Bear with me here, I’m about to quote Jane Austen.
“Perhaps I did not always love him so well as I do now; but in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable.”
And according to recent studies from Northwestern University, Ms. Austin is completely correct.
It’s an often-repeated truism that successful relationships require a certain level of trust. There are probably a handful of reasons that this statement can be true, but one in particular was recently highlighted by four research studies. As it turns out, people with high levels of trust in their partners downplay the number and severity of their better half’s transgressions.
In four separate studies, researchers had participants log their feelings and thoughts about fights, arguments, squalls, etc., that they had with their romantic partner as soon as they occurred. Several months later, they were then asked to recall these events and their feelings about them. Time and again, those who scored highly on measures of trust remembered these spats as less troublesome after a long period of time.
You may say that time simply heals all wounds, but that wasn’t found to be the case in the opposite set of circumstances. Those who scored low on the trust scale seemed to remember their fights as being worse than they initially scored them.
As I covered in a previous post, every time you remember something, there’s the chance that your memory is slightly distorted. And that distortion then becomes permanently locked as part of that recollection. So the next time you summon it, the distorted view is what comes to mind. If you do this enough times, your memory becomes warped so that you believe the altered version now stored in your mind to be true. It stands to reason that the more you trust your partner, the better they come off in your memories each time you think about them.
“One of the ways that trust is so good for relationships is that it makes us partly delusional,” said Eli J. Finkel, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Northwestern.
But in this case, being partly delusional is a good thing.
The paper, “Trust and Biased Memory of Transgressions in Romantic Relationships,” was published in the journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Finkel, lead author Laura Luchies, assistant professor of psychology at Redeemer University College, Jennifer Wieselquist; Caryl E. Rusbult of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Madoka Kumashiro of Goldsmiths, University of London; and Paul W. Eastwick of the University of Texas at Austin.