After seven months of living with my partner in another country, we have had every fight imaginable. While we have evolved from the pettiness and passive-aggressiveness that our fights usually descend to, there is just one in particular that we can’t seem to shake off.
It was a sunny Saturday morning when out of nowhere, my partner exclaimed that I shouldn’t have left the jelly out of the fridge. I was confused. What did I do wrong?
He further explained to me that I could have ruined it that way. In fact, he was so sure that it was already ruined. But surely, jellies have a longer shelf-life, right?
I was so annoyed that I went out of my way and showed him he was wrong. I googled every possible article and read it to him condescendingly.
Looking back, we should have approached that fight better. But we were only so determined to win against the other.
Choosing to Be Right
Now, think about how you’ve been fighting for a second. Have you ever wondered how you got there in the first place? Weren’t you just annoyed a second ago because he left his dirty dishes in the sink again? All of a sudden, you’re butting heads with each other about who’s right and who’s wrong.
Truth be told, the only way to feel right is when we make the other person feel wrong. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? They always remind us that it is human nature to want to be right. This fixation is driven by our ego and its highly competitive nature.
But the deal is that someone always has to lose in this dynamic. Because if we are indeed wrong, we feel threatened — hurt, insecure, humiliated, invisible.
So we conduct our relationships based on our egos because being right means that we can be ourselves. It is the only way we can feel safe and secure with our partners. We want to exist and be visible to them.
But the problem with being right is that it becomes more important than being compassionate. We get so determined to prove ourselves, and to come out on top, that we actually lose contact not only with our partners but also with our real selves.
Dr. Susi Ferrarello explained it best:
The actual feelings behind a fight are rarely true or moral. How we feel during a fight does not tell us if we are wrong or right. Feeling hurt during a fight reveals the need to be acknowledged and listened to. The need to be right is a need to be seen, which has nothing to do with ethics.
Choosing to Be Happy
The challenge then is for our ego to relate to others in a way that lets us transcend ourselves and focus on our commonalities. One way to do this is to change how we fight with each other.
Most of the time, when we feel so strongly about our need to be right, we seek out anything that confirms and supports these feelings. And whether consciously or unconsciously, we practice confirmation bias when we refuse to hear out the things that challenge our views.
Just the other day, I was accusing my partner of refusing to spend time with me. I believed that he would rather play his video games, or watch YouTube, instead of being with me.
When we learn to recognize our biases and replace them with empathy and understanding, we realize that our feelings aren’t necessarily facts. In truth, my partner has been asking me to play with him. And whenever he is watching a funny video, he is always inclined to share it with me.
However, I wanted to be so right that I was selective with the information I was relaying. If only I paused for a moment and saw the situation for what it was, we would have saved ourselves from the exhaustion of an unnecessary fight.
The bottom line is that wanting to be right doesn’t guarantee us our happiness. In fact, it only serves to stroke our egos and divide us from each other. “In real life, meaning counts more than righteousness,” says Dr. Susi Ferrarello.
Truly, I would rather be happy than right. But of course, I am still learning every day.