That’s not how I remember it

July 7, 2010

in Communication, Good Marriage

Ever tried to listen to a story told by someone who is repeatedly interrupted by his or her spouse “correcting” every other statement made? Then they get into an argument about who remembers it right, ending with one of them saying “whatever” or “that’s not how I remember it”. Most annoying is that the things being “corrected” usually don’t matter to the story. Don’t you dread those couples?

Ever been one of those couples? I’m just asking.

I confess I have tended towards this in the past. I’m doing that less and less as I learn more and more about how very poor our memories are. A dozen folks see something, and when you ask them about what they saw you will get a dozen different stories. The longer you after the event you ask, the greater the divergence of the recollections from the reality. Thing is, they will all insist they have remembered it right. Some folks are so stubborn that if you showed video of the event they remember incorrectly, they would accuse you of editing the video!

Our memories are often wrong, but our failure to understand that results in us thinking we are recalling things correctly – and everyone else is wrong. We think that clearly recalling something means we are correctly recalling it, and that’s just not the case. To put it into the context of marriage, if you and your bride remember something differently, the odds that you are right and she is wrong are less than 50% – way less. No, I’m not saying her memory is better than your memory – rather I am saying the odds are very good that you are both recalling the event inaccurately.

You can make your marriage a lot less stressful if you will accept that your memory is not as good as you think it is, and choose to act as if what you recall is not, necessarily, completely accurate. Then, when you and your bride remember something differently, don’t make a big deal about it. Maybe even let it slide without saying anything! (You could get really radical and assume that some of the time her memories are better than your memories.)

By the way, I am NOT advocating allowing your bride to exaggerate, mislead, or flat out lie. Letting her get away with such things is neither right, loving, nor in her best interest.

Read more: How Memories are Distorted and Invented: Misattribution is one in excellent series of articles on the ways our memories can fail us. The other articles are linked at the bottom of the page.

3 comments
Eric - BHF
Eric - BHF

Luckily, I've been blessed with a horrible memory. My wife corrects me all the time and all I can say is "thanks!" It does cause other problems, but disagreeing about a memory is not one of them - Shes right 99% of the time! .-= Eric - BHF´s last blog ..The Power of Talking =-.

Eleutheros
Eleutheros

I had to laugh with this one 'cause the part about 'remembering' is so like me! Really, it came as a genuine shock to me the day I realized that I was not recalling things accurately. My conlusions drawn were, of course, wrong and that meant that my reactions from those conlusions, seen publically, were not only wrong but embarassing. One of the hardest thing I ever learned to do with my ex was to listen to her, not just hear. I began to hear the differences in what I remembered and could then ask questions that would help me draw better conclusions. This also helped as I learned how to disconnect the 'buttons' wired in my mind that she used to be able to 'push' and get a (usually bad) reaction. And this thing I learned, for being carried into my current marriage, keeps me from taking things personally and thus acting like a jerk when she is more correct than I am in recalling things; for more often than not her recollections are, indeed, more accurate than mine. In fact, I have come to rely on her memory of things much more than on mine. She is, truly my partner in life and my best friend. It is wisdom and humility to comprehend this short-comming in myself and to adjust my thinking accordingly; for that is being good, just as I was created to be!

DJay
DJay

My wife loves to tell stories and the details continuously change from telling to telling. Usually is really does not matter about the details. It's still an interesting story, although I've heard to more times than I care to hear a story. A word of correction in public makes her feel stifled, and is not appreciated. I've learned to generally let it go. Take a moment to evaluate whether that little detail really matters. Sometimes the correction in distortion of fact or misleading information can be handled privately so as to avoid embarrassment. DJ

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