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Remember When?

Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace pose for the cover of The Art of Relationships Podcast.

Remember when you had first date with your partner? Reminiscing over these memories with fondness can actually strengthen your relationship! In today's podcast, Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace share the benefits of travelling down memory lane to grow closer with your partner. 

Mandy:    Welcome to another Art of Relationships Podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.

Alisa Grace:    Hey, welcome to the Art of Relationships Podcast. Mandy, thanks for that great introduction. And I'm Alisa Grace. I'm here with my awesome husband, co-host, Dr. Chris Grace, psychologist at Biola University. We are with the Center for Marriage and Relationships at Biola University. So, hey, Chris.

Chris Grace:    Hey. It's good to be here, Alisa. Thanks for taking time out, even if we're both just getting off of COVID, and what a mess that's been. But to be back and somewhat healthy is awesome. So it's fun to be here and talk about all things relationships, man. It's so cool to be able to come in, fight off some things, and then just to be able to talk about life and relationships. We love doing this.

Alisa Grace:    We do. Oh, it's our dream job. We're living the dream.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, that's right. And just to be able to share that with you all listening. And let's do this Alisa. Let's make this just a quick podcast. And I think it's important that as you and I had time during COVID and others have dealt with situations in their lives, whether they're dating or single, all people in relationships do have something very important that they hold and it's a possession that psychologists like to play with in movies. In fact, movie producers and directors, or script writers, love to incorporate one element into a lot of different movies. And I'll let you think about some of the movies that come up and then I'll share some with you, but they like to incorporate the possibility of people who would lose a memory. They lose either their past memory. They can't remember who they are. Or, they have concerns about a failing memory and then trying to pick up the pieces of their life without memory. And, it's really hard to do.

Alisa Grace:    Fascinating.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. So let's think about, I don't know Alisa, if any movies come to mind and we'll test everybody. Remember, memory is just something that you learn over time and you hold onto it. But memories, they do define us, right? In fact, they define us so if I go in and I could define myself or even redefine myself by sharing different memories. But also, a memory connects us to who we were and to who we are and it connects two people together with nostalgia or looking back with fondness. But also interestingly enough, with movies, it can connect you to the past and the past could catch up with you. I mean, all of a sudden, you thought you forgot something and all of a sudden, your past, that past thing, comes back to haunt you. So think about movies. I don't know. Does anything come to mind?

Alisa Grace:    Oh gosh, well, the first thing that came to my mind was The Notebook.

Chris Grace:    Sure.

Alisa Grace:    Of course.

Chris Grace:    Oh yeah. The Notebook.

Alisa Grace:    But there was one that I saw not long ago. What was it? Blake lively was in it. Oh, I can't remember, but it was like time travel and maybe that wasn't memory. Maybe that's a different one.

Chris Grace:    Well, it could be. I know you and I were talking about this earlier is the Borne series, right? The whole-

Alisa Grace:    Oh, we love that one.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. The Borne Identity and Supremacy and the Borne Ultimatum. I mean, you think about even Disney uses this right. Finding Nemo, his whole thing was about-

Alisa Grace:    Dory.

Chris Grace:    ... Yeah, Dory just couldn't remember anything. Poor thing.

Alisa Grace:    Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. Remember the old movies, Total Recall, or Anastasia or Deja Vu or Frozen, frankly. I mean, Frozen's whole theme had been about Anna and the sister not being able to remember, because if she-

Alisa Grace:    Oh, the childhood.

Chris Grace:    ... Does remember all the childhood, then bad things can happen.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah, when she hurt Anna.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. So she was made to forget. Or, 50 First Dates. Remember that?

Alisa Grace:    Groundhog Day.

Chris Grace:    Groundhog Day, over and over again.

Alisa Grace:    Oh my gosh, Bill Murray.

Chris Grace:    Deja Vu or, I mean, Inception, right? Remember the movie Inception was all about memory. Okay, so memories are interesting because they're not like a video camera. In fact, mostly they are, I guess if you want, they're just simply something that we change over time. In fact, if you want to talk about it, it's almost like we don't have perfect memories like replaying a video camera. Most of the time, we're redefining and our memories get transformed. But I think what that leads to is a very interesting topic, Alisa and that is this, couples that look back in their memory banks with fondness have better outcomes in their marriages and their relationships.

    If they look back and they report that how they met, or their early story, or the way they were married their first year or things like that, if they report back in a more fond, positive way, they tend to do better and are more thriving then couples that look back and say, oh yeah, well, we met here. I don't know. I didn't really like her. She didn't like me. And well, we finally decided one day, let's just get married. We've been living together-

Alisa Grace:    And here we are.

Chris Grace:    ... Here we are. Very different ways of looking back. And so Alisa, that idea of nostalgia, that idea of looking backwards at times, it's a very important quality.

