Has your partner forgotten the date of your anniversary or birthday? Does he or she deny having said words that you know he or she said? Does he or she not remember that important dinner at which you made up?

If these situations sound familiar, it’s possible that your romantic partner is suffering from relational amnesia.

This is a common phenomenon that can happen to anyone and is due to different causes. However, it is also the origin of many arguments between couples. If it is misunderstood or occurs too often, it ends up deeply affecting the bond. What does it consist of and how to handle it?

What is relational amnesia?

Relational amnesia consists of a systematic forgetfulness of moments, events or situations that are significant for the other partner. Thus, a person could forget relevant dates, shared experiences that have been important or conversations that were transcendental for the relationship.

It does not have to be only about extraordinary experiences such as a special trip or a concert, it can also refer to everyday moments. In the same way, not only positive situations can be forgotten, but also arguments or more unpleasant scenes.

In short, one of the partners has problems remembering that which for the other has an important emotional charge. For the same reason, those who remember perfectly cannot understand how their partner could have forgotten it.

What are the causes of relational amnesia?

The origins of relational amnesia are not always the same. To understand where it comes from, it is necessary to analyze other behaviors and dynamics of the relationship that guide us in one direction or another. Even so, here are the most common causes.
Different perspectives

This is one of the most frequent reasons why relational amnesia appears; and it is that each partner processes, feels and lives the moments in a different way. For the same reason, their memory is not the same. That is to say, what for one person may be a transcendent conversation or event, for the other may not be so important, and vice versa.

Each person may value and prioritize different moments, or even interpret the same situation differently. Thus, the memory of both will differ and this can lead to arguments. Perhaps neither (or both) is right in their account, as each has experienced it in his or her own way.

Lack of attention and commitment

Sometimes this lack of recall stems from a lack of interest. If the relationship has fallen into routine, if the person lives it automatically and with his or her mind elsewhere, it is more difficult for the memories of each moment to be encoded in his or her mind, as he or she will not be paying attention.

It has also been found that emotions play a fundamental role in the consolidation of memory and that the information we associate with an intense emotion is easier to store and retrieve.

For this reason, if the person’s feelings have faded and he or she lives the moments with a partner only as a habit, his or her memory will fail more often.

Personality traits

Having different personalities is also associated with relational amnesia. In cases where one person tends to remember everything and the other tends to forget, it is common for the former to exhibit neurotic traits and the latter to live very much in the present.

Thus, for the former it will be essential to remember every word and experience, and he/she will take it as an offense if his/her partner does not. On the contrary, the latter will be more focused on the day to day and will give less importance to what happened in the past.

However, dissatisfaction in relationships and neuroticism are related, so the discomfort will become apparent sooner rather than later.

Emotional manipulation

Finally, we cannot rule out that this apparent lack of recall is a strategy of emotional manipulation. Claiming not to remember something can be a tool to evade responsibility, invalidate what the other person says and obtain a benefit.

Moreover, if practiced systematically, this can lead to the partner ending up doubting his or her own judgment and being at the mercy of the other. This is known as gaslighting.

What are the consequences of relational amnesia in the couple?

The consequences of relational amnesia in the couple are different for each partner. The one who usually remembers may feel offended, hurt and despised by the forgetfulness of the other. They may feel that their partner does not take them into account, that they do not appreciate or value their time together and that they are not a priority in their life.

On the other hand, the person with amnesia may feel pressured, demanded and harassed by the constant reproaches of the other. Accusations of lack of love or commitment on the part of the partner can be painful and offensive, which also leads to numerous conflicts and arguments.

What can we do about it?

The measures that can be taken in this case depend on what the cause is. In order to identify it, it is necessary to take into account a broader context. If it is a lack of attention or commitment, this attitude will be visible in other facets of the relationship. This will also be true in the case of manipulation.

In these situations, it is advisable to assess the situation and consider leaving the relationship to protect one’s integrity. Seeking professional help is key to discerning what the best options are.

On the other hand, if relational amnesia is perceived because the personalities or perspectives of the two are different, other aspects of the couple will function adequately. In this case, communication and flexibility will be crucial.

It is essential to keep in mind that just because a person does not remember the same moments as you – or in the same way – does not mean that he or she does not love you or value the bond. So, do not force the other person to process, interpret and feel as you do.


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