Relationship Amnesia: My Partner Forgets Important Things

If your partner forgets important moments in your relationship, you may feel offended and belittled. We'll tell you what relationship amnesia is and how it affects your relationship.
Relationship Amnesia: My Partner Forgets Important Things
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 25 June, 2023

Has your partner ever forgotten the date of your anniversary or birthday? Does he or she deny having said words that you know he or she said? Does he or she not remember that important dinner when you made up after a problem? If these situations sound familiar to you, your romantic partner may be suffering from relationship amnesia.

This is a common phenomenon that can happen to anyone and is due to different causes. However, it’s also the origin of many arguments between couples. If it’s misunderstood or occurs too often, it ends up deeply affecting the bond. What does it consist of and how to deal with it?

What is relationship amnesia?

Relationship amnesia consists of systematically forgetting moments, events, or situations that are significant for one person in a relationship. Their partner could forget relevant dates, important shared experiences, or conversations that were essential in their relationship.

It doesn’t have to be only about extraordinary experiences such as a special trip or a concert, it can also refer to everyday moments. In the same way, it’s not only the positive situations that can be forgotten, but also more unpleasant discussions or situations.

In short, one of the partners has problems remembering something that is highly emotionally important for the other person. For the same reason, those who remember perfectly cannot understand how their partner could have forgotten it.

Relationship amnesia.
Relational amnesia can lead to conflicts for the couple.

What are the causes of relationship amnesia?

The origins of relationship amnesia aren’t always the same. To understand where it comes from, it’s necessary to analyze other behavior and dynamics in the relationship, in order to guide us in one direction or another. Even so, here are the most common causes.

Different perspectives

This is one of the most frequent reasons why relationship amnesia appears: each partner processes, feels, and experiences the events in a different way. For the same reason, their memories aren’t the same. This means that what for one person may be a significant conversation or event, may not be so important for the other person.

Each person may value and prioritize different moments, or even interpret the same situation differently. In this way, the memory of both will differ and this may lead to arguments. Perhaps neither (or both) is right in their account, as each has experienced it in his or her own way.

Lack of attention and commitment

Sometimes this lack of memory comes from a lack of interest. If the relationship has fallen into a routine, if the person lives it automatically and with their mind elsewhere, then it’s more difficult to encode the memories in their mind, as they won’t be paying attention.

It has also been found that emotions play a fundamental role in the consolidation of memory and that information that we associate with an intense emotion is easier to store and retrieve.

For this reason, if the person’s feelings have faded and he/she is living their time with their partner only as a force of habit, then their memory will fail more frequently.

Personality traits

Having different personalities is also associated with relationship amnesia. In cases where one person tends to remember everything and the other tends to forget, it’s common for the former to have neurotic traits and the latter to live very much in the present.

For the former, it’s essential to remember every word and experience, and they’ll take it as an offense if their partner doesn’t. On the contrary, the second will be more focused on day-to-day activities and will give less importance to what happened in the past.

However, dissatisfaction in relationships and neuroticism are related, so the awkwardness will become apparent sooner rather than later.

Emotional manipulation

Finally, we can’t rule out that this apparent lack of memory is a strategy of emotional manipulation. Claiming not to remember something can be a tool to evade responsibility, invalidate what the other person says, or obtain some other type of benefit.

Moreover, if practiced systematically, this can lead to the partner ending up doubting his or her own judgment and being at the mercy of the other. This is known as gaslighting.

Relationship amnesia.
In some relationships, one of the partners pretends not to remember relevant events with the sole purpose of manipulating the other.

Read more on this important topic right here: 5 Types of Emotional Blackmail that Harm Your Health

What are the consequences of relationship amnesia?

The consequences of relationship amnesia in the couple are different for each partner. The one who usually remembers may feel offended, hurt, and despised by the forgetfulness of the other. They may feel that their partner doesn’t take them into account, that they don’t appreciate or value their time together and that they aren’t a priority in their life.

On the other hand, the one who has amnesia may feel pressured, demanded, and harassed by the constant reproaches of the other. Accusations of a lack of love or commitment on the part of the partner can be painful and offensive, which also leads to numerous conflicts and arguments.

What can we do about it?

The measures that can be taken in this case depend on what the cause is. To identify the cause, it’s necessary to consider the broader context. If it’s a lack of attention or commitment, this attitude will be visible in other facets of the relationship. This will also be true in the case of manipulation.

In these situations, it’s advisable to assess the situation and consider leaving the relationship to protect one’s integrity. Seeking professional help is key to discerning what the best options are.

On the other hand, if relationship amnesia is perceived because the personalities or perspectives of the two are different, other aspects of the couple will function adequately. In this case, communication and flexibility will be determinant.

It’s essential to keep in mind that the fact that your partner doesn’t remember the same events or moments as you do – or doesn’t remember them in the same way – doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t love you or value the bond. So, our final advice to you is to not force the other person to process, interpret, and feel the way you do, and to be as understanding as you can.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (1997). Neuroticism, marital interaction, and the trajectory of marital satisfaction. Journal of personality and social psychology72(5), 1075.
  • Tyng CM, Amin HU, Saad MNM, Malik AS. The Influences of Emotion on Learning and Memory. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1454. Published 2017 Aug 24. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01454
  • Johnson VE, Nadal KL, Sissoko DRG, King R. “It’s Not in Your Head”: Gaslighting, ‘Splaining, Victim Blaming, and Other Harmful Reactions to Microaggressions. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2021 Sep;16(5):1024-1036. doi: 10.1177/17456916211011963. PMID: 34498522.
  • Logatt, C. A. (2016). ¿Cómo influyen las emociones en el aprendizaje? Descubriendo el cerebro y la mente – AE, 83, 6–7.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.