Why Introducing Some Nostalgia Into Your Relationship Might Be A Good Thing

Nostalgia, that bittersweet longing we feel for a time in the past, is often spoken about in a negative sense. We are told to look ahead and not live in the past. Especially in a relationship setting, nostalgia is not something that's encouraged. 

But according to a 2023 study published in Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, there is a positive link between nostalgia and relationships. In fact this is not the only study that has explored this subject. A 2022 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships also explored how fondly longing for and remembering how you and your partner were in the good old days can enhance your relationship. As lead researcher of the 2022 study, Nicholas Evans, told Greater Good Magazine, "Our conclusion is that experiencing nostalgia temporarily enhances perceptions of relationship quality. People report more closeness, commitment, and relationship satisfaction after listening to a nostalgic song or writing about nostalgia."

When was the last time you looked at your wedding album or heard a song that reminded you of your early dating days and felt an instant sense of closeness to your significant other? While Evans shared that there's untapped potential in this phenomenon, romantic nostalgia is a healthy relationship habit some people might think is toxic. Intrigued? Here's what introducing a little bit of nostalgia could do for you and your partner. 

Nostalgia could help you navigate conflict better

The 2023 study focused on the positive effects of nostalgia when it came to conflict resolution and commitment. As developmental clinical psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne shared on the study in Psychology Today, "Thinking back on the past nostalgically, also called 'relational savoring,' could provide a much-needed antidote to current strains. Generating positive memories, then, could negate or cancel out the negative feelings in the present."

Conflict is an area many of us struggle with. In the heat of the moment, it's easy to get lost in frustration and anger. By learning to take a breath and even go into separate rooms if needed, and forcing yourself to reflect on your early and more joyous days together, you might just give yourself a different perspective with which you can come back to the conversation. As nostalgia researcher and professor Krystine Batcho wrote in Psychology Today, "When partners have come into conflict, nostalgia can soothe the emotional landscape and defuse negative emotions, such as anger, and counterproductive motives, such as resentment and revenge. The softer mood that nostalgia induces is more amenable to feelings of loyalty and forgiveness." 

To help have easy access to old memories when you need them, try placing photos around your home. Or have a Spotify playlist of the songs that remind you of your early dating days which you can turn to. Even maintaining a journal is a good way to rekindle old emotions when you need them. 

Indulging in some nostalgia might bring optimism into your relationship

One of the things we do to sabotage our relationships is to view them negatively. 

When the monotony of life seeps in or we get so accustomed to our significant other that the thought of the relationship doesn't thrill us like it used to anymore, it might be useful to turn your gaze toward your past together. One of the good things about the initial stages of a relationship is the excitement or romance of it all and how everything felt so magical back then. Harnessing from those memories can help you inject some excitement into the present as well. As Batcho shared in Psychology Today, "The yearning for what once was and no longer is can energize people to recapture what they miss. The realization that what was lost did exist at one point in their life offers hope that they can recover it, perhaps in an even better form."

This might mean making an intentional effort to revisit some of the old restaurants you frequented together for a meal or even spending a romantic evening at home watching movies you used to watch together when you first started dating. You could even spend some time talking about how you both met and how you felt about one another back then. Sometimes, a long-term commitment can benefit from a simple trip down memory lane, especially since we're prone to being forgetful as human beings.