We usually believe that our responses to others are based on what’s happening now, right here in front of us. The card HISTORY invites you to recognize how your past is influencing the way you view and react to a partner today.

Our history is like an open book that follows us through our lives. Any past event where we ended up feeling hurt, afraid, abandoned, belittled, misunderstood, or ashamed can still affect us, making us sensitive about certain things. Our early training and our family’s style of communicating underlies many of our “shoulds” – and what we believe to be “good,” “bad,” “right,” or “wrong.”

Simply put, we normally see others through the lens of our personal past. This lens colors, magnifies, and even distorts how we see a partner. Since we usually focus on the present, we don’t recognize how often our reactions are shaped by our upbringing.

For example, two partners may have had very different family influences on the expression of feelings. Perhaps one was raised in an animated family and learned to express their feelings readily. Maybe the other’s family was subdued, so they learned to withdraw from displays of emotion. As partners, each may see the other’s behavior as offensive. The expressive one may view withdrawal as a sign of not caring, while the subdued one may see emotional display as a sign of disrespect or lack of control. Their differing styles, developed from their differing histories, may lead to much conflict.

However, even if both partners were raised in emotionally expressive families, they could still end up with opposite and conflicting styles. Perhaps one was so hurt by the way feelings were expressed in their family that they decided that displays of emotion were wrong and should be avoided.

The card HISTORY invites you to find out how your past colors the way you see your partner. Do differences between you and your partner ever create tension? How do differences in your personal histories play a part in this?

Perhaps you don’t take into account how different your histories are. If you assume a partner operates from the same values, beliefs, and expectations that you have, it is very easy to misinterpret their actions or feel they are wrong. This will inevitably lead to one or both of you getting upset.

The question is not who’s “right” or “wrong.”

The question is, what positive options could you see if you removed the distorting lens of your past?

Instead of reacting to your partner or fighting over your problems, notice how your history still affects you. Instead of blaming your partner, explore and share your personal history. The card HISTORY encourages you to discuss what your past was like. How did growing up in your family affect you? How might it still be affecting you? What was your partner’s past like? Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Begin to appreciate and understand where they have come from.

Once the two of you understand each other better, you can develop new and better ways to handle the situations that usually cause problems. By creating positive options, you can finally begin to close the book on the past.