Alisa Grace:    It is. In fact, talking about happy events of your past together can really help couples reconnect in a deep and meaningful way. And so some research done by Dr. John Gottman, he's a leading marital researcher here in the United States. He says that if a couple can revive their fondness and admiration for each other by remembering those events, that they're much more likely to approach conflict resolution as a team. Isn't that interesting? And that the growth of their sense of we-ness, or togetherness or, Hey, we are a team, it's you and me against the world, that that will keep them as connected as they felt when they first met.

Chris Grace:    There's always studies. I think one of the things in my field, in particular, social psych, personality psych, there's always studies that come out that talk about the way in which looking back can be very helpful and important. We don't want to get stuck there and sometimes, we're not talking about negatives where you're just replaying the old, the mess ups, the how you would regret and resentment come in there. Instead, looking back in a way that is nostalgia like. That is, we like what it is. It's fun. And some of these memories in the past, and we go back through them, actually give us some psychological benefits.

    We just feel healthier. We feel more connected to each other. And I think one of the recent studies that came out, talked a little bit about this idea of returning back to home, let's say. It's this idea of what nostalgia means? Ah, what does it mean to think through the good things that I've had? And I think Alisa, that's important when it comes to marriages and relationships. The more idealized, the happier, the more warm, or longing, or desire that we have, man, it does something pretty positive for our relationships currently.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah, it sure does. I just, I love it. I think especially when I look back at our marriage, Chris, we've been married over 30 years and we started out really happy, then we hit a rough patch for about 10 years. And then since then, we came out of that. We stuck that out. We got through to the other side. But one of the things since we've started doing teaching, speaking on marriage, doing research and writing on marriage and relationships, healthy relationships, I think one of the things that has really helped us over the years is that every time we do a conference, what do we do? How do we start out? And what we do is, we share our story about how we met and it seems to just rekindle those embers of affection and how our heart used to skip a beat when we were first getting to know each other and building that culture of appreciating the other one and feeling appreciated and valued and it helps smooth over those rough patches that we hit.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. I think that's exactly right, Alisa. I mean, it rekindles. It shows what we've done well. Even the rough patches, if you go back over those thinking through it in a way that says, you know what, this was hard. This wasn't easy. Maybe there was loss or there were some negative experiences, but what we did is, we learned. I learned, for example, that one of my tendencies is to pursue, pursue, pursue. And one of your tendencies is to run away and that really hurt us.

    And so, as we think back, man, when we messed up, here's what we were doing. I was trying to go in and go and process something, but I hadn't really understood its impact on you and how much you needed time to be apart and wait for it. And pretty soon, I felt like you were rejecting me. But all that to say, we learned as much from our nostalgia of going back and looking at some of these negative things and how we overcame them, just like the positive ones. So rough patches can be looked back upon as signs of, man, we really did grow this way. What a good benefit that was. I know it was hard, but man, we learned, and we can grow this way through this.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah. So when you have a date night, if there's an activity that you want to do, or you have a real desire just to grow in that fondness and admiration and appreciation for each other, we really recommend that you go back and practice this idea of playing remember when.

Chris Grace:    Yeah.

Alisa Grace:    Go to dinner and say, "Remember when we first met," and then begin to talk to each other about it. We actually do this quite often and it's a lot of fun. I remember when I first laid eyes on you at the wedding, this is what struck me. This is what I liked. This is why I wanted to pursue you. And it was so exciting. This is how I felt when I was with you. And it just rekindles that connectedness, that sense of emotional oneness for you and me. And so one thing that we're going to do is, we are going to connect to a couple's exercise that we have based on John Gottman's principles of remember when and we're going to put it in the transcript. And so you can click on that link and you can actually do this exercise at home and begin to rekindle and grow that fondness and love and excitement once again for your own relationship.

Chris Grace:    Man, yeah. So Alisa, not only, I love that, that an exercise like that helps you rekindle. What it does is, it helps strengthen the connectedness that you can feel with another person. You and I feel more connected as we talk about these stories. It also does some other cool benefits. You feel better about yourself. People that feel better about themselves or relationships, are actually more helpful people. And I'd studied that for part of my master's thesis and dissertation was how other people help others. And one of the ways they do that, is when they feel strong, good social community and support, good relationship, they tend to be more helpful. They tend to want to strengthen their relationships. But even if you are dealing with negative things, you can still go through and say, gosh, back then, I know it was hard, but look what it led to. It was all for the best, or it led us to both have... We had these positive, but these negatives and it's created this cool relationship we have today.

