted, or he struggles to express himself openly a few times, you may form a theory that your partner isn’t good at connecting (that was my belief about my ex). Then you'll see that inability to connect (true or not) reflected in all the things he does—and you likely miss it when he is actually lovingly present with you. (I missed it very often).
It’s a vicious cycle that leads to the erosion of love.
Because when your thoughts are critical, focused on what’s wrong, what’s missing, what your partner’s shortcomings are, you will feel aggravated, angry, hurt, disappointed. And then you’re likely to act aggravating, angry, hurtful towards your partner, setting off disappointment and even hostility in both of you.
I see this often in my work with clients, and I’ve certainly noticed it in my own relationships. When I feel bad emotionally because of a negative way I’m perceiving things (and I slip up and forget to handle it consciously) I tend to say things I regret later, or act aggravated —which is often met with aggravation by my husband. Sound familiar? It’s not a recipe for peace and the connected intimacy I value and desire.
In this way, the confirmation bias is like binoculars for your beliefs: What you focus on increases.
The way to more ease and long lasting love in your relationship involves intentionally finding a more peace-promoting way of seeing things.
You’ll feel better and act better and that will make space for your partner to act better too. It’s a win-win.
How do I do that, you ask? Here are 3 quick tips.
1) With kindness towards yourself, simply begin witnessing how often your mind throws out judgements, worries, and negative thoughts about your relationship, your partner, or yourself. Be the observer. Catch yourself in the act of confirming your negative bias…
2) Notice how you feel when you think such thoughts.
3) Ask yourself, “is there way to look at this situation that would feel better to me?” or ““ What can I tell myself that will focus my “binoculars" on something I appreciate about us?”
See what comes up. I bet you’ll come up with something that gets you much closer to feeling (and acting) more peaceful and loving. Which is a gift to both of you.
What did you come up with? What the was result of that new thought? Let me know in the comments below.