Why Doesn’t He Remember Past Feelings?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am a 32 year old single female. I have recently re-connected with a man I knew in High School. I had a crush on him then and have met with him casually and have feelings for him now. My radar went up when he mentioned that he can’t remember the past with any feelings or emotions. I thought that this was a very strange thing to say. I will admit I have my guard up because in the past I have been attracted to men who have mental problems. My last serious relationship ended when I found out that my boyfriend was stealing from my parents to pay for prescription drugs over the internet. He came from a traumatic broken home an family life.

I don’t want to over-react but I am concerned that this new guy might be hinting at some bigger problems. One that I am not sure I want to get involved in. I want to stop repeating my old patterns of trying to “save” the guy.

Are there any “dis-orders” that would correlate with being unfeeling about the past or is he just making small talk?

A: Good for you for taking care of yourself by asking the question. It shows that you are trying to learn from your mistakes and do things differently this time. That’s an important phase of making an essential change.

Memory of emotions is important. Feelings associated with memory serve as guideposts for our lives. They help us remember what kinds of things we want to repeat and what kinds of things we want to avoid. In troubled times, pleasant memories remind us that life isn’t always hard. Feelings help regulate our behavior and connect with other people.

There are a number of reasons a man might say he has no emotional memory. It may simply be that, as a man, he has been taught not to express his emotions. It’s sad but true that there are still families that shut down a little boy’s emotional experience of the world, believing that to be sensitive to feelings is “unmanly.” Or he may actually have emotional memory but doesn’t recognize it as such or doesn’t have a vocabulary for it. And one of the characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder can be dissociation from feelings. During a traumatic experience, a person may separate from feelings in order to survive what would have been overwhelming emotional pain. He also could have a personality disorder. People with antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder are sometimes disconnected from their feelings.

I don’t have enough information to narrow it down for you. The simplest way for you to get an answer to your question is to simply ask him what he meant. If you are both interested in pursuing a relationship, it should be okay to explore something this important.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Aug 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Why Doesn’t He Remember Past Feelings?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/08/24/why-doesnt-he-remember-past-feelings/