    So Alisa I love that. I love this idea of how it can give us, not just connectedness, but it can provide for us this sense that you know what, our future looks pretty good. We're inspired to make this even better. And it can energize us for how to do this. So, I think the thing that we'll list in there, the way in which you can do this exercise, Alisa, can help add more of this fondness or nostalgia for your life and it's a great, great exercise.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah. So some of the questions that you would find in that couple exercise would include these questions. Number one, how did you meet and what were your first impressions of each other? Another one would be, what do you remember about the time you were dating? What were your favorite things to do or places to go together? Number three, how did you decide to get married? How did you know your spouse was the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with? Was it an easy decision or hard decision?

Chris Grace:    Yeah. And so those are the cool things, because you can pause and go in a lot of different directions and there might be things that remind you of the other person or you know what, we were at a movie and this is what happened. We were talking to a couple today that said, "We went to this restaurant while we were friends and so when we got engaged, we actually went and revisited some of those first places we went to." Why? Because they were associated with good things." They were associated... So it might be, maybe there's a cool movie that takes you back, or photos, or you take all these camera shots of a place and you're looking at them. But even just something like a song can take you back, right?

Alisa Grace:    Yeah.

Chris Grace:    And you go, I remember this. Remember that song? And this is where we were. So anyway, that is almost like, one person I remember saying, it's like what songs are those things that you associate with your life? So you and I have a particular soundtrack that another couple doesn't and other couples don't. Or particular locations, or theaters, or movies that you saw, maybe you went and saw one of these movies, like Frozen and you were there together and you remember what it did for you.

Alisa Grace:    It's really interesting. Something you just said made me think of this, is that this not only works playing this remember when game, not only works in a marriage, but it works to make your family close, to create-

Chris Grace:    That's exactly right.

Alisa Grace:    ... Those family memories that we all share. And when you mentioned the playlist, it made me think, we moved out here to California from Colorado. Chris' family is in Colorado. My family's in Texas. And when we first got married and moved to California, we would make twice a year that big trek all the way... We'd drive the two days back to Colorado. We'd spend a week there with Chris's family, then take a day, drive down to Texas, spend a day with my... I mean, a week with my family and then pile in the car, get the kids all in the car and we'd drive all the way back to California. Well, that's a lot of car time with our two kids at the time. And then, soon it became three kids. But we would put playlists together and listen to them, because you can't always get good radio reception in the car when you're in the middle of Timbuktu, New Mexico.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, pre-Spotify and pre-wireless.

Alisa Grace:    So we had a playlist that Chris put together and I mean, this is so funny, this is so going to date us. One of the things I remember that we laughed that the kids loved was Weird Al Yankovic, some of his songs on there. But just other songs that even now when we or our kids hear that song, it immediately takes us back to our family road trips twice a year and how fun they were and how our kids loved doing that. And that's one of the fun memories as a family that we can go back and rehearse and relive and laugh and share and it draws us together as a family. Super fun.

Chris Grace:    I think it is. And I think all listeners can agree and go, you know what, this is the place. This is the music. This is the movie. This is the smell. This is what we were doing, where we were, why it's so important. We had somebody knock on our door recently and say, "Do you mind if we just stop in and just say hi and peek at your house. Because 45 years ago, we lived here. I was raised here. My mom's out in the car and we just drove by because there's so many memories." Well, we let them in of course and they were just reminiscing.

Alisa Grace:    You got to be careful doing that.

Chris Grace:    Well, they were reminiscing about falling on the floor that was wood. We went, "Wait, what? That's a wood floor?" They go, "Oh yeah. I would run this way and slide." We always wondered at that time, if there was a wood floor and sure enough, we picked up the carpet after they left and found the wood floor. But they just came in because they had so many memories built up there. And so the point I think Alisa is, that people have, whether it's a soundtrack of life, whether it's a movie, whether it's the locations, or whether it's something funny, somebody said vacation or a spot-

Alisa Grace:    Events.

Chris Grace:    ... Reliving those, thinking about them with fondness, talking about, it's social glue. It's social connectedness. It pulls us together and I think that's what's so cool about this. So we'll encourage you. Try the little exercise we put in there. Practice that idea of going back and looking back into your memories, both good and negative. The positive ones, you know what those are like. The negative ones, you get to the process to say, man, I grew from that. We grew from that. We're stronger and better. And what a good opportunity to have this idea of looking back, it can strengthen in moving forward and give you more hope and more connectedness just by looking back. Pretty cool.

Alisa Grace:    Yeah, that's really cool. So if you're looking for more ideas and more ways to reconnect as a couple, as a family, go and check out our website at We've got tons of blogs, video clips, podcasts that you can check out. We'd love to have you do that. And then would you be sure, if you love this podcast, go on your favorite platform and give us a five star rating. Say how much you love us, because that will really help us out. And so, Chris, thanks for today. We'll look forward to joining you again in a couple weeks on the Art of Relationships.

Mandy:    Thanks for listening to the Art of Relationships. This podcast is only made possible through generous donations from listeners just like you. If you like it and want to help keep the podcast going, visit our website at, and make a donation today.