Relationship Success: Institute a Statute of Limitations?

So I was thinking some yesterday (as I am know to do from time to time). Actually, I was reading an article in the Ensign (the Mormon monthly magazine) discussing relationships, and it had this piece of information in it:

Personal attacks and dredging up incidents from years past were specific things I didn’t want in our marriage.

I’ll admit that I’ve been as guilty of this as the next guy. (Assuming the next guy is guilty of it, that is. I mean, maybe I’m the only one who does this. In which case, I’m even guiltier than the next guy, who’s completely innocent.) I have a good memory. Say something once to me, and if it sticks out at all in my head, then I’m good to go with that comment for the REST OF YOUR NATURAL LIFE. Just ask Denisa. She’ll say something in passing, and then who knows when I might whip that comment out to prove or disprove a point during some future discussion.

This isn’t fair.

I know this isn’t fair, and yet I’ve done it anyway. (Please note: Denisa and I hardly ever disagree. I know you don’t believe this, but it’s true. We were play-bickering over how to load the dishwasher the other day, and TRC said, “Guys. Don’t fight.” I blinked in surprise. Clearly TRC hadn’t really ever heard real fighting. I consider that a sign of success thus far in my marriage. Because Denisa and I have yet to really have a real fight. But I won’t get into all of that. We’ve had our fair share of discussions.)

Anyway. I read that quote, and it struck a chord with me. Suddenly I thought–in an all-at-once sort of thought–that what I really need to do is institute a sort of statute of limitations on things that happen in my marriage or in friendships.

People change. It doesn’t happen quickly, but it has been known to happen. People also do and say things they wish they’d not done or said. They make mistakes. They do something intentionally, and then later regret that they’d done that thing. And the law has a way of dealing with that. There’s a time and place to bring charges against someone, but after a set period of time, that time and place ceases to exist. (For most crimes. Serious offenses have no statute of limitations, and I think this goes for a marriage, too. Abuse of any kind, for one thing.)

So what would such a statute look like in a friendship or relationship?

I think for one thing, it would mean something like “If an issue has been aired and resolved more than a year ago, that issue can be laid to rest. It’s no longer fair game to be cited as incriminating evidence in the future.”

Now, as I think about this, there are always some things that keep cropping up in a relationship. Consistent disagreements or misdemeanors. And typically what will happen, is that when one of these rears its head again, someone will cite the long history of that issue happening over and over again in the past. I guess this statute wouldn’t apply as much to long standing issues. Those are things that need to be ironed out. But things that happened in the past that aren’t being repeated now–but which are used as “ammo” when some other argument springs up?

Against the rules. You can’t do that.

I’m not sure about all of this. How it would actively work in a relationship? The kernel of the idea is there for me–and I agree with it–but as I’m trying to express it in this post, it seems to be escaping me. Can anyone else see what I’m getting at?


3 thoughts on “Relationship Success: Institute a Statute of Limitations?”

  1. I think I get what you’re saying. I read a relationship book once that talked about the difference between immediate conflicts (“You spent too much money on Christmas presents”) and long-term conflicts (“We’re always in debt”) and how they have to be handled differently.

    It’s easy for an argument about an immediate conflict to turn into yet another argument about a long-term conflict, so a “statue of limitations” is one way of making sure that conversations / debates / arguments focus on the current issue and not on constantly dredging up some past issue.

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