Why We Get So Mad When Our Partner Forgets What We Said

We Get Mad When Our Partners Forget What We've Told Them

As a counselor, I often intervene with couples when they start to argue about who said what and who remembers what, because that conversation can sometimes turn into a fight. I usually go into some sort of education to help them understand that they each have different brains, life experiences, and ways of receiving, storing, and processing information.

This conversation helps reduce some of the tension, and then we can continue our work in the session. But recently I fell victim to feeling so violated, because my husband did not remember something I had told him three times!

Some of Us Get Upset When We Don’t Feel Listened To

It can be exasperating when we don't feel listened to.

I remember him asking me about a concert I was going to. Each time I talked with him about the concert I told him who I was going with. And each time he acted like it was the first time he had heard this information. So last night, after a long day—and maybe I was tired and had little energy to find my kindness—I reminded him again about the concert I was going to attend and again he asked as if for the first time, “Who are you going with?” Well when I heard the question, and for the third time, I blew.

“I have already told you three times. I can’t believe you don’t remember this!” He got all offended and then we had a standoff. I got really angry and told him that when he doesn’t remember the details of my life I feel he isn’t interested in me. I feel unimportant. Well, I said something like that but it might not have sounded so succinct, because I was pretty mad.

We Might Even Blow Up When We Feel Unheard

And then I got ready to leave the room and go upstairs to just be away from him. When he gets mad I can feel his anger resonating from his body. He doesn’t say anything, but you sure know it is happening. So I told him, “Say something!” He replied, “What do you want me to say? I am just sitting here.”
So I reply, “I can feel that you are mad. I am going upstairs. I am leaving. I don’t want to be around you.” I grab my books and leave. I get ready for bed, and while washing my face I start to feel bad about how I handled everything and I know that I am going to go downstairs and apologize to him. And then I do.

We Try to Remember the “Important Things,” Even If That Means Different Things to Each of Us

We All Remember "Important" Things; We Just Define "Important" Differently

“I am sorry for getting angry. I am sorry.” He waits for a moment and then he says, “You know, sometimes some of the information is just like static, not that vital. But I remember the important things.” And then he asked me about a detail he told me earlier in the evening about his job the next day. He asked me if I remembered the detail. I hadn’t. Then he said, “It happens to all of us. That was a little harsh: what you said about me not being interested in your life. That’s not true. It’s just the static we live with.”

And then I felt the understanding that I try and teach others in my counseling sessions, and I realized for a moment I too felt the sting of feeling left out. I know he did not forget something to just teach me a lesson or to remind me that he is not interested in my life. He did not remember something because his way of being in his brain and receiving information is different from mine.

Even if Our Partner Forgets, It Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Love Us

If he was going to a concert without me, I know I would absolutely want to know and remember who he would be with. But his brain will remember the location, the date of the concert, and who will be performing. We just receive and remember different details. No one’s wrong. We are both right.

Maybe that’s what we all do. It is OK. It doesn’t mean our partner doesn’t love us. I know that now. I really know that now.

Bring Simple Joy to Your Relationship

Read a Book About Relationships

'Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship.' A book by Linda Nusbaum.

Can’t make it on Monday? Learn how to improve communication and feel heard in your relationship by reading Linda’s book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. You might learn how to better understand how your partner thinks, communicate more clearly, and feel more listened to and included in your relationship. Give it a read.

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Come in for couples counseling. Couples counseling can help you and your loved one get the most out of your relationship. It'll equip you with coping strategies and tools for communication that can help you argue less and love more.

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