It’s a classic. Of all the themes in the history of relational strife, the I’m Right, You’re Wrong story is by far the most common.
Like many things, we often take this argument for granted or overlook the magnitude of its influence. When couples enter into therapy together, it may be a hidden goal for each of them to convince their therapist that one of them is right and the other is wrong. They demonstrate this in many ways—either subtly or in more painfully blatant ways. By doing so, they hope to feel validated, and that feels good.
Being right gives you a rush of dopamine—the brain chemical associated with winning and victory. You may feel strong—even invincible. The problem with needing to be right is that if we hold it too tightly, it becomes a necessary component for feeling good in the relationship. Any time you are outsmarted, out-shouted, or out-whatever, you feel bad in the relationship. So if this is the game you’ve set up for yourself and for your partner, the relationship cannot logically thrive for both of you. When one is right, that partner is elevated to a higher power position and the other is knocked down a peg.
Effectively, this game creates division. We all want to be on the right side of the wall—not the wrong side. But that means your partner has to be on the wrong side. The more this dynamic is strengthened, the thicker that wall becomes, creating more division. You may feel nice and superior on your side of the wall, but you are drifting further and further from your partner. You become less connected, less caring, and may end up contributing less to the relationship.intimacy, compassion, and loving action in your relationship? I’m guessing that being right hasn’t worked so well in the past. Let’s try something different.
The first step will be to knock down that wall. After all, it isn’t made of bricks and mortar, but simply attitudes and beliefs that you alone are holding in place. How do you knock it down? Simply let go of it. Loosen your grip on it, and you will start to see it crumble. Let it go completely, and it will completely disappear.
One way to do this is to give your story a name or a title. The next time it comes up, say to yourself, “Here goes I’m Right, You’re Wrong again.” By doing this simple exercise, it creates a cognitive space between you and your thoughts about being right. It is the difference between being right and just being while having the thought about being right. It may not sound like a huge shift, but try it. You may find it makes a big enough difference that you are not compelled to react in ways that you might have when you were fused to your beliefs about being right.
Put down your weapons, and take off your armor. Nature has endowed us with the proclivity to feel protected and safe, so stripping your defenses may feel vulnerable and weird. This is the part where you have the uniquely human freedom to make an important choice. Many will take a quick look at the prospect of being unguarded and will clench their armor even more tightly. Being vulnerable means you might get hurt. But how do you expect to be intimate while swathed from head to toe in battle armor? Intimacy is best experienced naked—physically and emotionally. Vulnerability is an essential part of being open and deeply connected, and it’s a risk. There’s no other way, but once you make the choice to get naked—so to speak—the rest can be pretty fun.
© Copyright 2011 by By Jiovann Carrasco, MA, LPC-S. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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