Recently, as I was working with a couple in counseling, after about 45 minutes and numerous successful interchanges to better understand one another, the wife finally looked at me and said, “Ok, now tell us who was right and who was wrong?” Most of us have that deep need to know we are right. Somehow if we know we are right then we have a false sense that everything in our world makes sense and we feel good about ourselves. However, this often leaves our partner feeling bad and shamed. And we miss an opportunity to understand both of our hearts and perspectives at a deeper level than just the superficial issue.
Suppose you and your spouse were standing on a street corner and observed a car accident. When asked later about the details of the accident, one of you might say that you saw the baby in the car seat hit its head at the time of impact. The other might have a different recollection of what happened. They did not see a baby, what they saw was the boy on his bike who was hit by one of the cars as he was crossing the street. Who is right?
To understand your spouse’s viewpoint put your opinion and feelings aside to take the time to understand them and their diverse view. Then you can have a time to also express your side. In counseling, we call this “putting it on the shelf.” We encourage partners to put their view on hold for a brief period of time, knowing they will come back to it shortly, so that they can enter into what feels like the foreign world of their spouse. By taking the time to visit our partners world we are better able to understand with more compassion and empathy how our spouse is viewing things. When there is space and room for both peoples view then more often than not you are able to see how both of you have points that are respected and important to the relationship.
The bible makes it clear that none are right, no not one (Romans 3:10). The only way we are right is if we accept the rightness that Jesus gives us freely. We must lay down our efforts to be right, have humility and accept his rightness.
When we fight for our rightness in marriage, we are really showing that we have not fully accepted His rightness and that we are still trying to resolve our nagging internal unrightness by our own efforts. When we know that we have his rightness, we can be wrong, feel humility and it does not effect our core and destabilize us deep down inside. Our stability rests in the relationship we have with him and the fact that he loves us and we are right in his eyes.
During your next conflict we’d like you to try this exercise. It’s an eye opening experience that will help you navigate through a disagreement or conflict. Whatever the topics of the conflict write down or verbalize these different stances on the subject.
- I’m Right and you’re wrong.
- You’re Right and I’m Wrong.
- Then state how both of you are right and both of you are wrong.
- And lastly, state what is more important than either of you being right.
The reality in most situations is that both people see things from their own perspective and have their own feelings and impressions of how things occurred and to argue over who is right and who is wrong is futile. Having a winner and a loser, a right person and wrong person, a good or bad person will not bring you what you really want which is closeness and connection. We are actually told to “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (rightness) and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). A loving and close marriage relationship is a part of “all these things.” Let go of having to be right. Focus in on His rightness. Seek to know and validate your spouse. Then watch the peace that surpasses all understanding fill your marriage.
Please feel free to post on our blog. Here is a question for you... Do you believe that somehow if your know you are right then you have a false sense that everything in your world makes sense and you feel good about yourself? If so, why is that the case?
Allen Haley, M.Div., P.C.
Terri Haley, M.F.T