One particular problem I see being played out in my office over and over again is when a couple gets into a fight about something that happened in the past because they don’t remember it the same way. The biggest mistake people make in that situation is that they are trying to figure out exactly what happened.
Are You Wasting Time with Unnecessary Fighting?
Couples waste a lot of time arguing about the “objective truth” of the problematic event. For instance, John might have said something that really hurt Sally. This might have happened 10 years ago. John doesn’t have any memory of this, but Sally sure does. Instead of getting on with the business of fixing the injury, John and Sally are having a big argument about whether John actually said the hurtful thing or not. That’s a big mistake. A couple can argue forever about whether or not something actually happened and get absolutely nowhere.
Two Different People, Two Different Brains
The fact of the matter is that no two people are ever going to remember a single event the same way. The reason is that in a couple, you are dealing with two different brains, two different experiences and two different perceptions of reality.
What we know from the research is that our words, memories and perceptions are all inherently faulty. That means that the way we perceive and remember things and the way we talk about things are all being impacted by our past experience. What an individual finds scary and dangerous is based on things that happened to that person in the past. And that is going to affect the way that person perceives the present. That’s true for that individual’s partner as well.
The idea that any human being could ever figure out the “objective truth” really isn’t possible because we are always being impacted by our perceptions based on the past.
Distress-Relief is Paramount
What does that mean for your relationship?
What do you do when you are having a fight and you and your partner don’t remember things the same way?
The answer is to keep in mind what your job is as a couple. Your job is to create distress-relief in your relationship as quickly as you possibly can. You don’t want to get into a big, long drawn-out argument about whether this thing happened or that thing happened. You want to do whatever you can to relieve your partner’s distress as quickly as possible.
You Don’t Need to Be Sure You Messed Up in Order to Fix It
So in the case of John and Sally, John might ask himself something like this: “I don’t remember saying that hurtful thing to Sally. But is it possible that I could have said it? Yes. It’s possible, even thought I don’t remember.”
Even if John were to say this to Sally, it already helps provide a sense of distress-relief because he is acknowledge something that she is upset about. If it’s possible that John said the hurtful thing, then it certainly is important to apologize, even if he doesn’t remember for sure that he said it.
You would never want to say or do something that is so deeply hurtful to your partner and not do everything you need to do to repair it. Repair is part of what helps relieve distress in relationship.
Don’t Waster Valuable Energy and Goodwill on Never-Ending Fights
When you and your partner have two different ideas about something that happened and one of you is really hurt by it and you don’t remember it the same way, don’t make a big deal about it. Just acknowledge that you could have messed up and fix it. Right away. You will be so glad you did.
Get the Help You Two Need to Get Out of Conflict
If you and your partner are struggling with relationship problems and you are looking for someone to walk with you every step of the way to help you get out of pain, let’s connect on the phone to find out how I can help you get the results you want for your relationship much faster.
You can contact me at the number below or leave me your name and email below.
I look forward to speaking with you soon.
If you are interested in scheduling a free 30 minute consultation with me, click here.
For more information about Couples Therapy, click here.