Why Does My Wife Bring Up the Past? (And What to Do)


Some relationship problems are sorted out so easily. You bring up the problem, you and your wife talk it out respectfully, and reach an understanding. But for some husbands, it can be incredibly frustrating when your wife seemingly won’t let go of the past. So maybe you’ve wondered why does my wife bring up the past?

Here’s what I know from seeing my wife do it:

The biggest reason a wife holds onto the past and brings it up repeatedly is that they don’t feel heard and fully understood by the person they perceived hurt them. So it’s vital to talk it through and really make sure your wife’s feelings are validated.

But sometimes it’s a symptom of something deeper.

After all, it depends on the action in the past that caused the pain. It also depends on how well you took ownership of your actions and worked to earn her trust back and move forward.

Trust me. Just hoping she’ll forget and move on if you haven’t done the work to make up for the issue rarely happens. Then it just starts forming emotional scar tissue and resentment and is putting the whole marriage at risk as the days, months, and years go by.

You CAN save your marriage — even if your wife is always bringing up the past.

I’ve been in your shoes. You want to move beyond the pain. And you desperately want your marriage to have trust, mutual acceptance, respect, and to move on from things you did years ago.

Luckily, all hope is NOT lost, and there is something you can do, even if your spouse isn’t sure they want to save the marriage. 

So if you think you might be there, you should take a moment and learn about the website Regain.

Regain offers licensed therapists who specialize in couples counseling and will work directly with you and your spouse online; anytime and from anywhere.

This quote from Kelly A. perfectly sums it up: 

Our therapist at Regain “is attentive, compassionate, and fair. In sessions with my spouse and I she helps us both feel valid and heard. She shares a perspective that is sometimes hard for us to see from within our own circumstances. Our marriage has greatly improved with help from Kendall.”

Serious about saving or improving your relationship?

CLICK HERE to answer a short quiz and see if Regain is right for you.

What does it mean when a spouse keeps bringing up the past? 

When a wife repeatedly brings up the past it means she doesn’t feel the situation is resolved. Or things may be continuing to happen that trigger her feelings of anger or sadness.

No article can make your wife stop trying to change behavior that is painful to her.

So, make sure that this isn’t what you’re trying to do. Make sure you understand what hurts her about your behavior. If you are working on the issue, but she still will not let up, read on.

First, it’s essential to understand that some people process emotions differently. Some retreat inward when they’re hurt, figure out why and then express that to their partner when they’re ready.

Others need discussion to think through what’s bothering them. If your spouse is this type, that means they’ll be displaying negative emotions as they feel and work through them. It’s important not to take this personally. Don’t jump to defending yourself in this situation. 

Instead, listen.

Hear your wife’s worries fully so that you can understand them. Remove yourself from what’s being said and try to view the situation as a concerned third party. Imagine you’re a trusted counsel there to support and build up the relationship. 

Because you are!

Do you ever feel like you and your spouse fight way too often?

Is arguing becoming a daily event? Find out why you might have nothing to worry about in my recent article about fighting as a married couple!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What should I say when my wife brings up my ex?

If your wife brings up your ex, it’s a sign of insecurity. If you are still in contact with them, that can increase the insecurity, especially if there was animosity between them, to begin with.

Having healthy boundaries means communicating with your ex based mostly on necessity: shared children, legal matters, etc. Maybe you broke up with your ex amicably. It’s okay to still respect each other and even remember your time together fondly. 

But, a friendship with any degree of emotional intimacy is unfair to your current spouse.

There are exceptions here, of course, that is beyond the scope of this article. But you’ll have to discuss this with your spouse thoroughly. 

If you have no communication or have moved on, it can be frustrating to keep hearing about your ex. Especially when your spouse is the only one who can’t let go.

But if you do have continued contact with your ex, and it’s strictly platonic, why not introduce your wife to her so she can see your ex isn’t a threat?

The threat will almost always seem greater in our heads than it will face to face. If the ex has a new partner, and you both meet them, then the insecurity goes down even more.

Here are a few talking points when the same old argument is about to rear its ugly head:

  • You’re not talking about the current me. You’re talking about a me that no longer exists.

Maybe your wife isn’t happy about the type of woman your ex was. Perhaps she disapproves of the values your ex seems to reflect about you. 

In this case, it’s crucial to make it clear that there’s a reason you’re not together anymore. The version of you that was a couple with your ex is gone. Just like you are not your ex, you are not that old self either. Trust me. We all have at least 1 ex we’re not proud of who being with is embarrassing to look back at.

It’s not fair to judge you as someone you no longer are.

  • I’ve moved on and don’t want to think about her anymore. Please don’t make me.

Thinking about an ex can be painful. Even if it was a long time ago and you’ve completely let go, it can be uncomfortable. No one wants to be forced into old memories. No one enjoys being forced to hold on. 

Make sure your wife knows that her refusal to let go also means you can’t either.

  • I don’t want to live in the past. I want to focus on our future. 

Continuously focusing on the past means less mental space and energy to progress forward. Show your wife that you care about her far more than anything that happened in the past. 

Tell her about your vision of the future together and her place in it. Ask her to shift her focus there with you. 

