Read My Mind

Bringing Up The Past

by Dr. Robert Glover on May 27th, 2013.     15 comments

couple-fightingIn close to thirty years of working with couples as a marriage therapist, I’ve witnessed all kinds of dysfunctional and ineffective fighting styles. In my own two marriages, I had my share of dead-end and destructive arguments (or non-arguments, which are just another form of ineffective fighting).

A good, clean, respectful, focused argument can do wonders for a relationship. A good fight can help a couple solve problems, understand each other, get through difficult situations, and become aware of their own individual shortcomings and blind spots.

However, there are many ineffective ways to fight. Blaming, jumping from topic to topic, avoiding, remaining silent, name-calling, manipulating, threatening, lying, denying, running away, and being violent are a few.

If a couple spends enough time together, another classic of bad fighting – bringing up the past – is sure to become part of their toxic arguing repertoire.

A member of my eight-week course “All The Way In” recently made a post on the online discussion forum:

I've kind of been stewing on this since I wrote it, and a couple things are bubbling up for me. First, how do you get over that "never forgetting" thing? I often find it hard to communicate with my wife, because I'm afraid of saying anything I'm not certain of, knowing that everything I say can and will be held against me.”

Here is what I wrote in response.

By nature, women are security-seeking creatures. Therefore, their deepest need is to feel safe.

Countless things cause women to feel unsafe, and pretty much everything Nice Guys do mess with a woman’s sense of security (even though we think we're pretty good guys).

Bringing up the past is a way some women try to feel safe (unconsciously). It's like if they can remember past hurts and betrayals, they will be more aware if similar things happen again.
Of course, we men just feel attacked. 

But here is the real issue that I've seen tear up countless relationships.


  • The woman makes an emotional statement, coming from a need for safety, connection, or passion.

  • The man, though, hears it as a factual statement and starts arguing the facts.

  • She feels unheard and invalidated, and her sense of security dies even more.

  • He feels unjustly attacked, convinced he is with a woman who is crazy, likes to argue, or lives in the past.

  • He withdraws and holds more back.

The cycle goes on an on.

Men, how can you tell if your woman has just made an emotional statement (as opposed to a factual one)?

Usually, it has an "always" or "never" in it, or it is grossly over/under-stating or distorting something.
If these aren't enough clues, here’s how you can be 100% certain your woman has just made an emotional statement:

  • It makes you feel crazy.

  • You want to argue the facts.

When you feel this way (crazy and/or argumentative), take a breath, and try to listen for the emotion your woman is expressing – not the facts.

She'll feel heard and loved.


P.S., Guys, want more tools for becoming a good Ascertainer in your intimate relationship? Check out my eight-week online class, All The Way In.

Topics: Consciousness Relationships


EddieNYC says ...
I believe it was John Adams who said that "Facts are stubborn things."

If a person, male or female, is willfully ignorant of the facts, or in denial, or just not interested in learning the facts, then communication and conversation is going to be damn near impossible and probably not worth the effort. It reminds me of that saying, "Don't confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up!" (Once again we see the flaws of the myth of Feminism, and their alleged desire for Equal Treatment).

You can lead a horse to water...

Lastly, in just about any kind of relationship, if a person is consistently bring up the past, especially after the issue was resolved or forgiveness was expressed, then it is probably a good sign of a disturbed or immature person, and also a lack of mutual trust and respect in that relationship. Which means that the relationship has deteriorated, and it's time to leave.

I've been through this and it hurts like a dagger to have past mistakes consistently thrown in my face. If there is one thing I refuse to deal with,
it someone throwing a guilt trip at me. There is nothing positive or productive to be gained from remaining in a toxic relationship.

As a man, am I also responsible for managing someone else's feelings, insecurities, and anxieties??

Phydeau says ...
EddieNYC, I think Robert's answer assumes that the woman is also working to fight fairly too. Otherwise I'd agree with you -- a woman who constantly brings up the past in order to "score points" is not fighting fair and is not worth being in a relationship with.

But emotions are real too, as real as facts, just in a different way. If you ignore emotions, YOU will not be worth being in a relationship with.
Serge says ...
"She'll feel heard and loved." Ehhhem... What about other side of conflict? Man's need for emotional safety, i.e. absence of drama, nagging and so on is as important as woman's need for physical safety.
If a woman makes an emotional statement, which comes in a form of attack, because she feels insecure, then it's HER problem. SHE has to find a way to deal with her insecurities and emotional outbursts, not anybody else.
It looks like Dr.Glover tries to make his readers feel inadequate (again) to make some sells. Bad move I have to say.
Brian says ...

