You Can Be Right. Or Married. Not Both
14th September, 2010
Do you see people struggling with the need to be right? If you're honest, is it something you struggle with too? If you start listening out for it, you’ll hear it everywhere. Especially if you’re unlucky enough to be unwittingly part of an argument while just trying to mind your own business and get the bus home.
Being right entails a gathering of evidence, an explanation of facts, and often an air of superiority. You’re on a mission to prove your point, and you’ll try to bring in evidence, other people, and whatever else is necessary, to show the other person the “truth” or the way things “really” are.
This saying from respected US-based therapist Lisa Merlo-Booth, which she shares with couples who struggle with the urge to be right. She tells them, “You can be right or you can be married. Which is more important to you?”
Being right can often look innocent enough:
Ann: “Babe, we didn’t go out Friday, it was Saturday.”
It can also seem very rational:
Ann: “When you carry the sports gear separately, rather than in the sports bag, you have a better chance of losing things.”
David: “I prefer to just bring the necessities rather than a big bag.”
(So far so good…until…)
Ann: “But that doesn’t make sense. It’s much easier to have everything in one place and secure. Everyone knows that, why don’t you?”
And it can be extreme:
Dan: “You don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t do the dishes like that. First, you wash them with dish soap, then you rinse them, and then you put them in the dishwasher. I can’t believe you’re washing them that way!”
Being right, at its extreme, sends out the message to the other person that they’re stupid. Although most people are smart enough to not call someone stupid directly, the other person is well aware that’s what you’re thinking.
Allow your partner to not be “wrong” and look for a middle ground. Perhaps you’re both “right” and you just see things differently. By creating space for an alternative, you allow for the possibility of a win-win situation rather than a win-lose. This helps you, your partner, and the relationship. Remember, “You can be right or you can be married.” You can’t be both. (If you’re not married, this obviously still applies!)
Challenge: If anyone has ever told you that you always have to be right or that you’re argumentative or need to get in the last word, then pay attention. You may struggle with this and, trust me, even if you are right 90% or the time, it’s annoying to live with.
When you notice yourself in that space, take a deep breath, close your mouth, and just relax. Know that you have a point, and give yourself the acknowledgement you are trying so hard to get from others.
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