Want a Never-Ending Valentine’s Day? Rewire Your Relationship Brain!

You’ve been looking forward all week to watching the movie you had delivered magically to your TV, and tonight’s the night! You get comfy in your favorite chair, popcorn and soda at hand, and flick on the remote.

About a third of the way into the movie, you realize it’s awful! You don’t like the plot, you can’t relate to the characters, the movie looks like it was shot by a computer-illiterate third grader. What do you do? You turn it off. You don’t sit there, forcing yourself to watch it through to the end, nor do you even consider the idea of watching it over and over again. You just plain turn it off, sigh, and move on to something more worthwhile.

So why, after you’ve had a disagreement, conflict, argument or fight with your sweetheart, do you persist in replaying it over and over again? Why, once it’s over, won’t you let go of it? Why do you feel the need to rehash the fight with friends or family, or at the very least, inside your own mind? And every time you review it, you feel worse about the event, whether it’s worse about yourself and your own reactions, or worse about your mate.

You turn the movie off, why won’t you turn the argument off?

Survival. Ingrained habits. The human brain’s hard-wiring which pays more attention to danger than we do to good news. It’s one of the ways that we assure the continuation of the species. Last time you went out hunting mastodons alone you discovered that size really does make a difference; next time you took along your posse. And you tell your “never alone again” tale to your tribe, paint it on your walls, and repeat it as your nightly mantra. Phew. Survival assured.

However, when it comes to thriving, happy relationships, the inability to turn off the bad movie hurts us far more than it helps us.

Whatever you fought about is usually easy to figure out: for example, she spent too much, he won’t help with the kids. But re-running the fight in your mind or speaking it repeatedly to others doesn’t resolve the issue. It just makes you feel bad and keeps you stuck in the problem.

Instead, give your beloved the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift: rewire your brain. Focus yourself in the direction of what will work, not what didn’t. Don’t re-hash the fight with anyone, including yourself, and don’t throw it in his or her face when the next disagreement comes up.

Let it go. Focus on the solution: she spent too much? How can we, together, as a couple, work out a budget that we can agree to and honor? He won’t help with the kids: what’s in the way? What can we sort out together so that child-rearing chores are more manageable for both of us?

No solution ever emerged from re-hashing. Give yourself peace of mind, and your relationship a tremendous boost into happiness, by the simple expedient of walking out of the bad movie, whether it’s the one on the screen, or the one playing in your mind. 

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