One of the hardest tendencies to overcome in order to have a great relationship is the need to be right.
As the old cliché goes, Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?
When you need to be right, you’ll tend to make your partner wrong. And hey, we’ve all been there.
When this happens, a combative, competitive energy enters the relationship and you lock horns a lot.
Winning becomes more important than the connection between you and the relationship suffers as a result.
Yes, your partner’s dead wrong sometimes. Like, why the empty cookie wrappers on the kitchen counter and the dirty dishes in the sink? Whyyyyyyyy?
But seriously, unless your partner is abusive or totally checked out, they’re not wrong, they just do and see things differently than you.
And just as your way is right for you, so is theirs, for them.
But maybe their way isn’t right for you, so that’s what the conversation needs to focus on: what you want and need, instead of why your way is better and their way is wrong.
Magic happens in a relationship when you soften and get down to your bones that the way your partner sees and does things is as valid as the way you see and do things. It’s just different.
And hey, they’ve survived until now, so it probably works okay.
Sure, some things could be improved. And if you’re being honest with yourself, aren’t there ways that you do things that could be improved, too?.
The reality is that you both have strengths to share and places where both of you don’t show up at your best.
Instead of trying to win at all costs, look together at where you could draw on each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses.
Because relationship isn’t about winning, it’s about connection.
When you stop needing to win, the conversation can become about asking for what you each want and need, and figuring out together how to support one another, instead of who’s better.
The one inside of you who’s angling to be better than your partner is the one you need to make peace with so it doesn’t run, and ruin, your life and relationship.
In a client session with a woman who was struggling with her need to be right all the time, I said, “When you feel right on the inside, you won’t worry so much about being right on the outside.”
She dropped into a sense of her own rightness, which is available to each and every one of us underneath the disempowering beliefs we carry about ourselves.
She got under her need to be seen by others as right, recognizing that it came from insecurity as a result of childhood family dynamics, and she landed in a space of self-acceptance where she had the innate knowing that she was okay just as she was.
Her grip on the need for everyone else to know and acknowledge that she’s right loosened and she developed more space to allow others to be themselves, and to be herself with better boundaries of what works and doesn’t work for her.
As a recovering perfectionist, I see this dynamic in myself, too. The more I feel comfortable in my own skin, the less need I feel to try to control how others see me by bending over backwards to try to be perfect and right all the time.
So how do you shift this dynamic in your relationships?
1. Notice when you’re angling to be right
When you come in hard with criticism or your need to win a discussion, or a straight up argument, it’s a surefire way to shut down your partner’s self-expression.
Eventually you’ll drift apart. You’ll get to feel righteous, which feels great (in the moment). And you’ll probably start feeling lonely, which isn’t so hot.
So start catching it when you start to go down that road and hop like a bunny to step two.
2. Take a beat
When you notice yourself wanting to be right, pause.
Say something like, “I’m noticing that I’m getting activated and I’m going to take a few minutes to feel into what’s happening before I come back to continue the conversation.”
You could also just say, “I need to go to the bathroom now, I’ll be right back.”
Just get yourself a little breathing room in a way that doesn’t communicate rejection to your partner.
Once you’re by yourself ask:
- What in me is being stirred up right now?
- Where does this intense need to be right right now come from?
- Does my sense of identity feel threatened in some way right now?
- Can I trace this back to an earlier trauma or wound?
3. Soften and get curious
Come back to the conversation. Soften your need to be right and get curious about where your partner’s coming from.
Remind yourself that this is someone you love, and who loves you, and isn’t someone who’s out to jump you in a back alley (even if your nervous system can’t remember that right now).
Curiosity is a transformative salve in relationships. By actively being open and curious toward your partner, you get to be bowled over again and again by the unique intricacies of their mind and heart.
Real talk: Your need to be right blocks intimacy, whereas curiosity actually creates a safe enough space between the two of you for your partner to reveal more about how they think and feel, which is so cool!
4. Tend to what you discovered about yourself after the conversation
Once you know what was being stirred up by your need to be right in that moment, tend to yourself about it.
Journal about what got activated. Get to know that need intimately in all its flavors. Where it came from and the many ways it crochets through your life.
Get curious about yourself here, instead of judgy.
Tenderly hold the part of you that needs to be right and tell it that it’s okay, it’s safe, and you’ve got this.
Following these four steps when you notice your need to be right threatening to blowtorch your relationship will help you discern more clearly when to stand for your point of view and when to soften around it, so you’re no longer struggling to breathe within the tight grip of your need to be right, and neither is your partner.
By doing this, true love and intimacy have a chance to flourish between you, which is what I think you actually want more than being right.
The relationship you desire is possible! Click HERE to discover what missing pieces are stopping you from having the connection and passion you desire.