Barbara Rothberg, DSW, LCSW

Therapy, Coaching, Mediation and Parent Coordination

 
 
 
       

Being Right

M ost of us generally want to be right. It feels good to be right. But that doesn't always get us what we want.

It is so typical to have a couple in my office argue that one of them is "right", clearly inferring that the other is wrong. Couples so often fight about who is right. They can discuss all the details of a situation using a right and wrong framework. But, an argument is rarely solved by deciding one person is right. That's because it is generally not about right and wrong but about more complex feelings and being heard and understood.

Cari complained that Doug never does his share of housework. Yes, he takes out the garbage, but that's about it. She does the laundry, the shopping, the cooking and just about everything else. It isn't right she says, again and again, feeling sorry for herself. Doug, has a response. He is defensive and talks about working long hours, paying most of the bills and not having enough time. They have agreed to a fairly traditional marriage, but when Cari feels overwhelmed, she resorts to "it isn't right."

So, is Cari correct that it isn't right?  Well, yes, but that's not the point. Being right actually has little to do with their argument. If we discussed who was right or wrong, what good would that do?  From the facts stated above, it certainly doesn't seem "right" that Cari is doing so much more housework than Doug. But, we need to revisit their agreement and understand how they have been living their lives, and what has changed to create this dissatisfaction. Cari has always been doing more of the housework in their relationship but now seems to be feeling unappreciated and overworked. Is this a new feeling? or has she been feeling like this for a while? Have the circumstances in her life changed? Has Doug's behavior changed toward Cari? Is he doing less in the house than he had been doing? Is he busier and less available than he had been? These are the the kinds of questions to ask and explore, and they have little to do with who is right.

We can establish that one partner in a relationship is "right" but that does not solve the problem. To this point, there are many popular sayings:

          - Would you rather be right or happy?

          - Would you rather be right or married?

          - Would you rather be right and alone?

These indicate that being right is not necessarily the key to a better relationship.  You can be right and very unhappy!

What it means is that being right is not the key to winning. Instead, I'd suggest understanding and compassion.

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