Memories of Relationships Past

Monday, Jul. 16th 2012 12:12 AM

When you remember past relationships, do you think of your former partners fondly? Or are you bitter, angry or hurt? If you’re holding onto the painful memories, and choosing to forget the good times you had together, you’re only hurting yourself.


One of my favorite television shows is Harry’s Law, an off-beat courtroom drama starring the exceptionally-talented Kathy Bates, who won an Oscar for her performance in Misery. In a recent episode, Bates’ character, Harry, is forced to reconcile her memories – good and bad – of her first husband, Arthur.

Arthur has died, and it seems that Harry was the closest person to him. She begrudgingly identifies his body, and has few positive things to say about him. She hasn’t seen him in 20 years but seems quite angry. She even notes that he “had a knack for driving everybody away.” When the funeral director asks her what preparations she would like to make, she tells him, “Just dig the hole.” When he asks how many people she expects to attend the funeral, she replies, “Counting him? One.” Got a good sense of their history now?

Then, one of Harry’s staff attorneys stops her and asks her to tell him about the deceased. Harry explains that she had been Arthur’s legal secretary, and that he insisted she go to law school, because she would be good at it. As she reminisces, she also notes that he was a drunk, a gambler, a womanizer and the biggest scoundrel she ever met. Then, with a big smile on her face, she adds that he was “one hell of a party.”

This got me thinking about a chapter in my forthcoming book, How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship. In it, I discuss the importance of remembering the beginning of relationships with past partners – what brought you together, what you found attractive about that person, and the happy times you had along the way. Many of us spend years seething over the circumstances around a break-up, thinking about how terribly we were treated or how unhappy we were in the end. We rarely think far back enough to remember the good times, and there must have been good times, or those relationships wouldn’t have existed in the first place. But when we remember and focus on the positive aspects of past relationships, we are freed from the painful baggage that many of us carry around, often to the detriment of new relationships.

Harry is angry and seemingly-bitter about her relationship with her ex, until she’s probed to dig further back into her memory, past what must have been an ugly divorce, to a time when she wanted to be married to this man. In doing so, she discovers that he had a profound influence on her life and even who she is today. How beautiful!

I had a past relationship that ended unpleasantly. When I think back to that time in my life and begin to feel those negative emotions resurfacing, I stop and remind myself of the benefits that she brought to my life – one of the most significant being her influence on my writing. Without that influence, I don’t know that I would be sharing this blog with you. To her, I have said, and say again now, “Thank you. I remain grateful for every piece of my growth that you influenced.”

When remembering your past relationships, try to focus on the memories that are pleasant, empowering and happy. I am sure that some exist, because something attracted and connected you to this person at some point. You just might need to give yourself permission to dig deeper. You might even require help from a third party, or inspiration from old photos or letters. That’s OK. The experience is Powerful, and so are you.

The episode ends with Harry walking away from her ex-husband’s headstone, on which she’d had the following message engraved:

Arthur Korn

Beloved Son

Who knows? Add “Father,” and one day, my headstone might read very similarly, depending on the interpreter.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love

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Leave a Comment: Let Us Know Your Thoughts

How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

19 Comments on “Memories of Relationships Past”

  1. Janine J. R. H. Says:

    Frank, I think both, angry, bitter, and also on the risk to develop wrong partners. I think is a process to fight with the memories, until yo develop something new in your life, I mean a new life, separation are oportunities to built a new self learning from the experience of love, but if you get trap on anger of bitter you will never develop that new conception in you psyche.

  2. Karyn W. Says:

    Good question Frank, and prior to a major shift in my life, I remained hurt, or angry over past relationships, but I’ve since become much more “enlightened” and I can now realize that every moment of each relationship happened for a reason, including the separation.

  3. Lois W. Says:

    Frank, I am of the belief that all our past relationships make up who we have become at present. I also am responsible for all past relationships as I made choices to enter them. Therefore, my answer is Yes to all of the above but with the understanding that no-one is to blame for anything that happened in my past except me; no regrets, just lessons learned……not failure, just feedback.

  4. Karen R. Says:

    au contraire. I would think over idealizing a past relationship is a problem, wishing one hadn’t left, fantasizing about what would have been better if one stayed. In this case, it is important to remember the reasons for the end of that relationsship in order to move on.

  5. Janis Evans, M.Ed.,LPC Says:

    Excellent, Frank and well-written. After my clients get through the pain and begin to heal from a bad break-up, this is exactly what I emphasize as the next step: Explore what you’ve gained from the encounter, what lessons you’ve learned, and how you’ve grown from it. Breaking up, letting go, and moving on is the hardest part of this process. I look forward to your book. Visit my website to see my new blog: “Breaking Up is Hard”

  6. Keala V. N. Says:

    I try to remember what I was supposed to learn from having had that relationship and by honoring that passage with enlightenment it releases any negative holds that I would have kept otherwise. I didn’t say that this process is easy but it does ultimately make it easy.

