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  • Isabelle Morley, PsyD

The Problem with Needing to be Right

If you see every fight as a zero-sum game, you're in trouble. Conflict with your partner will go a lot smoother is you make this one change.




Fighting with your partner is stressful enough as it is, why make it worse?


Over and over again, I see couples make this mistake when they're arguing (although defensiveness might be the number one culprit for conflicts escalating).


I'm here to tell you- even though you think you're right, arguing your point to death and refusing to see your partner's perspective will not help your relationship.


If you're someone who has a hard time being wrong and always wants to win every fight, keep reading for a perspective shift and reasons to change your way of arguing.



Okay, You Are Right

Part of the human condition is that we very clearly see our perspective and that our opinions make a lot of sense to us. And the way in which we experience and perceive the world is right, but only to us.


But although we think we're right (and we are, in a sense), we shouldn't expect everyone to see things the way we do.


Because, and here's the tough part- other people may have different perspectives and they're right too.


...the way in which we experience and perceive the world is right, but only to us.


Barring those with clinical pathologies such as Narcissistic or Antisocial Personality Disorders, everyone has reasons for their opinions, and their perceptions of situations can also be right, even if it is in direct conflict with our own.



Accept That Your Partner is Right, Too

You have your right opinion, and your partner has theirs. You see the situation through one lens, and they do through another. There is room for both of your realities to exist and be right.


By accepting that your partner's perspective is just as right and valid as your own, you will be able to practice the invaluable art of perspective taking. Embrace the idea that both of you are right, and then try to understand their point of view.



Don't Make This a Battle

You may see your partner's perspective but still think yours is objectively more right, and that's fine, but don't make this a battle.


You don't have to agree with their side, and you don't have to make them agree with yours either.


Let each person have their opinion. Don't beat each other down with examples, facts, or questioning.



Being Right Doesn't Even Matter

The not-so-secret truth is that fighting with your partner is not about winning. You can be right all day long, but it won't help your relationship.


Fighting with your partner is an opportunity to get closer.


You have the chance to make your partner feel safe and heard. You can uncover important triggers and needs. You will be able to practice co-regulation together, which is an important skill for any couple.


In other words: seeing your partner's perspective will help you better understand them, empathize with them, and help them feel safe with you.



Also, Winning Has a Cost

If you choose to argue your point to death and you do end up victorious, you will have won the battle but lost the war.


Beating your partner down until they see things your way will make them feel unvalued, stupid, and/or silenced. They will become resentful if they keep acquiescing without actually agreeing, or their self-esteem will take a hit if they are persuaded that they're always wrong.


Over time you will degrade the quality of your connection if you continue to see each conflict as a zero-sum game.



If you choose to argue your point to the death and end up victorious, you will have won the battle but lost the war.


And if You STILL Aren't Convinced

Research by the Gottman Institute shows that about two thirds of arguments are perpetual. This means you'll be having the same argument, over and over again, your entire relationship.


And that also means that you can't win most arguments because the same conflicts are going to keep on happening.



Every argument is a chance to get closer to your partner, so approach conflict with that spirit and you'll see a change.

Maybe it's about your messiness, or his avoidance of your family, or their nitpicking everything you do. Doesn't matter what the specifics are, you're going to argue about the same things for your whole relationship.


Jump back to why being right doesn't even matter- it's not about convincing your partner of your perspective and ending the fight once and for all. Every argument is a chance to get closer to your partner, so approach conflict with that spirit and you'll see a change.



I'm Right About This

While you can't be right in arguments with your loved one, I am right about how you need to give up being right. This is research-backed information and if you let go of needing to be right and accept your partner's perspective as equally valid, if you make this change in your approach to arguments with your partner, you'll see a positive difference in how you communicate even during your most serious of fights.




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