I like the point you make about a man's emotional security. Just as women need to feel physically secure, we should not have to worry about drama, and needless conflict.

I do take exception though to your comments about Dr. Glover. I don't think he is trying to make anyone feel inadequate, nor is he trying to make some sells. Like many other readers, I'm sure you check out his blog because you are interested/curious with what he has to say.

Serge says ...
I guess, you are a part of this site staff. It's clear that these articles are SEO optimized. I don't know who writes them, maybe not Dr.Glover, but a hired marketer with no morals. What I know after reading them is that in every one of last four author tries to capitalize on flaws like need for approval, putting up with bad behaviour, feeling unworthy to have a womans attention and so on, which Dr.Glover supposed to help such called "nice guys" to overcome.
Manipulation sell tactics actually do more harm than good, because they discredit those using it and create doubt in quality of their products. And it's strange to see them being used by DOCTOR, who supposed to follow a code of ethics.
Eric says ...
Serge, After four posts that you find unethical, why do you keep reading? If you don't feel "safe" here, perhaps like you're under too much pressure to buy things, maybe you should find another web site to read.

By the way, the very purpose of this web site is for the Doctor to promote his classes. Naturally he's going to sell stuff. If you feel entitled to free advice, go to the NMMNG forums where men discuss these issues, for free.
David says ...
Serge, what code of ethics is Dr. Glover breaking. Your posts make zero sense dude.
Elizabeth says ...
My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 5 years now and I've realized a pattern when we fight he always brings up mistakes i have made in the past or insults or comments I have made in the past and jump from subject to subject avoiding the reason we are fighting to begin with and gets agree almost like he builds himself up with all these past memories and he ends up being the angry offended one. Although he carries on with all this i don't and have not brought up or thrown in his face every little thing he has down to me. I try so hard to stick to the subject at hand and whats going on in present time but he just wont stop bringing up the past and pointing the finger like he does it to turn the attention away from him so he wont have to take any responsibilities for his actions. what do i do?
Matthew says ...
This article is very frustrating for me to read. Nevertheless, in dating countless women throughout my twenties and into my thirties, I believe what Dr. Glover proposes is about the only way to successfully create a relationship that has in it trust, compassion, and gives one energy instead of taking it away.

I am in a monogamous relationship for the first time in awhile for a little over a year. She is unbelievable, 95% of the time. However, the emotional outburst or two a month is almost too much for me, because, as a few men mentioned before, I really do not think it is my responsbility to literally take responsibility for her emotions. Nevertheless, I have found this to be the one area in my life, after dating many women, that just is the way it is , and considering the circumstances, giving up this one part of my ego, when I am strong enough to do it, is the only way to make peace with the situation.

It takes so much practice and work because it can make me extremely resentful and angry, but it really is not about you, and if most men would be more patient, and work like I am trying right now to not respond to a personal attack or to getting baited into a fight, a woman will feel more trustworthy and safe with you.

However, men need to be careful and realize that responding to their outbursts by being level headed and not taking it personally allows her herself to feel safe in the relationship, and it is thus not you supplicating or seeking approval, or not defending yourself when you feel or actually are being attacked. You allow her to do the work. If one is patient, and makes the effort for a couple of months to not respond in anger or fight back, a good woman will respond with confidence in not just you, but herself in the relationship. I agree with what other men have said in reference to it being her responsibility.

