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The Wife's Gigabyte Memory

May 9, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

Elephants are famous for their memories. Among human beings, there's nothing like a wife.

In the animal kingdom, elephants are famous for their memories. Among human beings, there's nothing like a wife. Every social faux pas, every missed birthday, every fight, is stored up inside, available to be trotted out on "appropriate" occasions.

An ill-advised comment, a chore left unfinished, an extra business trip... we have plenty of megabytes for all this data. We amass a list of grievances from the petty to the large and we cleverly use them "as needed" against our hapless spouses.

Like all gifts, memory can be used for positive purposes -- or for negative ones. Storing up a list of our husbands' mistakes, diligently adding to the list as new errors arise may be an innate skill, but its use in this forum is only destructive.

One of the keys to successful relationships is to stop dwelling on the past and to move forward into the future. "Maybe I shouldn't have made that comment; I'll try not to from now on." It seems to be much easier for men to move on. Like a football game where brutal tackles are following by hand-shaking and hugs, many men are able to keep their emotions a little more disengaged, to not invest every interaction with disproportionate importance. (A gift is not a symbol of the whole relationship; it's just a gift.)

Let go and move on.

The evidence is only experiential and anecdotal but observe your friends. Do you notice that women tend much more to bear to a grudge, to nurture it and strengthen it? This is destructive to all relationships but none more so than marriage.

We all make plenty of mistakes. Daily. Hourly. No relationship can survive being called to account for every infraction.

There are two possible strategies for dealing with these regular struggles. And one possible piece of advice. Let go and move on.

If the complaints are of a minor nature -- a phone call that didn't come, a (still) unchanged light bulb, a bounced check, even a forgotten anniversary (the ability to remember dates is not an essential qualification for being a good husband) -- forget about it. It's just not a big deal. Don't invest it with inappropriate emotion or significance. (There are really big problems out there in the world). Let go and move on.

If the complaints are of a more serious nature, discuss them. Work through them. Then let go and move on.

Do not keep raising old issues. (There will be plenty of new ones!) Every one deserves a fresh start. (Don't you want one?!)

Marriage is challenging. We add to that effort by holding on to past grievances. We hurt ourselves, our spouses, and our marriages. (We also violate the commandment not to bear a grudge). It may be a too-perky platitude but "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." Of the rest of your marriage. Let's go forwards, not backwards.

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