How Can You Forget Bad Memories ?

How Can You Forget Bad Memories ?

Postby StarTour » Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:39 pm


This is my first post. It's nice to meet everyone!

I was wondering if anyone had success helping their wife forget "bad memories". In Dr. Scott's book he said women have a tendency to remember negative experiences - "for however long it takes".

My wife and I have been married 18 years. We've had some angry fights with me yelling. She's a type A personality, not a meek soul! Lol. She blames those fights for her feeling distant and not wanting to be as intimate.

It sort of blows me away as we apologized each time. I am able to put it behind me. She isn't. We have since lived our lives together. We had three awesome kids, gone on many vacations, shared birthdays, anniversaries, wonderful times.

Still she just says she can't forget them. Yikes. Sure I could guess it's a bluff and there are really other reasons. But, she has said that down through time. If I just take this at face value, how can I ever escape from my past?! It just doesn't seem fair.

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Postby elizacol » Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:56 pm

Wow! This one hit close to home. I, too, am type A, and I, too, don't easily forget! It's something I'm working on.

Like your wife, even after apologies are shared, the argument/incident still afftects how I feel towards my H. Like I said, I am trying hard to be more forgiving/forgetting. By realizing I, myself, am not perfect, I have gotten better.

What I have found to work is that I've learned how to better treat my H (and he, I), and how to handle arguments more adult-like. Therefore, we get into less arguments and when we do argue, they aren't major fights, anymore, but rather, discussions.

As for the past...that one is difficult. Have you asked her? Have you told her how you feel? (Point blank, told her, not beat around the bush). Have you told her how it affects you? Does she realize that she isn't perfect, either? (A fault of mine...I used to think I was darn near perfect). :(

Just throwing things out there. Ultimately, it is she who is going to have to realize what she's doing. For me, it took my H leaving me for 3 weeks and 'emotionally connecting' with another woman for me to realize just what I was about to lose. Not fun. Not something I recommend, However, it did cause me to look within and make some very needed changes in my marriage.

Sometimes, it takes a wake up call. Most people cannot/are not able to change their core being. Because of that, I don't really have an answer for you. It is up to her to figure it out and change. How she goes about understanding the importance of that....I don't know.
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Postby StarTour » Sat Mar 06, 2010 1:00 pm

Hi elisacol, thanks for your reply.

I thought a lot about what you wrote. I think there was a major key in what you said: it is the inability to Forgive. Instead she's "holding on" the the hurt.

I know I can't always control what thoughts pop into my head. Some of them are negative. They can be about bad things people have done to me. But, I find if I have tried to "forgive" them, these memories don't hurt as bad. They're memories, but nothing is emotionally attached to them anymore. They're just facts with no feelings.

I'm not sure how to get my wife to this point.

In her case, she tends to be more drawn to "Judgment", instead of "Mercy".

Example: We watch a reality TV show together. On the show someone would make a minor screw up. She's say, "they should get fired". I'd say. "I wouldn't fire them for that". In the end, the boss wouldn't fire them and she'd say, "Wow I can't believe they didn't get fired"!

It has helped for me to see her "lack of forgiveness" aimed at others and not just me. Many examples but:

She is estranged from her three adult sisters and won't make up. Yes, they have their own problems, but one sent an apology letter in the mail after talking with her pastor. I told her to pick up the phone and call her sister. She said. "well I could be "magnanimous", but I just can't take the confrontation". She then dismissed it as a "form" letter, without any thought behind it.

She's such a paradox: very tender feelings on the inside, but tough as nails on the outside. A protective cover I guess.

The crux of our problem: She isn't physically affectionate. I need it a lot. When I don't get affection, not just sex, it messes me up and I act out.

Growing up I got lots of hugs from my parents. She didn't. No hugging or touching growing up. They were emotionally independent.

Then to compound it, she had a bad experience with her father. He propositioned her sexually in High School. She rejected it, but it did it's damage. It sent her into a tailspin. I think I may have paid for that some how for the past 18 years, but what can I do about that now? Any ideas?

So she has little need for hugging, touching, kissing. She won't initiate. I feel rejected. She'll just sit on the other end of the couch. She's just being herself. I'd like more closeness.

What have I done since my last post?

I decided to take the blame for what I have done wrong in the marriage and formally apologize. I took ownership for my faults. I decided to remove my mistakes from the equation.

Last weekend we were both home alone and I apologized to her formally for all I have done to hurt her. Told her this wasn't the way I wanted it to be when I asked her to marry me 18 years ago. I just wanted to make her happy. And I said I would stop my yelling, getting emotional.

I then specifically asked her to forgive me. Not to put her on the spot, but to make it official. She said I might not like her reply, but she wanted to wait and see if I could keep my end of the bargain. <smile>

I realize also:

I had slipped into unhealthy patterns of living when trying to make myself happy. Some of these I know had negative side effects.

Example: I was staying up too late downstairs on the weekends, drinking too much when I was up late, sleeping in and not being engaged in family events in the morning.

I quit drinking. She never drank and that was a source of conflict when I did. I started going to bed earlier, started getting up early, and have gotten more involved in Saturday morning family events.

So I've apologized and changed some of my destructive behaviors. I'm now trying to stay light and funny. Not heavy anymore. I'm not sure what my wife will do, but at least I feel like I'm now headed in a more positive direction for me ~ and my family.
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Memories for Emotional Events in Intimate Relationships

Postby socialdistortion » Thu May 20, 2010 9:03 am

Dear StarTour,

Your question of ‘how to forget bad memories’ quickly got my attention. There are actually three different types of memories- Semantic, Procedural and Episodic. Semantic memories are the mental dictionary we all have of everything we know, such as our birthdays, our names, dates, even characteristics of other people. Anything you can define or describe gets entered into your semantic memory. Procedural memories include the ability to perform actions that have been previously learned (riding a bicycle, flipping an omelet, skateboarding). Anything you can physically perform is included into your procedural memory. Episodic memories are memories of very specific ‘episodes’ that occurred in our lives (our 21st birthday, a child’s birth, a really bad fight). When a person talks about trying to forget a memory it is typically episodic in nature (something traumatic that they want to erase).