However, if you have been patient for a few months, have used love and integrity and are truly acting out of benefit for your significant other, and she still responds negatively to you, this is the time to walk away.
James says ...
I feel like the majority of the time it's the woman's fault. I have been married for ten years and I will admit, I have made some mistakes in the past. I asked God and my wife for forgiveness, which brings me to the question of why does she still bring up her past hurts? Every time she brings up the hurt I try to be understanding and sympathetic, but at the same time I should not have to continue apologizing for something that I have asked you to forgive me for. It's so frustrating because things could be going perfectly fine, then that's when she starts to panic and puts up a barrier and then we start from day 1 all over again. I don't want to leave my kids and become a weekend dad, but at the same time I don't want to stay unhappy. I'm so fed up to the point now we don't sleep in the same bed, don't have sex, and rarely talk to each other. I just want to be happy. What else can I do? I've tried counseling, encouraged her to get help and take care of herself but it seems like nothing will work. Help please!
chiefsinner1 says ...
That is one reason why my first and only Marriage failed, I and my Ex-wife would use past mess up's to justify our bad choices and or hurting one another. She could never admit her being wrong ,and could never forgive. I would admit my wrongs but hold onto her hurtful words and attacks.
Needless to say it all crumbled and fell to nothing. But now I accept a woman's feelings and try to listen, but as I am reading here on this new site Nice guys finish last. I was even at the point of wanting to teach my sons to mock women , ridicule their feelings, steal from them and hit them, for I have seen women respect those men more then a nice guy.
Without saying anyone with a right mind knows it would be crazy to teach your sons that behavior. As i knew it sounded crazy typing it and thinking it. But the frustration of women finding shit better then chocolate rich pudding is mind blowing. But reading on this site I have seen my NICE GUY lie has been blinding me to who i am ...a victim.
Tired of being the victim, want to be a leader for my sons and for a woman , so that i will learn I am worth respect and deserve respect. For i have none for myself now, though I go around bragging of how good i am too women. open the door for them, listen and respect their feelings, now i admit my shortcomings and ask for forgiveness. What help I hope to receive from this site , for I have had no leading from my dad in being a man. Hence I reference myself as a guy, unable to place Man as a title of myself.
Margy says ...
I'm quite surprised reading some of the answers on here. It seems that when we're arguing it's every man / women for himself.
I was reading the post looking for answers as to why I constantly bring up the past. What makes me want to drag up crap that logically should stay in the past where it belongs but emotionally comes blurting out of my mouth regardless of how hard I try to keep it in because I feel relief when I say it.
What I know is when I do it I'm looking for protection. I want the man I love to be strong for me and tell me everything will be ok. When I'm upset I'm not angry at him nor am I trying to blame him, even if at times it sounds that way, I just need a sounding board and for him to make me feel safe and secure just as Dr Glover suggests. I don't work for him by the way nor am I trying to promote anything. I'm simply saying that it isn't YOU it is the woman or man who is bringing up the crap, it is THEM. But instead of making them out to be stupid and wrong or playing the one-up-manship game wouldn't it make more sense to try and understand where their pain is? To help them? To be the bigger person at that point?
A few people have said that it's 'her' responsibility and 'why should I have to sort her out' type of stuff. Why not? If you love that person, why not?
If you bought a car and it had a problem you would try and sort it out until it was fixed. If you couldn't fix the car you would probably get rid of it. But what if the next car had the same problem or the next one after that? Would you stop driving? Would you blame the car for having a problem? The car is just being what it is, a car it's just doing what it knows how to do. Will you learn how to repair it, keep buying new cars or start walking everywhere?
To finish off, I'm not trying to be sexist or cause arguments. I admit that I'm the one who brings up the crap (hand up!) and if you were my other half I would want you to keep loving me (faults and all) because I love you. Just saying...
Pastor Clifford Short says ...
My wife and I have been thru these type of discussions several times. She brings up the past, I ask her what is bothering here and listen go the whole story. From this I gleen generally that she is feeling insecure about our finances, sad about our kids actions or some other current unresolved topic. Once I hear the story and ask a few questions, I understand what is really bothering her. It just takes a good ear and a sincere desire to show her and reassure her that the topic is under control, or that it will be OK. Love is a powerful tool to resolve an argument. Read Psalms 17:9, and 1st Corinthians 13:4, find out what love is and is not. Use this as a foundation when discussing a touchy or hot topic with your spouse. It works.
dec says ...
I came to this article after reading Glover's book. The book helped me. Thank you for it. This article is not meant for a recovering Nice Guy. It goes in the opposit direction: removal of respect, integrity, and borders. Any person resents past events and eventually will need to bring it to present. The point, the BPD border, is how often and how is this done. Whether this is done for blaming, derail a conversation, or hurt the other, then, it is not acceptable. Does it feel crazy? Then it is crazy and better move on.
Mary says ...
I think some of the gentleman here are really working toward good relationships and they are married to immature and highly emotional women.

What this article doesn't cover, or take into consideration, is abuse. I would bring up past hurts in arguments because they were from a pattern of abuse...the exact new hurt would be similar, but not the exact same, as an old, unresolved hurt. One that was never apologized for or acknowledged, and was basically committed again.

The hurt would fall into the same category as an old one...for example, financial irresponsibility. How are you supposed to forgive if it continues occurring? How can you take the high road?

I brought up the past to raise a pattern of really bad behavior. He would shut down and say I wasn't allowed to bring up the past, which I believe is manipulative and indicative of a personality disorder.

His brother did the same thing to my sister in law...repeated infidelity. if he began to engage in similar behavior (texting women, flirting) she naturally brought up the past. He told her she wasn't allowed to.

I left the marriage. So did she. We are happy we did, and lucky we had good jobs so we could leave abusive marriages. I think some men engage in abusive behavior and don't own up to it.

These two refused counseling, stating that we would just bring up the past. In my opinion, if the past keeps recurring, it's fair game.


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