The Need to Be Right

Occasionally a marriage will end as a result of one single incident, such as infidelity. But more often than not, it’s the day-to-day hurtful words and actions between a couple that dissolve a marriage slowly over time. The need to be right when there is a disagreement is one that is damaging and causes a lot of pain within our most intimate relationships.

Yes, being right feels good. We all like to know we have the right answer and like it when other people notice that we are right. Afterall, the desire to be right is something that was taught to us at a very young age. When we get the answers right in school, we get better grades. When we make the “right” choice, we get rewarded. When we went out into the competitive working environment we got a promotion if  we made the right choices and had the fewest failures. These are some of the ways how we came to believe that being right was the goal. That being right is good.

Although the need to be right may have served us in school and work, it can be the very thing that destroys our relationships. Here’s why the need to be right can be so damaging for a marriage:

  • We’re Not Listening.When our desire is to be right, we’re not listening to our partners. We may be dominating the conversation, talking over our partners and interrupting.  We may be waiting to respond and not listening because we’re thinking about the next rebuttal that will align with our beliefs and ideologies that will make us feel right.
  • We Learn Nothing New. When we’re so tied to our own views and opinions, we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to learn anything new. Our role is to remain open to the lesson, open to another point of view, open to possibility that our partner has a view opinion that is just as valid as our own.
  • We Remain Stuck in the Past. When we learn nothing new, the only insights from which we have to draw upon for making decisions is the past. Our past experiences, failures, our relationships. When we’re focused on the past, we unintentionally perpetuate those same experiences, bringing them into the present and allowing them to impact the future. This is how we repeat the same relationship mistakes over and over again and experience repeated heartache, even inside the same relationship.
  • It Limits Our Ability to Connect.Prioritizing the need to be right in an important conversation with our spouses will limit our ability to connect with them. The one thing I hear more than any other thing that’s missing inside of a struggling marriage is connection. When we have to be right, then the other person is automatically wrong. When we feel like we’re consistently being made to feel like we’re wrong, that’s not someone we’re anxious to connect with and get closer to.

Every one of us has a lens through which we see and experience the world around us. Embedded in that lens are decades of thoughts, beliefs, judgements, experiences and opinions. No two people on the planet have the exact same lens because no two people have had the exact same life experiences that led them to the exact same conclusions. So wat is the definition of right? Although your own opinions seem painfully, obviously accurate and correct to you, it’s unlikely that someone else will see all the important parts of the relationship the exact same way. Maybe there is no real definition of right; maybe we each just have an opinion. Maybe, no one has to be right.

If we behave as though our spouses opinion isn’t valuable, it can create an unintentional hierarchy within the relationship where one partner feels better than or smarter than the other. The best relationships are comprised of equals with mutual respect for one another. When we’re not willing to listen to and consider one another’s opinions to be just as valid as our own this cannot happen. There is no hierarchy in a healthy relationship.

When there is a consistent need to feel right – particularly with the one we chose to spend our lives with – we’re falling back into habitual behavior that may have served us in other ways. Instead, we need to become intentional about employing different strategies in our relationships so that both people feel safe, valued, heard, important and equal.