Why the Need to Be Right Damages Marriage

 Guest blogger, Phillip Kiehl, LMFT shares with us an  excerpt from his book, Creating the Healthy Marriage You Want.   

If you would  compare your marriage  to a sport, how do you see your contribution: Competitor or MVP (most valuable team player)?

Your Choice: To  Be Right or to Pursue Love?

You may want to do both, but feeling the need to be right all the time can get in the way of love. When spouses view the marriage arena like a competition, a power struggle ensues, and love and trust gets traded for proving a point.

Unhealthy Intention: Focus on Being Right

I am all for competition and for doing your best, and for excellence in all that we do. There’s nothing wrong with attempting to reach and attain high goals in careers or hobbies. But marriage was never designed to be the place for competition.

Love says, “I want to be with you.” Competition and power says, “I want to win and beat you in this game.”

Jill is in the kitchen cutting up an onion for a casserole. Her spouse Tom enters the kitchen and observes Jill cutting the onion and says to her, “That is not how you should cut an onion. Here, let me teach you.”

Jill, whose knife has been taken from her, stops and looks over at Tom and says to him, “Why do you always do this? I hate when you come behind me and tell me what I am doing is wrong.”

She becomes defensive due to her feeling that Tom is once again out to remind her, how his way is right and her way is wrong. Jill and Tom begin a heated conversation. Tom degrades Jill’s way of cutting the onion. Then Jill says Tom comes across as Mr. Right, and she feels like Mrs. Wrong in many areas of their marriage.

Tom’s intention was to make sure things were done the right way, rather than giving up his way of doing things for the sake of a love relationship.

Spouses who push and argue their need to be right want their spouse to validate their right point of view. When they don’t feel validated, they feel hurt given their insecurity of not feeling heard or validated.

When spouses like Tom focus on being right, the marriage relationship feels like it is in a court setting. In many ways, the person who is seeking to be right is acting like a judge. Jill feels judged for how she is conducting her life.

Healthy Intention: Focus on Being Loved

Healthy marriages are built on the intention that when they are together, talking or working on a project, they feel like the other person is on their side.

The “we”  becomes more important than the “me.” Healthy spouses act as a team parenting their children, discussing their budget, doing chores around the house, and relating in the bedroom.

Spouses who want love want safety.

We  want to feel free, not to walk on eggshells, and feel accepted for who they are. They feel safe and secure with someone who loves them and who wants to pursue being loved.

Try being honest with your spouse about your vulnerable feelings and fears, and try to catch yourself when you feel the need to be right. It is a difficult change to make, but it is possible.

Proving you are right breeds fear and insecurity. Pursuing love breeds trust and safety.

Love conquers being right, and love wins. To be right hurts your marriage. But to pursue love heals your marriage. Find a way to stop the accusing and learn to find a way to work with your spouse on building a love relationship.

Let’s face it: both spouses need love. Both spouses need their spouse to love them just as they are with their strengths and weakness, for better or worse. Spouses are tired of being judged and tired of having to prove their point all the time. All this activity is exhausting.

Spouses who want to pursue a love relationship recognize their need for love and make it a higher priority than being right. When you give love and when you receive love, you form a close and intimate relationship. Healthy people pursue love because they want lots of trust, lots of empathy, and lots of intimacy.

Seeking a love relationship is about giving up your need to be right and just wanting to be close and be with the other person.

Pursue Love

The goal is teamwork, not competition. No one wants someone to come behind them and observe their choices and judge how they do things.  . Proving you are right will only lead to a battle that results in both spouses not winning.

To be right hurts your marriage. But to pursue love heals.

To be a true winner, pursue love.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Phil Kiehl, LMFT maintains a private practice in the Los Angeles area. He partners with his wife, Cynthia, to help people move from accusing one another to accepting one another, building healthy relationships.


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