I’ve come to value “being happy” over “being right”. First off, when it comes to human relationships, there is no such thing as absolute truth. Each person has their own version of “right” and good luck trying to convince someone that your truth is better.
I used to spend a lot of time telling people they were wrong. I didn’t take specific pleasure in doing so, it was just what I did. I had something built into me that said the truth must always be established and communicated. Perhaps it was a carryover from childhood. Almost all kids operate that way. In my opinion, too many adults do.
When two people are not on the same page about what is right or what is true, it can easily lead to some sort of conflict. People don’t like to be wrong, to feel wrong, to be told they are wrong. To many, “being wrong” says something about who they are: their intelligence, their self-worth. They don’t interpret a difference in opinion as a disagreement over data. It’s a judgement.
“Who the hell are you to judge others?”
Early in my relationship with the Boss, I spent far too much time, a dangerous amount of time, “setting the record straight” on all sorts of things, most of them pretty petty. The best way to get to a destination. Which restaurant we should go to. The right temperature for the washing machine. The proper way to fold a shirt.
Sometimes it wasn’t so petty. What one of us did or did not say weeks or months before. The right balance between personal and together time. Issues with each other’s friends and family. Details of the wedding.
Each time we had a difference of opinion, I felt it necessary to try to get her to think like I thought, and feel what I felt. I was “right”, she was “wrong”, and it was my job to make her right. Just seeing that in writing makes me shiver. I didn’t literally think that, but effectively that’s how I was operating.
It did not work. It created fights. Those fights each did a little bit of damage, adding cholesterol to the arteries of our relationship, slowing building cavities on the tooth enamel of our love. Had it continued, I’m not sure we’d be together today.
Thankfully it did NOT continue. I learned pretty early on to pick my battles, and only pick the ones that really really really mattered to me.
Because that’s what I realized: most of that shit doesn’t matter.
What real difference does it make if we take a bad route and add 30 seconds to our trip? Who cares if we eat delicious Italian instead of delicious Sushi? If the shirts get folded “the wrong way”, it doesn’t change how many fit in a drawer.
I decided that unless there was going to be a major difference in an outcome, some long lasting or severe effect to a particular decision, I would let it go. I came to realize that everyone has a right to be wrong and there’s usually little harm in letting them be wrong. Why the heck did I even have such a desire to be right? What was I gaining from it?
Before long I found myself “passing” on at least 90% of decisions or “setting the record straight” situations I would have previously taken issue with. “No” turned into “Yes”. “I don’t want to” into “Sure”. “Here’s what I want” became “Whatever you’d like my love”. I lost very little in the new approach, because in the end I didn’t really care about the difference in outcomes for most things. She did.
Not surprisingly, the tone of our relationship improved significantly. It contributed to transforming our default state from contentious to harmonious. It’s so profound that I sometimes cringe when we’re around other couples. So many little digs, petty disagreements, muttered judgements, insinuations, and criticisms. Not driven by a desire for a meaningfully better outcome, but a meaningless desire to be “right”.
My heart breaks for those folks. I hope they figure it out. I hope they make it. The “default” has a powerful gravity.