If you always want to be right, your relationship will suffer.
We sometimes go to huge efforts to be right; to show that our truth is the correct one or is more “reasonable“. In disputes we often resort to two strategies in order to prove that we are right:
We draw up evidence, e.g.:
- “It’s a fact! The possibility of an abnormal child increases after the age of 35.”
- “People who drink every day are taking years off their life.”
- “What’s wrong with you? Its obvious: sex improves relationships.”
Arguments can continue about these for ever.
The other way we attempt to gain power by claiming the high ground of ‘truth’ is through ‘witnesses’:
- “Look at Caroline, she had a baby at 38 and he has Down’s Syndrome.”
- “Friends are remarking on how much you drink.”
- “This study shows that couples who have frequent sex, have better relationships!”
“There is only one reality and it’s mine!” In relationships, having this attitude means you are up for conflict; you are excluding sensible discussion and are incapable of being receptive or empathic. There are as many realities as there are people present. It all depends on how you look at things; not on how they are in themselves.* We are all subjective; nobody owns the truth.
If you really want to connect instead of argue about the “truth”, try these three openers instead of those above:
- “Now I’m 39, I’m frequently anxious about getting pregnant.”
- “I am frightened about your drinking ..”
- “I want us to have more sex; I need the relief and re-assurance I get from it.”
These are subjective and offer human connection. They don’t blame or attract arguments. They are risky in that they are about underlying needs and fears, not about being right. Therefore they invite better understanding, intimacy and realistic compromise.
Arguments about the truth or being right are corrosive and often irrelevant to the underlying issue. Think about why you like your version of the truth. Talk subjectively about yourself only and your unique concerns; don’t power-grab the ‘truth’ in an effort to get your partner to meet your needs. Be curious about why your partner has his/her version.
What do you want – to be right, or to be loving and intimate?
With thanks to:
Bridges Not Walls by J Stuart,
The Dance of Anger by H Lerner,
Existential Perspectives on Relationship Therapy by E Van Deurzen & S Iacovou
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