There is absolutely no way to erase a memory. However over time memories can decay, especially for an episodic memory trace, such as an intense argument. In reading your post, I would actually define the memory that you want to erase (or replace) as more semantic in nature aggregated from many episodes of conflict. What you really want is to have your wife replace her mental definition of you and your many faults and replace it with the new person you are striving to be. This can only be done over time as the ‘old definition’ of who you are become replaced with the ‘new entry’ of who you have become.

When an event we have experienced first gets entered into the memory trace all typical (usual and expected) and atypical (unusual, trivial and unexpected) events are entered with it. Over time the atypical tags become forgotten and the memory is replaced with what best fits our script of what is expected to have occurred. Intense altercations are episodic in nature and if it is traumatic enough becomes what Cognitive Psychologist call ‘flashbulb memories’- which are vivid emotional memories for a shocking event. Flashbulb memories are almost impossible to erase as the person swears every detail is accurate. I do not think your fighting and conflict meets this criteria.

Overall, what I am trying to say is that there is no way to erase or replace your wife’s memory for a particular fight or period of time you have not gotten along, but you can replace your wife’s overall evaluation and definition of who you are as a husband with a positive one, through repeated exposure to encouraging, pleasurable experiences shared with you. Episodic memory traces for past altercations and conflict can indeed become less cognitively assessable and her semantic definition of who you are as a husband and partner can be changed. Good luck.
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Postby StarTour » Mon Jul 05, 2010 10:46 am

Social D.,

I can’t believe I just saw this post! Thank you so much for this excellent reply back in May. I wish I had seen it then. I appreciate the time and thought it took. I also appreciate the knowledge behind it as it helps me understand so much more about the human memory. It also gives me hope that in time, after continual patterns of right behavior, a relationship can improve.

I would be lying if to say it’s been easy. In my mind: I don’t get the affection I need from my wife, I get grumpy about it (for years), and now she tired of it, says I’m an abuser, she’s a victim. Rhetorical Question: Is an alcoholic husband who is badgered by his wife to stop drinking the victim? But that’s just my selfish logic.

After five months my spouse is still cold and affection-less. Sometimes I lose hope and want to leave and find someone else. It hurts and I’m lonely.

Fortunately I haven’t. I’m trying to stick with my marriage. I have instead used this opportunity to grow personally. I have worked very hard to focus on what I have control over: myself and my attitude.

I pray, work out six days a week, read positive books, and try to learn something from you all. I spend more time with my kids and draw from them. I’ll keep going. I’ve even tried to change how I look at my situation and actually give thanks for this chance to become a better person.

It’s taken me five hard months to arrive at this next statement: At least I’m going the right direction in my life. No matter who is with me I will be where I’m supposed to be. I will be a better, more loving, mature person.

The future will be good no matter what happens.
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Postby elizacol » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:33 pm

Love your attitude, love the changes you've made.

You'll be ok, no matter what happens!

Best of luck to you!
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Postby advice88 » Sat Nov 19, 2011 1:04 pm

You want to help your wife forget about bad memories. It is not that easy for women because the negative things that are said to us or have happened to us tend to stay on our minds like Dr Scott has said. Women are very emotional and bad memories can make us angry and sad all at the same time. I also understand how this can be hurtful and unfair to you because it is like your living in the past and you just want to move forward in your marriage.
Communication is important in marriage. I learned that there are four communication patterns that are risk factors of a marriage not lasting. There is contempt, criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and belligerence. It is important that your wife and yourself can sit down and talk to each other about getting past things and leaving them there.
My advice to you would be to tell your wife how you feel. Tell her how you feel like your living in the past. Married people are going to fight, it is natural but at some point you have to move forward. Let her know how it is affecting you. Also listen to her when she states how she feels about the whole situation. It is important for both of you to talk to one another and listen.
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Re: How Can You Forget Bad Memories ?

Postby Brandi24 » Tue Dec 04, 2012 5:07 pm

From reading your post, you have been married for 18 years. You have multiple fights which lead you to yell a lot. Your wife blames herself for the fights all the time. You are able to put the fights behind you but your wife isn’t. You want to try to escape your past and help your wife forget.

There are different types of memories. According to Dr. Misiurski in the long term memory there are three different types of memories. The episodic memory is the memory which keeps events that have happened before inside. Any past events or issues that are harming to someone will stay inside the memory for a long amount of time. This memory stays in episodic memory due to maintenance rehearsal, thinking about it over and over again. Also flashbulb memory, when things occur the brain connects it to similar things.

Your wife keeps all your fights in her episodic memory. When you guys fight her flashbulb memory brings up past a fight which doesn’t help the fact she can’t forget. She always uses maintenance rehearsal, recalls all the fights and goes over it in her head. It can go away and be forgotten if it doesn’t come up a lot. The long term memory eventually forgets if it doesn’t get rehearsed.

Your best choice is to try not to fight. Show her the good in you. You can compromise with her on certain things instead of arguing. There doesn’t need to be an argument all the time. Also talk to your wife. Ask what she wants you do to help forget the fights. Don’t let issues bother you and try to see from her way. Would you want to be in a relationship where you have someone yelling at you? If she continues on this path and doesn’t try to get help of fix her problem then maybe she’s seeking to get a divorce or slip up. But stay positive she will forget and cope with it eventually.
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