Do you want to focus on Past Hurts or Present Hurts? (Part 1 of 4)

The invitation with this difference is discerning the importance of how spouses view time in your marriage. When you got married, both you and your spouse began a journey of time together viewing the future with much excitement. As the weeks, months and years have gone by, memories get built into the marriage. It is easy for couples to sit down and recall various events, both good and bad, of what happened to both of you in the past and the experience you two have had together. As you know, some events bring about trauma or hurtful memories of what your spouse said or did that today still brings up emotional hurts for you. In the same way, some events from your past bring about pleasure, meaning and happiness for the two of you in looking back over the time you two have been married.

Kenny Rodgers wrote and sang about time and years in a marriage in his song “Through the Years.” Listen to the words: “I can’t remember when you weren’t there, when I didn’t care for anyone but you. I swear, we’ve been through everything there is, Can’t imagine anything we’ve missed, Can’t imagine anything the two of us can’t do. Through the years, you’ve never let me down, you turned my life around, the sweetest days I’ve found, I’ve found have been with you. Through the years, I’ve never been afraid, I’ve loved the life we’ve made, and I’m so glad we’ve stayed, right here with you, through the years.”

Hopefully, the goal of all our marriage is to repeat and say what Kenny Rodgers sang to his wife as a reminder for him how happy he has been by staying with her through the years. A marriage has many memories, both good and bad, through the years based upon both good and bad experiences spouses experience together. The challenge is to create more good than bad memories so that at the end of the years together, each spouses can say I too am glad we have stayed together through the years.

I am not sure where you are at in the reading this book regarding how many years you have had married to your spouse. The challenge, in understanding this difference, is when presently a problem or crisis comes up, does one spouse tend to focus on the past pointing out bad memories, while one spouse tends to focus on the present wanting to currently solve this problem? So, when you approach your spouse to talk to them about a conflict, how quick do you notice in either your spouse or in you, returning back to memories or stories from the past as a strategy or get back at them? What is that like for you?

As you know, we all have a past. In general, some spouses presently tend to stay focused on hurts, anger, resentment and the memories from the past. What has happened is the past has not been resolved in their mind or heart and they continue to get stuck presently remembering what their spouse did to them. They may start to think and reflect about how people have disappointed them, neglected them, have been abusive with their words or actions, and they find themselves just going over and over in their minds what happened in the past.

As you know, police detectives and crime investigators want to focus on the past to figure out who did it and how did it happen and what events led to a crime. A good detective will focus on past events like looking at a puzzle in wanting to put the pieces together so that the crime makes sense. There are many television shows and movies and stage plays all focused on who did it, investigating the crime, putting someone on trial to figure out if they are innocent or guilty, and lots of focus on the past as a way to make sense of it. In some ways this is all good, in remembering the bad past for the sake of not repeating it. The past can be something to learn from.

But when it comes to our marriage, how much time does the marriage spend on the history or the past focusing on what you did or didn’t do and how this event or that hurt today still hurts not only the spouse but also the marriage? It is one thing to have a conversation about 9-11 each year remembering this horrible day and the fallout and tragedy of lives killed due to this event. But it is another thing in our marriage to talk about what happened last year when their spouse failed them, hurt or disappointed them and now the present is triggering old and past feelings and hurts that have not been resolved. A marriage gets stuck when one spouse still feels the rawness and freshness of an old wound from a year ago, and both spouses need to process and heal this old wound so it does not presently affect your current marriage.