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To Be Right or to Be Happy? Tips to Stay Together

May 24, 2014

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Research suggests that almost 50% of all marriages end in divorce; not very good odds. When you really think about it, agreeing to share your life with someone is actually a pretty daunting thought. Based on this staggering figure, and having seen many failed marriages in our own families, my husband and I decided to attend a weekend-long workshop called Marriage Success Training before tying the knot, in an attempt to set ourselves up for a marriage without an expiration date.

Over the course of the weekend he and I embarked on an emotional journey that ultimately brought us closer together and taught us a lot. We asked questions of each other and ourselves that we hadn’t asked before. For instance, what were our goals as individuals and as a couple? Did we want to have kids? How important is money? And maybe the scariest one: how do we handle conflict? Now there’s a touchy subject that no one wants to talk about.

As we really dug in to this in the training, we discovered that one of the key factors in a successful relationship is (drumroll, please) letting go of being right. Such a simple idea in theory, but in action this can be one of the most challenging aspects of any relationship, whether friendship or romantic. 

Why is this so difficult? As humans, we feel an innate desire to be right, compounded by the fact that many of us are raised to value ourselves by how “right” we are. From a young age we are rewarded for being right, in both the classroom and the social sphere. Being wrong is seen as embarrassing and makes us feel inferior to our peers, while being right massages our egos and makes us feel more secure and confident in our abilities. This pattern is reinforced throughout our lives, and this righteousness can infuse our relationships, becoming a barrier to finding lasting happiness.

So how do you avoid this pitfall in your relationships? Here are a few tips to overcoming your need to be right:

1)    Remember that you’re in it together.

You are with this person for a reason. In the height of an argument it may be tough to remember that, but if you can re-connect to this idea in the moment, it may help you to take responsibility for your role in the disagreement. When you see your significant other as a partner and not an antagonist, you can more easily see your his or her point of view, which will help ease tension more quickly.

2)    Handle it now!

Nothing good comes of letting arguments fester for days on end. A little bit of room to breathe can be valuable, but too much and we make ourselves and our partners miserable, and often forget what the argument was really about in the first place! In tense moments, take a moment to breathe, let go of your ego, and talk it through until you both have closure and can move on. 

3)    Know who you are and what you want.

Maintaining independence and separate identities is crucial to the health of a relationship. Keep it fresh and interesting by pursuing your own passions—when you have your own full life going on, you won’t have the time or the desire to worry about being right or proving something.

4)    Love who they are right now.

Ok, so your partner is dirty, never on time, and spends way too much money. That’s who they are, and usually the things that bother us about others are just mirrors of our own shortcomings. Be aware when these negative thoughts come up, and see it as a chance to learn more about yourself.

5)    Choose happiness.

What do you really gain by being right? Nada! Remember, you are an awesome person regardless of how many arguments you “win.”  

How do you let go of being right? Share your experiences in the comments below.