Think of your memory as an inconvenient friend who shows up just in time to wreck everything.
We also tend to overestimate our abilities to remember things, as one study shows (so the next time a brilliant idea comes to you in the middle of the night, write it down ASAP).
Other studies have pointed out that simply recalling memories leads your brain to start changing and distorting them, even if you don’t consciously realize it.
This is basically to say that even when you think things are generally going pretty great, your memory is waiting backstage in the wings to assure you that, in fact, things are not great at all.
One way your memory does this is by playing tricks on you when you’re in a relationship and making you think you were happier when you were single.
British organization School of Life, which helps people develop emotional intelligence, breaks it down in a video like this: Whenever you have a fight or a disagreement with your significant other, your mind starts to recall the halcyon memories of days past when you were single — even if, in reality, those days weren’t so rose-colored.
Your power of recall has a big impact on how you assess your current situation though, which is why in the middle of a fight with your current girlfriend, you’re drawn to remembering the good times you had as a single man...while conveniently ignoring the moments when you were single and miserable.
The reverse tends to happen when you’re single. (In the words of Pitbull, “The grass is always greener on the other side until you get to the other side.")
As the video points out, if you were able to see an objective video of your life, you’d be able to realize that being single was probably a lot like being in a relationship: sometimes great, sometimes good, and sometimes really hard or sad.
The good news is that being aware of how unreliable your memory is can actually be helpful when it comes to your relationships, because it hopefully allows you to keep some perspective.
Whether you're happier single or coupled up, it’s a good idea once in a while to step outside yourself and assess how things are really going -- just make sure you're not only looking back at the highlight reel when you do so.