Do Exes Remember Good Or Bad Memories?

Does not talking to your ex for a while really make the bad memories disappear so that your ex only remembers the good things about you and the relationship?

A lot of the advice on the internet seems to think so.

While it’s true that our brains deliberately forget certain things in order to keep us sane and forward looking, it’s not true that the brain necessarily forgets bad things and only remembers good ones.

Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University in a journal article “Bad Is Stronger Than Good,” writes “Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones, he said. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones. ”

“Research over and over again shows this is a basic and wide-ranging principle of psychology,” he said. “It’s in human nature, and there are even signs of it in animals,” in experiments with rats.

Moreover, the way you remember the relationship may not be the way your ex remembers it. In addition, external influences including advice from friends, relatives and strangers can influence the relationship, or you.

“Negative emotions” linger much longer, and sometimes even time doesn’t heal certain hurt. If you’re waiting for your ex to forget the bad memories or reaching out once in a while with no real effort to try to create new and better memories, you may be making your ex suspicious of your motives and agenda.

This may explain why one of the most searched questions about an ex on my site and on the internet in general is, “why is my ex contacting me?”

Your ex may not understand why every few days you text him/her, and don’t seem to have anything important to tell him/her, or anything substantial to talk about. To you, you are practicing “low/minimal contact” or trying not to be needy, but all your ex knows is that every few days (like clock work), you text him/her.

Instead focusing your time and energy on contact for contact’s sake or on trying not to come across as needy, try to focus more energy on making sure your ex has better experiences interacting with you by text, email, phone or in person.

Creating new memories with every conversation or date is the fastest way to change your ex’s negative perception of you. The bad memories and the “negative emotions” attached to them may never completely go away, but once the new pleasant memories out weigh the bad memories, the “negative” emotions attached to those memories lose their power.

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14 Comments

  • Hi Yangki. I want to thank you for your work as it has helped me get through some of the toughest times in my life. I also got ur eBook and it has helped me tremendously. I have a question which I am hoping you may help me with. What is the difference between “reacting” and “responding” as mentioned in ur blog above? Thank u in advance

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  • Yangki, thank you for your eBook. I followed your advice and established contact with my ex. He responds to all my texts and also initiates contact. However, he responds to some questions but ignores others. I don’t know what to read from this. Is he interested or is he just being polite?

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    • If he was just being polite, he’d not be initiating contact. There seems to be some interest there but not enough emotional connection.

      Don’t push. Work on creating a safe environment for those kind of conversations to happen, and you will see him open up more to emotionally difficult conversations.

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  • Something happened today. We broke up two weeks ago, I didn’t contact her and she didn’t contact me. Today I had this strange feeling to be honest with her and basically tell her, I still love and miss her. All my friends told me not to do it but I wanted closure and being honest and open with her was the only way I was going to get it. She replied right away and said we needed to talk. We messaged each other for 2 hrs as I was out of town. She asked me what time I’d be returning, I told her I’d call her when I was home, which I did. We ended up meeting and just hung out for hours talking about the issues we had in our relationship. It was really great. Your advice is the best. Thanks!

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    • Open and honest is risky business, but the rewards are far greater.

      You didn’t ask me a question, so I’m assuming you are really not looking for my advice, but I’ll give it anyway. Disregard it if you think you don’t need it…(:

      Talking about the old relationship in the very initial stages can seem like a good idea short-term, but is not something that I’d advice. You run the risk of not only dragging back all the issues of the past into the present, it also makes “starting over” impossible. You may even get back together, but it’ the same old relationship because you just continued from where things ended. Soon or later, you’ll break-up again.

      You may actually have a good shot, just try to do it right.

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  • I have been looking all over the internet and this is the first site that I can honestly say strikes the right code for me. I don’t think no contact or the other things that many experts advice is healthy and especially at our age, we are both in our 50s. I also bought your book and everything seems clearer than it has ever been. I was a jerk and she put up with so much because she loved me, she couldn’t do it anymore as she told me and ended the relationship. I want her back and doing the things you advice to get her back. For the first time yesterday, she seemed more open to talking to me but said it does not mean we are getting back together. I know I have a long way of me, but thanks for this resource.

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  • Hi Yangki,

    What do you suggest qualifies as “effective contact” and how do you transition from minimal to effective? I read the Ebook but I am not sure what sort of comments or exchanges are needed to move forward. I have kept things positive and light and my ex responds but very basic. I also am keeping things distant since he still seems angry. Thank you for your smart approaches by the way!

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    • 1. There is no such thing as “effective contact”, contact is just contact. I spent quite sometime explaining the difference between contact and communication, and communication and effective communication (pages 164 – 170).

      2. The whole section on “Contact” Pgs 80-162 is about regulating your contacts and the type of topics that can make him/her want to respond. The section on “Effective communication” Pgs 163-222 is about sustaining conversation to get him/her to want to initiate contact and want to be engaged in back and forth communication. Pgs 223-293 “Emotional Bonding” is about triggering the right emotions.

      3. All those three sections help to move things forward. It’s not just one thing but a series of things. That’s why I spent time writing over 200 pages just on that alone. If you do this right, things begin to fall in place. It’s the foundation for asking him to try things again.

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  • First I wanted to say thank you for the session last week. What you said about issues with control made a lot of sense to me. It made it a lot easier for me to face my fear and anxiety over contacting her. She hasn’t responded but I didn’t expect her to since it’s been almost 3 months since we had nay contact. I’m going to contact her again next week and hopefully I get a response. Even if I do not, I’m still glad I’m finally working through my issues with fear and control.

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    • You are right that after a long period of no contact, re-establishing contact is not easy. Contact her again at least 3 times (at intervals) before you give up.

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  • This is really helpful. I am an anxiety sufferer and struggled with it for years. It gets worse with separation but I am working on being positive as much as I can.

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