  7. Joshua B Says:

    Frank..I think both, angry, bitter, and also on the risk to develop wrong partners. I think is a process to fight with the memories, until you develop something new in your new life, separation are oportunities to built a new self learning from the experience of love, but if you get trap on anger of bitter you will never develop that new conception in you psyche. Also I think people should take a past relationship as a learning ground to further a lovely recent relationship into healthy.

    Yet, isn’t good letting the past relationship memories take up part in your mind since, they will make you either to get off the trust with the one you are with recently. So I suppose we don’t have to let the past bad relationships take much of our control although we should take them as the bridge to develop the recent relationships.

  8. Joshua B Says:

    Definitely, but most of people do take anger,bitter or hurt of their past relationships in a negative connotation ,in such a way that they fail to go on with their lives….Unknowingly that things always happen for the reasons and that they shouldn’t take their anger,hurts and bitter of their past relationships affecting their existing relationships but using them to build up the stronger and ever relationship on the earth and making history their own.

  9. Mike Kollin Says:

    If you have learned your learning’s, they should be neutral. Sure, we have all been hurt from bad breakups… but, it’s all about the learning, the learning’s of which will allow you to finally let go of all the hurt and upset and sadness… Because, that’s why the emotions are there in the first place, to remind you and let you know you have something to learn here! With me, that’s how I have overcame all my pain and hurt and eventually grew from it massively!
    My life now is amazing with women and understanding them from all the mistakes I have made in the past.

    I recommend that anyone seeks a lot of therapy and especially communication and relationship coaching and read a ton of books on understanding yourself, relationships and the opposite sex! Go to a seminar or 2 every year!

    Best of wishes.

    Mike Kollin
    Dating and Relationship coach and Male to Female Communication Expert!

  10. Jivana K. Says:

    As a tantrika, Frank, my journey invites me to embrace ALL of it. ,,,the good, the bad and the ugly.

    In the fairly tales of old, we loved the “And they lived happily ever after” endings.

    But it seems to me that the work of today, is to use every situation and experience of our lives, to become more conscious.

    I had a blissful union some years ago. The glow of divine love and ecstatic passion lasted for six years. A long run,… considering we were in the buddhafield of an Indian tantric master, where people changed bed partners almost as often as they changed their clothes!

    And it ended rather badly. Although two decades or so later, we are still friends.

    Some days I am in awe of what we shared and uplifted by the love we were able to experience. And on some days I just want to smack him. Should I deny any of it? Nope.

    Every ounce of memory and feeling is great grist for the mill…at least that’s how it is for this tantrika.

  11. Karen F Says:

    i like what you have to say as well as understanding that human nature steps in when the break up is new…..and the painful memories are there staring you in the face and shouting in your ear and it’s ok….with time it fades and you move on – and thats the important part, to move on

  12. N. Jimi B. Says:

    I personally try not to think about the “water under the bridge” on unrequited love because it IS painful a bit – especially with those few who I really, really loved. Unfortunately, coldblooded break-ups usually overshadow any “good times” at the end of the day. My therapy is to WRITE about it – in my blog nowadays; in my poetry book, “Sad Face King” which I published last year. I am dedicated to making sure that my Inna over in Ukraine does not become a “pas” casualty of love, because we connect Soooo well, if I am unsuccessful at raising money to fly over there VERY soon to meet-up, I will retire from the pursuit of a mate.

  13. Maria C. C. Says:

    Maybe that´s a way of dealing with grief after separation or divorce…try to remember goodtimes and not focusing onto the painful ones.

  14. Jivana K. Says:


    There are ‘reasons’ held in the mind, and then there are emotions held in the body. Or one could say, the bodymind.

    I think we live in a culture which encourages the mind to trump the emotions, but I think that what people are left with is bodies (and minds) that don’t know what they are feeling.
    What I prefer to encourage in my clients is the courage to experience ALL the feelings. To really suck the juice from them. And then to let them go, in their own time.

  15. Melodie M. Says:

    Both. How the person is remembered would be determined on how the memory was triggered. You could witness a similar situation so you start thinking about things you wanted to say instead of what was actually said in your case. Or you see a beach and remember a good time you had on that vacation even though you go a sunburn.

  16. Melodie M. Says:

    Sure. We have the opportunity to turn from the bitter memories. We can force ourselves to take the turn. We can try and fail to make the turn. Success or failure seem to be a result of where we are in the grieving process (for the relationship).

  17. Catherine L. W. Says:

    Early on it was hard to remember the positive experiences from my first serious relationship. Over time it has been quite pleasant to remember fun that we had and the commitment that we tried to keep to each other.

  18. Amy J H Says:

    There is ZERO to Learn from the Past other than what NOT to do again. The Future Teaches only Anxiety (no thanks!!) STAY PRESENT. STAY HERE AND NOW!! 🙂

  19. Amadoma Says:

    I tried to send you a voicemail message. It was taking too long to load so I don’t know if you got it. I enjoyed this video. I was just thinking fondly of a past relationship earlier today.

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