Tuesday, April 19, 2016


It is a common theme in my office: one partner brings up an old wound and the other accuses her of “rehashing” the past, often responding (angrily), “I’ve already told you I was sorry”, “THAT again!?”, or even “You seem to take pleasure in bringing that up over and over.”

The offending partner not only fails miserably at empathy but attacks the victim all over again.

What is going on here?  The defensive partner is feeling attacked.  Sometimes this is because the wounded partner is venting AT rather than TO him; but, more likely (in my experience), he has convinced himself that her goal is to criticize him, or that she is taking some kind of sadistic “pleasure” in holding the past over his head and watching him squirm.  No wonder he lacks empathy for the pain she is sharing!  He is making it all about himself.

She probably does not enjoy revisiting her wound any more than he does.  In fact, she is probably not “rehashing” it at all; it is rehashing her, coming up on her again her like the aftershock of an earthquake.
This is what wounds tend to do. 

The victim has no control over aftershocks or decides when they come, their duration or intensity; their impact can sometimes be even worse than the initial shock, especially if the victim went numb the first time round.  

If your partner keeps revisiting a past wound, it is probably because she has not healed from it.  When she shares it with you, she is not seeking revenge (what good would that do?), she is hoping you will apply the salve.  Accountability is part of that, so is empathy, and making amends.  If you cannot do this, maybe the two of you are not in the relationship you thought you were.

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