Beware Of 'Commitment Bias'


We all make mistakes—a poor choice that seemed like a good one at the time; a rash decision that was made because it was the more convenient option, not the best one. Some are easy to rectify. And some are so scary to act upon, we do nothing to change the situation out of fear of losing the time, energy, hope, and effort we put into our decision.


With the hundreds of small yet character- and lifestyle-defining choices we make every day —from what time to get up, to what to wear, to what projects to prioritize, to whether to lunch on salad or chicken fingers—what happens when a big decision like who to partner with turns out to be a mistake?


We all enter relationships hoping we’ve found someone who really *gets* us, and that we have enough commonalities to enjoy a deep partnership. When we realize we may have been wrong...we often feel that the loss of energy, hope, and effort we put into our decision is too great to change our path, so we stay where we are despite knowing better.


Enter “commitment bias”: a well-known psychological condition that allows us to justify our decisions, and make it easier to tolerate choices we’ve made, even if what we chose is no longer right for us. 


(Stop. Re-read that again. Because commitment bias is such a powerful human condition, if you’re unaware of it, you could find yourself in stuck in a relationship for years you will never get back.)


Commitment bias encourages us to continue supporting a decision we believe is a mistake, even when we actively experience negativity from it, because our brains and hearts suppress our better judgement due to the time and energy we have already invested in the situation. It’s something that happens all the time. (Ever order a bad meal but decide to “just enjoy it” because it’s easier than asking for another dish? How about keep a gym membership despite never going because it’s easier?) And it is at its most serious when we justify staying in unhealthy relationships for the sake of ease (or someone else's comfort).


It can be hard work finding a compatible partner to spend the rest of your life with; and when we do find that person, sometimes, we let our fear of being alone drive us to forgive the faults we've discovered in our partner as we compromise our standards in hopes that they'll either eventually prove to be good enough, or they will change over time. Said another way...commitment bias undermines #ConsciousCompatibility. It tries to convince you to stay in your relationship; to "give it time" and that things aren’t really so terrible. Commitment bias encourages you to stay in negative situations longer than you should.


It’s hard to admit when we’ve made a mistake about who we’ve coupled with (and, conversely, it’s one of the most forgiving and open-hearted things we can accept hearing from our partner if they are the one who is realizing that we are not their one-and-only) but it's one of the most crucial admissions we can make for our future happiness. When a relationship ends, it doesn’t always mean you don’t (or didn’t) love each other; it meant your compatibility ratio wasn't meant for long-term success. And it'll either be a matter of time before the relationship runs its course, or a matter of your own willpower to continue ignoring your happiness.


So, beware of commitment bias. Teach yourself to recognize it in those hundreds of small everyday circumstances (when you start to see this bias in small situations, it becomes easier to spot it in the big life situations). And, become more aware of your tendencies toward this psychological instinct simply by giving it a name; recognizing it when it happens; and making small, safe decisions that honor that nagging voice in your head so you won't compromise your needs. Over time, you'll elevate your innate awareness and (hopefully) make fewer mistakes. You’ll find that over time, you’ll get more of what you want, and aren’t compromising your needs as much. And if you do make a mistake, you'll have the strength to admit it sooner than later before the word “regret” ever enters your view.