Still Disagreeing About What Happened “Yesterday”? Stop Now!

One of the biggest problems in communication is when people continue to argue over things that happened in the past, recently or years ago. No where is it more bruising and destructive than in committed romantic relationships.

In practically every couple therapy session that I have one person will say that s/he is still upset about something the other person said or did. The other person will say that s/he is wrong. This or that was not said or done. “No way!” To which the other person says, “Yes, it was!”  Ad infinitum. Escalation continues. Tempers flare. Both are invested in their belief of the situation. Does anyone win? No. Does compromise happen? No.

People get invested in their perception. Get that? “Perception”. One definition I read stated that perception is “A way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.” Notice the definition said “a” way, not “the” way.  (I will never forget my first Scripture class in the seminary when the professor held up a book and said that the name of it was “A History of Israel”. Then he said, “Gentleman, note the title is “A history” … not “The history”. Point made.)

Perception is a SUBJECTIVE sensory experience. It is not objective. So-o-o, when someone states that this or that occurred, s/he is stating his or her subjective remembering of the situation. When people start arguing in my office about what had happened or said I ask them to stop talking. Then I ask if either of them brought with them the video or audio tape of this situation. Of course, they did not.

Then I say there will be no more mention of the who did or did not do what the other person says happened. Further discussion will focus on the needs and wants of each going forward and how to best communicate and effectuate such positive outcomes. The past cannot be changed and to continue to argue about it is destructive. Let it go, move on!

This moving on is hard for most individuals in this power exchange. S/he wants to be right, to be vindicated. Well, if one person needs to be “right”, then the other person needs to be “wrong”. And who wants that – nobody!

When such disagreements about the past need closure I ask each individual to say something like this, “I thought that’s what was said, maybe I am wrong” and the other person says the same. “Wiggle room” results with nobody having to “win” and a respectful communication allowing each to move on while letting go of needing to be “right”.


Respected Reader, may you do your best to not get caught up in the negative past. “You cannot go forward while looking back over your shoulder.” Maximize living in the present with an eye open to create a wonderful future. Respectful communication in this vein leads to more smiles and connectedness with the other person. Well worth this extra effort!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates




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