When it comes to marriage, the opposite of “right” isn’t “wrong.” It’s “happy.”
Because when we’re too focused on being right within a marriage, we’re losing focus on what’s really important:
– reaching shared goals, even when you differ on the choice of the path to get there
-managing overlapping lives
-and, perhaps most importantly, constantly learning from and encouraging each other.
You can be right or you can take this opportunity to learn about a different perspective.
I had to laugh when my friend’s husband complained to me that my friend doesn’t load the dishwasher the “right” way. “I didn’t realize there was a universally agreed upon correct method,” I joked.
And that’s true in many areas, not just dishwashers. There may be strategies that are more efficient. Or more effective. Or easier. Or more familiar. That doesn’t necessarily mean that one is more “right” than the others. They’re just different ways of looking at the same thing.
I love the famous parable about the elephant and the six blind men. Each one, feeling a different region of the animal, reaches a different conclusion. “It’s a snake!,” exclaims the man running his hands along the trunk. “No, it’s a rug!” insists the one running the hair on the tip of the tail through his hands.
One elephant. Six men. And six different – and equally valid – conclusions.
So often the things we disagree about within a marriage fall into this category where there really is no right and wrong, simply different ways of looking at things. And so when we fixate on proving that our way is best, we pass by an opportunity to learn how to see something differently. And that something includes our spouse.
It’s strange how learning that our partner has a different view from us can be threatening. But it can. We all-too-easily begin to believe that they feel the same way about things as we do and it can be a little disorienting when we learn that they have a different perspective. And sometimes, a little shake-up is a good thing:)
You can be right or you can focus on solving the problem.
Most of the time, you and your spouse are on the same side. You both want a good environment to raise a happy and healthy family. You both want to make sure that you have financial stability and that you can purchase the things you need. You want time together and also time to maximize your own potential.
Yet when problems arise, it’s easy to take sides, you on one side of the ring and your spouse on the other. When your focus shifts to proving that you’re right (or proving that your partner is wrong), you forget about the expanse of the agreed-upon area between you, instead focusing only on the differences.
When you need to be right, the other person by default has to be wrong. There is a winner. And there is a loser. And perhaps the marriage is the biggest loser of all when you forget the magic that happens when you realize that you’re on the same side. Even when you disagree.
Put your energy on solving the problem. Not on disproving your partner.
You can be right or you can allow your spouse to prove your expectations wrong.
Have you ever had a full-on conversation with your spouse about something, only the entirety of the dialog took place within your head? *Sheepishly raises hand*
I know for me, when I finally do have that conversation for real, the actual words coming from my husband’s mouth are usually much more supportive than the imagined ones. Yet, and this has unfortunately happened, if I’ve already convinced myself that my conclusions are right, it’s hard for me to actually hear the words he’s saying.
It’s tricky with spouses. They have a track record. And so we think we know how they’re going to respond before we give them a chance to.
Sometimes, we neglect to have the hard conversations because we believe we already know the answers and so the exercise seems futile. Yet doesn’t it make more sense to ask your spouse the questions and give them enough respect to provide space for their answers.
You can be right or you can admit that sometimes you’re wrong.
It’s not easy to admit when we’re wrong. The ego sees this as a personal attack and any insecurities like to act like school-yard bullies (“You’re so stupid! You’re so stupid!). This is especially true when admitting the wrong threatens our view of ourselves (For example, as a math teacher, I would be more threatened by an error in my mathematical reasoning than I would be by my ignorance about the location of a particular country).
It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to change your stance on something as you have gained more wisdom and experience. When we admit we’re wrong, we’re making space to learn how to do better. How to be better. When we hold too tightly to the need to be right, we’re ultimately holding ourselves back from being the best we can be.
You can be right or you can be married.
This phrase is often used to imply that in order to remain married, you have to constantly bite your tongue. But that’s no recipe for a happy marriage. When you hold back on saying the important things, resentment and distance grows.
Instead, what we can take from the phrase is this – there are things that are more important to a marriage than being right.
It is more important to act as a team.
It is more important to listen teach other with an open mind.
It is more important to treat each other with respect, even when you disagree.
It is more important to focus on the shared goals than the details.
And if it’s important to you to stay married, sometimes you’re going to have to let go of being right.