Resist The Urge To Say, "You're Wrong"

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

During an argument, many couples love to say to their warring partner (with due emphasis, of course), "YOU'RE WRONG!" Some resist the temptation to verbalize it, but others give in. I wonder what those who give in to such temptation and dare say it, are thinking? Do they expect their partners to simply stop arguing, enter into deep self-reflection and say, "You are right dear, I was wrong, wasn't I? I apologize." We never hear of such a happy ending to an argument, except, perhaps in a dream.

Here is some more kindling for the "fire" that couples supply to one another: "How can you be that way?'; "You know how to hurt me (or push my buttons)"; "Don't do that to me." Other examples of "I am right and you're wrong": start with "You always…" or, "You never…" Those who use such expressions on a regular basis always have fights, and never find peace in their relationship.

Let us dissect some of the one liners which have robbed countless couples of peace and harmony since Adam and Eve discovered that they could use words instead of fists to fight. "I am right and you're wrong,'" is a "lose-lose" situation. Even when you know you are right, don't be eager to prove it to your partner. Some people only stop when they can see that their partners have admitted fault or said the magic word, "I am sorry!" The cost of such personally gratifying moments can be heavy for the future. You may win the battle at hand but eventually lose the relationship.

"How can you be that way?" In asking that question, does one really expect a soul-searching answer from his or her partner? Sure, it would be wonderful to get such responses as, "I am an adult child of an alcoholic parent" or, "My parents had a bitter divorce when I was six and that made me a hard person to live with," but don't count on it. "How can you be that way?" is not a question, it is a statement, translated in the mind of the partner as, "You are an awful and terrible person to live with, and you should be ashamed of yourself." It is seen as an attack, and attacks often result in counterattacks.

There are always three sides to a story: one, what husband believes happened; second, what wife believes happened; and the third is as it really happened. So, when one partner asks the other in anger, "Why are you that way," or "Why do you always act this way?," there may be a wide discrepancy between how each partner views the entire situation. The truth may be very different from either point of views. If they can remember the fact that there is not just one but three ways, their relationship conflicts might come to a grinding halt. Unfortunately, anger produces "tunnel vision," and the only way an angry person sees is "my way."

No matter how much two people love each other, some time in their journey together, conflicts will develop, but conflicts do not have to get in the way of a healthy, happy, and long-lasting romantic relationship. All conflicts can be reconciled, if both partners try to do just that, try to reconcile rather than extending the conflict. Unfortunately, instead of bridging the gap between the positions held by each partner, one or both try to dominate, win, or attack.

A conflict is nothing but a barrier that stands between a person and what he or she wants. Human beings are programmed to either overcome the barrier by attacking and toppling it, or tucking their tail and going the other way. So, during a conflict, due to differing views, values or philosophies, one sees one's partner as the barrier. The instincts then prompt the individual to either fight or withdraw. This biological model of attacking or fleeing from the conflict cannot work in a romantic relationship. Both partners have to find a way around the conflict or find the middle path that runs through it. The fact of the matter is that only a few people believe that in a conflict both parties can win. The large majority of people believe that when there are differences, conflicts or opposing views between any two individuals, only one of them can win. Naturally, if one believes that only one person can win, he or she wants one thing, "it better be me."

Partners should occasionally get away from home to reflect on and understand what goes on at home. They should think about why and how they react as they do at home. Looking at the situation from a distance may help them to understand why they have the same fights again and again.

Where there are differences, let there be acceptance. Don't let the small differences become big problems. Acceptance comes through understanding, which requires calm discussion without rude interruptions, taunts or sarcasm. Every time there is a difference of opinion, couples must try walking in their partner's shoes. It is an exercise they must regularly practice.

A lamp sheds light all around it, but there is always dark right under the lamp. Likewise, we can see a lot of problems in others, but unaware of their existence within ourselves. Acceptance comes through self-understanding. When you can see your own faults and shortcomings, it is easier to accept the same in others. Acceptance also comes through compassion. What is remaining can be accommodated by tolerance, provided it is not abuse.

Love alone is not enough for a healthy, happy and long lasting relationship. It needs four other companions: acceptance, self-understanding, compassion and tolerance.

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Copyright 2000, Mind Publications 


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