Forfeiting being right for being loving

I recently spent time with a long-married couple. Like nearly all long-term couples, they’ve developed habits they don’t even know they have. One of this couple’s favorite ones, it seems, is bickering over inconsequential details. For example, “We went shopping last Thursday…” “No, it was Wednesday.” “No, I’m sure it was Thursday.” Etc., etc., etc.

It got to the point where I could stand it no longer. I finally blurted out, “It really, really doesn’t matter what day it was.” That got them to move on.

I decided if they were to argue over one more insignificant thing, I would attempt to help them see what they were doing. I readied my sentence: “You two are forfeiting being loving for being right.”  I never had to utter it, which I’m not sure is good news. Lucky for me I didn’t have to endure more bickering. But I also think my observation might have made them think, if they were willing to hear it.

But whether it would be a lesson for them or not, it was a reminder for me. Early in my marriage I repeated the same pattern I learned from my parents: bickering over idiotic details to prove I was right. They would argue daily over facts that had no consequence. They were each determined to show they were right — even though they sacrificed being loving.

After lots of couples’ counseling, I finally saw that my behavior was driving a wedge between my husband and me. It was disrespectful, emasculating, and accomplished nothing productive. I eliminated 90%-95% of this habit. I’ll not claim 100% success, as I don’t know that I was ever completely cured.

When exploring new relationships, it’s important to be aware of old behaviors that sabotaged past relationships. If you don’t know your irksome behaviors, I’m sure past loves would be happy to share their list! But knowledge is not the Holy Grail — but it is the start. Changing habits is one of the hardest things in life. But if you are motivated to have a loving relationship, you have to be willing to give up non-loving habits — and the need to always be right.


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2 responses to “Forfeiting being right for being loving”

  1. Emily Booth Avatar
    Emily Booth

    So true. Sometimes the greatest distance is the one between our heads and our hearts.

  2. Gatti Avatar

    Oh, I know this one. My first boyfriend had to be right ALL THE TIME. And when he wasn’t he was anyway, if you know what I mean.

    I would go out and get proof of something I was sure of, a detail or name or song lyric or whatever (and this was decades before the internet so it wasn’t easy sometimes), but he would never allow me to be right, ever. It was so frustrating. (Reading that back it seems like I HAD to be right too, but, truly, I just wanted to be right some of the time.)

    This set me up for decades of feeling impotently angry when people didn’t believe me. I think I’m over it now, I’ve learned to distinguish when there is only one right way to proceed, and when my position is my choice but one of many on a scale. When to dig my heels in and when to, graciously, concede.

    There is a line in a song, by the brilliant David Roth (no relation to the irritating David Lee Roth), that goes “Would you rather be happy than right?”. I know my choice. I wonder if old boyfriend was ever really happy?