Don’t you just love when your significant other brings up issues from the past and throws them back in your face?! NO! Of course not!

Today we’ll talk about what happens when you bring up the past in an argument and then give you 3 tips on how to keep the past from poisoning your relationship in the present. Learn how to use the past productively and avoid upset. 

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If we look back at ANY long-term relationship, most likely, we will see mistakes, hurt, and broken promises.  Making mistakes is part of being human! 

No relationship is free from this. However, it is what you DO with it that counts!

I have often seen couples turn a small argument into a BIG one because someone just had to dredge up something from the past. That makes an already tough conversation even HARDER to resolve.

Here’s an example: Your partner always shows up late. Maybe once they were late to a very important dinner with your family, and it caused a massive fight between you! So now, whenever they are late, you bring it up again!

Now I understand this can be tricky because sometimes we need to address past issues to fix the argument you’re having right now. But if you do it the wrong way, you will have an EVEN BIGGER problem.

Here are 4 things that will happen when you bring up the past in a destructive way during an argument. 

Let’s say your partner shows up late again, and you bring up that one family dinner:

1. You open up the option for both of you to reinforce your point with past information. You get more stuck in your position. 

2. Defenses go up as you poke past pain points. So now you’re both on edge and less receptive to hearing what the other person is actually saying.

3. You can’t change past events; therefore, it introduces guilt into the equation. This tactic can be a manipulative way to get your point across and can be very detrimental to your relationship in the long run. 

4. Constantly holding onto past behavior that you’ve ALREADY addressed will only alienate your significant other. For example, they may have considered the issue resolved and thought that your relationship was going well, only to find out that it’s not true! 

All these dynamics will make the conversation harder because now more elements are in the mix. So it’s not REALLY just about the fact that they were late. 


Here’s the thing: while you are correct, you need to recognize the BEST time to address this past pattern. Don’t try to do everything at once. When you’re fighting, resolve your current issue first and then handle the rest later. 

Once you’ve both calmed down, maybe you can bring the issue up in a productive way.

Here are 3 tips for handling the past productively WITHOUT creating a big fight: 

1. Ask permission to give feedback. 

Trust me. It will help!! Even just saying something like, “Hey, can we talk about what happened the other day so that it doesn’t happen again?” 

2. Be solution focused. 

Don’t just point out the problem and run away. You actually need to be a part of creating the solution.

3. If and when it feels resolved, let it go.

I know this is hard, but if you don’t release the upset, you can’t move forward!

For example: Let’s say you stood me up, absolutely forgot to meet me somewhere, and we talked about it, and up until now, you’ve done better. Most people would probably agree that we resolved the problem.

Now, if I throw the time you stood me up back in your face every time we make a plan, “You aren’t gonna stand me up again, are you?” How’s that feel? Even if I’m joking, it probably doesn’t make you feel terrific or treat you like you’ve grown.

::Disclaimer:: None of us are perfect. Thus, your partner may BE LATE AGAIN. If this happens, it does not mean they have gone back to old habits. You can be upset at their lateness NOW, without bringing up the past. People make mistakes; it’s what they do with those mistakes and what they learn from them that matters.

Want to create better communication in your relationship? Grab a spot in my free Masterclass – How to Communicate: Relationship Edition!

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