What’s Wrong With Being Right

It feels good to be right about something, doesn’t it? Imagine you’re talking to a friend about a movie you saw recently, it has that one guy from that one show – what’s his name? You think it’s one person, but your friend is very sure it’s someone else. So you look it up… and ha! You were right! You feel a brief good-natured sense of satisfaction and share a laugh together.

If only issues in relationships were this easy to sort out. You could simply look up the answer and declare who is “right.” Your arguments would be solved.

Hold up. It isn’t that simple – and it shouldn’t be. Here are two things to focus on when you get caught up in winning the argument.

We’re on the same team.
Maintaining the “same team” mentality can seem hard sometimes. It might feel like you’re coming at each other from opposite corners. You’ve tried to understand your partner’s perspective and just can’t wrap your head around it. You’re so sure you’re right! But it’s during times like these that the mantra of “we’re on the same team” is most important. Teammates lift each other up for the good of the team, or in this case, your relationship. One person “winning” means the relationship loses, or at the most is stagnant. Instead, think about how you can be a good teammate to your partner. This might mean letting go of your pride, which is easier said than done when the urge to prove your point is strong. But if you can make it over that hill, it will pay off in the long run.

What outcome best serves our relationship?
Focusing on whether you’re right means you’re probably not putting much effort into understanding your partner better or thinking about how you can compromise. And that means you might be missing out on a really great opportunity to connect with your partner and actually grow together – but it takes the ability to let go of defensiveness and be vulnerable with each other. Are there worries or insecurities that are tied to your desire to be “right”? Share them with your partner. Growing closer in conflict instead of becoming more divided is an invaluable skill that will pay dividends throughout your relationship.

We are instilled with the idea that being right is satisfying and winning is a worthy goal. But when it comes to our relationships, this isn’t necessarily the case – in fact, it may actually be detrimental. If you’re able to remember that you’re not competing with your partner and instead focus on growing together in conflict, you set yourself up creating a strong, resilient relationship.

It should be noted that the types of conflicts we’re referring to in this post are those in which there is not a clear right or wrong solution. In instances of abuse, infidelity, or other crises, we encourage you to seek out appropriate support.

16 thoughts to “What’s Wrong With Being Right”

    1. I’m a rather slow learner; however, one thing I have gleaned that lends credibility and more harmony to a relationship is to use the language “different,” as opposed to “right” and “wrong”! Our individual perspective and/or opinion is not necessarily more right or wrong than the other person’s opinion. Rather, our opinions are different. And, a positive re-frame wisely reminds us that we need various opinions in our life and in the world. God bless variety!

  1. Excellent Material. …
    You must decide do you wanna be right or
    You wanna be righteous….We have the word on the inside of us..

  2. Often, I tell my husband that I love and value him too much to argue about who’s right and whose wrong. My motto, WWJD? Well, He would give his life for the other. Therefore, as I live my life through Christ, I do the same, I give my life for the sake of my spouse. This attitude brings about so much peace in our relationship and put him in a position of desiring to imitate Christ as well. Plus it puts him in a better frame of mind to truly listen to what I am saying.

  3. One of my favorite pastoral mentors always says, “It is more important to be righteous than to be right.”

  4. I also agree completely, and it takes two to drop the rope and save the relationship. What if, one person is not trying to be right, and the one that is being understanding and supportive? They drop the rope. Does the struggle still exist? It can still be a struggle if only one person is willing to cease the importance of winning. Both partners need to drop the rope. Just saying.

  5. My husband and I struggle daily with this. He thinks I’m always trying to be right, but I am not! I tell him it isn’t about who is right or wrong. How can I get him to stop being so defensive and agree to compromise?

  6. My feelings exactly, we are on the same team not adversaries. Fun competition should not be allowed to cross into conflict with our spouse or loved ones.

  7. While the blog offers some useful points and perspectives, the effect comes down to the individual’s experience with the encounter. In a contest to prove oneself right, there may be a subtle and sometimes not so subtle dynamic to establish superiority. Having the “right” knowledge can mean having power and influence over the other. It can also mean that I care about you and would like you to know more about me, or be edified in your own life experience by what I know. Which direction this goes depends largely on why and how the point is delivered and subsequently processed by the receiver.
    To elaborate on “learning how to become a good teammate” and “growing together in the relationship,” think of the relationship as a circle, a joined unit: what one says or does affects the other, whose reaction in turn the affects the other, and round and round, back and forth it goes.
    What is being being right and winning anyway? As the blog indicates, some points or positions are verifiable; facts are what they are. Often, being right is a guise for opinion or belief, which is a reflection of one’s limited knowledge and/or life experience. Few of us are experts in any particular realm of knowledge, but we are all experts of our own experience. One’s experience is never right or wrong, but it is to be respected as one’s truth or where one is with their life. What makes relationships challenging and interesting is that we are all at different places, yearning for common ground and shared experiences, while acknowledging differences and limitations.
    We have learned from communication theory that whenever two people are interacting with each other, some 60-70% of the information that is processed by the receiver of a message is picked up through non-verbal cues of the one sending the message – his or her eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice, gestures. This has a powerful impact on what the experience of an encounter is like, as it goes back and forth.
    Application: Couples have countless “moments” of encounter and contact with each other, often brief. In conflict engagement, or with the energy that goes into proving one’s case, these moments of experience become intensified. Consciously or unconsciously throughout the circular exchange one is constantly processing both the content of the message as well as its personal emotional impact. In the end, one walks on from any encounter recording and classifying it verbally as “that was nice…that felt good… like that…feel important/validated… Ok…not bad…ugh!…that hurt…don’t need that…wasn’t heard… feel small.;.., or just a vague gut feeling of comfort/security/connection or uneasy/disconnected.” Predicting whether a relationship will survive is based on a ratio: when the experience of negatively rated or felt encounters starts getting close to 70%, it is not likely that the relationship will survive.

    1. Thank you so much for your reply! Never has anything made so much sense to me! I have been married for 28 years and 10 months ago left my husband. I have since moved back home and we have been doing counseling. There has been Some progress made but Your insight would do wonders if my husband was able to hear it and understand it. Thank you again for your wise words. Do you have a counseling practice somewhere?

      1. Glad to know my remarks were helpful. I had a practice in Ohio until I retired in May to move to Oregon. I specialized in working with couples.

  8. My wife and I have been married for 49 years this month!!! We have started a new game within the last year when we disagree. We will say, “It is your day to be right” whatever the disagreement is. We have fun with this and others have laughed with us as we share this in front of them in our discussions with us and them. it causes us to laugh together and move on together with lighthearted joy in our discussions.

  9. To my husband, doing what he thinks is right is most important. To me, being right is subjective. I don’t try to “be right.” I just know what I need to keep my head above water. Bottom line, how we do things differently is what divides us.

  10. When I am counseling couples in my therapy practice, we often talk about getting on the same side of the tug-of-war rope against the problem. Our partner is not the problem. The problem is the problem. Two pulling together will always be stronger than two pulling against each other.

  11. Super powerful post! We love the “one team” mentality and it has helped us through the sorrows and joys of our relationship and marriage.

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