Bringing up a past ex does nothing to get you closer to that future. 

How do I handle my wife always bringing up my past mistakes?

If your wife is constantly reminding you of prior mistakes it’s because they have expectations on you that you still aren’t living up to. Or you continue to make the same kinds of mistakes which continually reopen the wound for her.

Of course, placing a lot of expectations of our spouse isn’t fair.

No. It’s far better to have shared goals and values that you talk about and agree on. But then cast expectations aside and just appreciate one another for exactly who they are.

When we can learn to do that (admittedly hard for all of us), we will live a much happier life and have a much happier marriage.

It’s also important to remember that your wife probably doesn’t enjoy talking about past mistakes, either.

It’s easy to feel like you’re being picked on or that she’s nagging. This is a fear your wife might have about having these talks too. She doesn’t want to be seen as a nag even though these issues might deeply trouble her. 

So before you jump to defensiveness and annoyance, listen

If your wife always brings up past mistakes, it should be for a good reason like:

  • You have not fully worked out a problem that still affects the relationship
  • You didn’t understand her or still make the same mistake
  • You never apologized or made up for the original mistake

In the above cases, validate her feelings about the mistake. Listen carefully and make sure she feels understood.

Ask questions to make sure you’ve heard her before trying to “fix” the problem. 

Once you have, explain your perspective objectively. Explain the intentions of your behavior when you made a mistake. Make sure she knows you never meant to hurt her. Promise you’ll be more aware of the mistake and work not to do it again.

Then, follow through on that promise.

Is it okay to bring up the past in a relationship?

Talking about our past is a natural part of getting to know one another. It becomes a problem when there is judgment attached to things we did or people we were with before our current spouse.

And sometimes it’s a natural reaction to be surprised or disappointed when you learn something about your spouse’s past. For example, if you learned your spouse was significantly more sexually active than you.

Instead of passing judgment on a less than perfect past, you should use that knowledge for something good. Use this deeper understanding to support and love each other even more.

After all, at this point, they have chosen to be with you. And unless they are exhibiting signs of continuing some dangerous or inappropriate purpose, it’s not fair to put our insecurities on them.

And if we let this kind of judgment and disappointment linger, or we continually circle back to our spouse’s past, resentment and bitterness will form.

At this point, you either need to figure out how to rekindle your marriage or throw in the towel.

Luckily, I cover a LOT of simple, actionable tips that really work on bringing a damaged or boring marriage back to life. Learn more in my recent article!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Will my wife ever stop reminding me of my past mistakes?

If you have taken complete ownership of past mistakes and worked hard to earn her trust back, then the only point for her to keep bringing it up is a need to get even which is manipulative, toxic behavior.

If that’s the situation you’re in, the only real answer is for you both to see a qualified marriage counselor to try and work through the issues.

Need help with counseling? Take a moment and learn about the website Regain.

Online counseling you can do whenever and wherever you want, and much cheaper than in-person therapy. But these are still licensed professional therapists and they’ve helped tens of thousands of people just like you!

Toxic behavior is one sign that something might be seriously wrong.

And it could be one of a number of signs that she’s just done with the marriage but not ready to say it yet. Check out my recent article here for some warning signs that your wife may be thinking of leaving for good.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Point out all the ways you’ve worked on not making the mistake again. Mention the steps you’ve taken to be better for her. Explain that her behavior is not helpful.

Continuously reminding you of mistakes can perpetuate the problem. For example, being accused of dishonesty when you’re truthful can make someone want to hide the truth again. 

The most important thing here is that you really have worked on the issue. To stop revisiting the same problems, you both need to make progress in solving them.

Takeaway

When your wife keeps bringing up the past, there’s a delicate line between necessary and needless. It’s not always easy to tell the difference for either you or your spouse. 

Remember that the first step is some honest soul searching. Ask yourself if you’ve really followed through with your promises. Make sure your actions reflect your words. 

When your wife brings up an old mistake, don’t immediately jump to defense. Instead, listen and communicate through it together.

And most importantly, do not accept emotional manipulation if you’ve done your part. 

Do all this, and your past (or wife) won’t haunt you for long at all.

Need some more guidance? Are you worried you and your wife are drifting apart? My recent article is packed full of ways to restore your marriage and fall in love again. 

You CAN save your marriage — even if your wife is always bringing up the past.

I’ve been in your shoes. You want to move beyond the pain. And you desperately want your marriage to have trust, mutual acceptance, respect, and to move on from things you did years ago.

Luckily, all hope is NOT lost, and there is something you can do, even if your spouse isn’t sure they want to save the marriage. 

So if you think you might be there, you should take a moment and learn about the website Regain.

Regain offers licensed therapists who specialize in couples counseling and will work directly with you and your spouse online; anytime and from anywhere.

This quote from Kelly A. perfectly sums it up: 

Our therapist at Regain “is attentive, compassionate, and fair. In sessions with my spouse and I she helps us both feel valid and heard. She shares a perspective that is sometimes hard for us to see from within our own circumstances. Our marriage has greatly improved with help from Kendall.”

Serious about saving or improving your relationship?

CLICK HERE to answer a short quiz and see if Regain is right for you.

 

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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