Relational amnesia: my partner forgets important things

If your partner forgets important moments in the relationship, you may feel offended and belittled. We will tell you what relational amnesia is and how it affects relationships.

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: January 11, 2022

Did your partner forget your anniversary or birthday date? Does he deny having uttered words that you know he uttered? Don’t you remember that important dinner at which you reconciled? If these situations are familiar to you, your partner may have relational amnesia.

This is a common phenomenon that can happen to anyone and it has different causes. However, it is also the origin of multiple couple arguments. If it is misinterpreted or occurs too frequently, it ends up profoundly affecting the bond. What does it consist of and how to handle it?

What is relational amnesia?

Relational amnesia consists of a systematic forgetting of moments, events or situations that for the other part of the couple are significant. 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 just about extraordinary experiences such as a special trip or a concert, it can also refer to everyday moments. In the same way, it not only happens with positive situations, but more unpleasant discussions or scenes can also be forgotten.

Definitely, one of the members of the couple has trouble remembering what for the other has a significant emotional load. For this reason, those who remember perfectly cannot understand how their partner may have forgotten them.

Relational amnesia can lead to conflict for the couple.

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. Still, here are the most common causes.

Different perspectives

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

Everyone can value and prioritize different moments, or even interpret the same situation differently. In this way, the memory of both will differ and this can lead to arguments. Perhaps neither (or both) is right in their story, since each one has lived it in their own way.

Lack of attention and commitment

Sometimes this lack of memory stems from a lack of interest. If the relationship has fallen into a routine, if the person lives it automatically and with his mind elsewhere, it’s harder for memories to be encoded in your mind every moment, for you will not be paying attention.

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

For this reason, if the feelings of the person have faded and he lives the moments as a couple only as a habit, his memory will fail more often.

Personality traits

Having different personalities is also associated with relational amnesia. In cases where one person usually remembers everything and the other tends to forget, it is common for the first has neurotic traits and the second usually lives very much in the present.

In this way, for the first one it will be essential to remember every word and experience, and it will be an offense that your partner does not do it. On the contrary, the second will be more focused on the day to day and will give less importance to what happened in the past.

Nevertheless, 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 memory is a strategy of emotional manipulation. Claiming that something is not remembered can be a tool to evade responsibility, invalidate what the other person is saying, and make a profit.

Also, if practiced systematically, This can lead to the couple doubting their own judgment and that is at the mercy of the other. It is what is known as gaslighting.

In some relationships, one partner pretends not to remember relevant events for the sole purpose of manipulating the other.

What consequences does relational amnesia have on the couple?

The consequences of relational amnesia in the couple are different for each member. Those who usually remember can feel offended, hurt and despised by the forgetfulness of the other. You may feel that your partner does not take you into account, that you do not appreciate or value your moments together, and that it is not a priority in your life.

On your side, The person with amnesia may feel pressured, demanded and harassed by the continuous reproaches of the other. Accusations of a 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. To identify it, it is necessary to take into account a broader context. If it is inattention or commitment, this attitude will be visible in other facets of the relationship. Something that will also happen in the case of manipulation.

In these situations, you may want to assess the situation and consider leaving the relationship to protect your integrity. Seeking professional help is key to discerning the best options.

On the other hand, if relational amnesia is perceived because the personalities or perspectives of both are different, other aspects of the couple will work well. In this case, communication and flexibility will be decisive.

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

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