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  • Writer's pictureDr Joanne Stuart

Dating and ways to survive it - Confirmation Bias


Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is fundamental to our experience as humans and a fundamental to understand when dating.

 

Confirmation bias is the idea that we develop beliefs about ourselves, others and the world depending on our experiences. And then, once those beliefs have been formed, we find information that ‘fits’ with the belief and discard information that does not fit. Following are some beliefs that will impact our experience of dating and relationships.

 

Let's discuss how the belief that we are not good enough impacts on us when dating.

  • We may be attracted to individuals we think can never love us because that ‘fits’ with our sense of not being good enough. We may reject individuals that are attracted to us because we assume, often unconsciously, there is something wrong with them - if we are not good enough, then anyone who likes us must be flawed.

  • We may be on a date with someone we are attracted to but believe they are not attracted to us. We may try to work out what we think they might like, be that a funny or intelligent person, and then try to tell jokes or say things we think they will find intelligent. The irony of this, of course, is that we have no idea what they want, and we might be just what they are looking for.

Top tip: Make sure you give people who are attracted to you a fair chance and be yourself on a date! You never know but you may be just what your date is looking for.


Let's think about how will the belief that is it okay to be cruel/critical/disrespectful in a relationship will impact on dating and more fundamentally, in any long-term relationship.


Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias
  • An individual might accept certain behaviours as okay because it fits with their experience, perhaps their parents did not have a great relationship. It may be that our date thinks it is okay to criticize us in an unkind way. We may not notice these criticisms because they are familiar to us.

  • It might be that the person we are dating, whom we like, behaves in disrespectful ways, such as cancelling a date at the last minute, taking days or weeks to respond to a message, or ghosting us and then being back in touch when it suits them. What we need to think about here is – do I want to spend my effort (and potentially life) with someone who thinks it is okay to behave like that? If someone behaves like that at the beginning of a relationship, it is likely to continue.

Top tip: Keep an eye on how your date treats you. If they are disrespectful and unkind, is this really someone you want to spend your life with? You may think you can change them, and this may be true but it also might not be true and so it might be better to spend effort on someone who is worth it.  


Let us consider how the belief that we are unlovable will impact on us when dating. There may be many reasons why individuals feel unlovable.


Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias
  • If one or the other of our parents did not show us the love we deserved or if we were bullied at school or a multitude of other reasons, we may feel that we are unlovable. It is impossible for a child to understand that the unkind behaviour is due to the demons their parents or school peers have and nothing to do with themselves. I have worked with many lovely individuals who do not believe they are lovable.

  • If someone does believe this, how will they behave on a first date with someone they are attracted to? What will they notice? What will they fail to notice? It might be that the conversation faulters. A person who believes they are unlovable then may jump to the conclusion that their date is bored or does not like them. Or it may be that the date says they must go on somewhere else. Again, it is likely this will be interpreted as a negative whereas it may be a negative and it also might just be that the date is telling the truth, and it does not mean they have not enjoyed themselves.

Top tip: If we believe we are unlovable ideally what we should do on a first date is hold on to the idea that maybe we are wrong and maybe someone will think we are fine just as we are. There are many strategies for us to be able to do this but just remember that beliefs are not necessarily the truth.


Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias

What if we believe we are unlucky in love when dating?

Depending on our experience in life, we will approach dating in different ways. If we have a good sense of self and have always been lucky with our dating experience, then we will have a very different belief about the outcome of a date in comparison to those who feel they have been unlucky in love.

 

  • If we have been lucky in love and a date does not go well, we might move quickly on to the next date without too much heartache. If, on the other hand, we have been unlucky in love and our date does not go well, we may take this as further evidence we are unlucky in love and may then assume we will never meet anyone. This might affect our behaviour, for example, we may stop trying to meet someone. I have worked with many people who have been without a partner for long periods of time and taken this as 'evidence' that they are unlucky in love when it was more likely that they were alone because they made little or no effort to meet anyone.

  • Another example is that when our date does not suggest a further meeting either at the end of the first date, or they do not get in touch the next day. If we believe we are unlucky in love, we might take this as further evidence. If then the date gets in touch a day or a few days later, we might respond in an unhelpful way.

Top tip: if you believe you are unlucky in love, you might feel there is no point in trying. Remember the best way to find love is to meet as many single people as you possibly can.


Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias

It is often the case that we belief we need to lose weight, get a new job, improve ourselves in some way before embarking on dating.


I have heard time and again the idea that we need to look or be our best before embarking on dating: I need to lose those extra kgs, or I need to get over XYZ, or I need to change my career before I begin. The trouble with this is that it might be that someone likes you just the way you are, or it might be they help you to get over XYZ, or it might be they don’t care what job you do but admire your ambition. I do not advocate that you should look for someone to help you to get over XYZ, you should try to do that yourself but maybe dating will give the distraction needed to feel better or the impetus to lose those extra kgs or take up exercise.

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