how statistics can save your relationship

by lifeonaxis1

i remembered something i wanted to blahg about this morning which is a fucking miracle.  i haven’t been able to retrieve short term memories for almost a month now.  unless, of course, it’s fucking traumatic and then i can remember it just fine.  mostly.

you may have already read about my statistical analysis of the pros and cons from my last relationship.  indeed that is one way that statistics can help you make decisions when you find yourself lost in relationship fuckery confusion.  another way statistics can save your relationship is highly underutilized in my opinion.  it involves estimating the cost of being wrong.

no one likes to think they’re wrong.  of course, we’re all making decisions based on what we know at the time, right?  fair enough, but many of us don’t even leave any room for error.  and this can be a very, very grave mistake.

statistics helps us see what we cannot see with the plain eye, provided you know how to use them.  we can also use statistics to help us think about how to make decisions and what conclusions we can draw from those decisions.

say, for example, that you are XBF.  you have been thinking that you “doubt my doctor for prescribing me lithium, and me for taking it without a second opinion first”.  in other words, you doubt the possibility of me having this disorder.  and out of the kindness of your heart, you don’t want to “enable” me by providing support when i am “stressed in the middle of the night”.

so, you have a decision to make.  provide support or not.  in either case, you can be correct, or you can be wrong, and there is a possibility that you will NEVER KNOW whether you were correct or not.

in the case that you decide to provide support, and in reality I am in emotional distress and in need of support, then you have made the CORRECT decision.  everyone is happy, we all go home.  hooray.

on the other hand, you could decide to provide support, but the reality is I am overreacting (i guess is the implication?) and providing support will just fuel the fire.  In that case, your conclusion leads to a FALSE ALARM.  In statistics, we call this a Type I error and it’s the probability of concluding something is there (there is an effect, in stats lingo) when in fact it does not exist in reality (a population, in stats lingo).  so that is one possible error you could make.  and it may strain your relationship, especially depending on the number of times this has happened before.  but let’s say for the sake of this example that this is the first time you would be making such an error.

now, you can also decide NOT to provide support.  if you’ve decided this is the route you will take, and in reality I am overreacting, you have made the CORRECT choice.  assuming i am at least somewhat rational and level-headed, i will probably listen to what you have to say, quit whining, and knuckle up.

however, if you decide NOT to provide support, and the reality is that I am in emotional distress and in need of support, you have committed a Type II error, or a MISS.  In other words, you have failed to find something that is actually there.  now what have you done?  you have isolated someone you care about, broken trust, and increased emotional distress.  which blows for someone who has just been diagnosed with something like bipolar disorder which in itself is a disease that leaves its survivors more susceptible to STRESS.

so now:



i am pretty sure it doesn’t take graduate training in statistics to think about this shit.  i mean, i’m pretty sure i also would have erred on the side of caution.  i’m sure because that’s exactly what i DID do when XBF had health issues and i would take care of him for weeks at a time.

did i think he was being a big baby sometimes?  yes.

did i sometimes doubt his symptoms? sure.


because it was always more important for me to be there and be supportive and to encourage healthy behaviors that would result in fewer instances of his illnesses.  oh and one more reason…

because I’m not a DICK!