“The past is the past,” is a common, and mostly unhelpfully redundant phrase. While yes, the past is not longer happening, saying that the past is completely over is a bit of a simplification. The present has a direct effect on the present, so dismissing it as something that doesn’t exist anymore isn’t exactly realistic.
When you partner with a matchmaker, for example, they will acknowledge what you’ve gone through, but also understand where you are in the present. So, when you are in a relationship, it’s important to find that balance.
Our brains don’t always acknowledge time like a clock does. Traumatic events can stay in our brain, and often come back to us when we are triggered. This might be scary moments we’ve been through, and even negative aspects of our relationships. While you may not want to focus on bad things, they will still come up.
Sometimes, trauma will come up through conversation, or arguments. You might say something that doesn’t seem so bad to you, but it might remind your partner of a traumatic or unpleasant thing that happened to them. The same thing could happen to you, too!
Acknowledging what happened
While we want to avoid trauma, avoiding talking about it isn’t helpful. If you or your partner have gone through something that impacts your relationship, be okay sharing it. That might mean talking about an ex-partner, or explaining a relationship that wasn’t good for you.
This doesn’t mean we should blame our partners for the bad things that happened to us – or tell them they are wrong for saying something innocent that triggers us. We won’t know what triggers our partners if they don’t tell us – and vice versa. That’s why communication is so important!
Focusing on the good old days
The bad things in the past aren’t the only things that affect us. The good moments can shape who we are as well! Remembering them – like your first apartment, or early dates – are great, but sometimes, focusing on the past too much can have negative consequences.
If we only think about what happened way back when, we might risk not living in the moment. If you only remember the pizza place that was around when you were first dating, you’ll never discover that new pizza place that opens up around the corner from you.
Learn to adapt
Don’t get stuck! Yes, the past is the past, but you can use it to shape the future for the better. A good historian, for instance, understands the things that happened, but also understands why they happened and what it means for how we act in the present.
And once we learn how to act in the present, we can learn how to shape the future – for the better. Use the past to learn what worked and what didn’t work. Use the past to help you grow, and also understand how you and your partner can work together to improve your relationship.