People with high attachment anxiety — those who worry their partners do not love and care for them — are more likely to bring up past grudges in new, unrelated contexts, leading to more conflicts in the relationship, finds a study.
To them, past misdeeds tend to feel closer to the present than for those who are more secure in their relationships, the study said.
“When memories feel closer to the present, those memories are construed as more relevant to the present and more representative of the relationship,” said co-author of the study Kassandra Cortes from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
“If one bad memory feels recent, a person will also be more likely to remember other past slights, and attach more importance to them,” Cortes said.
The researchers found that even if no one mentions the transgressions during arguments, just thinking about them could be enough to have a detrimental effect on the relationship.
A person may feel confused and frustrated if they do not understand why their partner has become so upset over something so seemingly minor.
The study — published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin — found that those who reported thinking about past transgressions during a recent conflict said they reacted to the current conflict more destructively, reported having more frequent and intense conflicts with their partners and felt worse about their relationships in general.
“It may be useful for people to resolve an issue with their partner when it occurs, rather than pretending to forgive their partner or just letting it go when they are clearly upset. This way, the issue may be less likely to resurface in the future,” the study said.
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