Conflicts — 29 October 2003
Who is right and who is wrong?

Many couples get caught up in a cycle of repeated arguments about who is
right and who is wrong about certain issues.
The outcome of such fights only leads to bad feelings of alienation.
This is a futile competitive form that disrupts intimacy for lovers.
Couples say that they want to get along with each other and yet -they
engage in patterns that defeat their purpose.

The need to be right begins in childhood. It is the misguided belief

that if we are correct, our parents will value us more and bestow
greater favors upon us. Thus our survival will be assured. The confusion
starts when we associate being right with having more value. Once we
connect these factors, it is no wonder that we keep insisting on being
right to ascertain our worth.

Children also erroneously believe that they have to compete with their
siblings for a finite amount of parental love. If indeed love is in
limited supply, then being right may give the child a likely advantage
over his siblings. Needless to say, this is a faulty perception, yet a
very powerful motivator in childhood. By being correct we search to be
affirmed by our parents. Having them side with us makes us feel superior
to our siblings and more loved.

Being recognized by our parents enhances our self-esteem and serves as
the template for future expectations of being loved.

Knowledge is a life’s earned blessing, but it is not a measure of one’s
value, nor does it assure its holder eternal love. To be right is often
associated with someone else’s feelings being devalued. It does not
create loving responses from your mate to repeatedly affirm your

As adults we know that our childhood notions about being right are not
accurate. We also know, more importantly, that “right and wrong” applies
to science, math and moral issues _ but not to our value as human
beings. The more secure we are about our self _ worth, the less we need
to assert our correctness.

Couples who keep arguing about who is right and who is wrong have lost
sight of their love and respect for each other. They have also forgotten
that they are members of the same team and that their individual
strength is heightened by their loving treatment of each other.

There is no right and wrong about human perceptions. Both partners are
always right in their personal views. Every situation, even a shared
experience, is likely to produce different reactions from each member of
the couple. To assume otherwise is unrealistic.

When you expect to have two valid points of view about each issue, your
loving language will reflect it. Ask each other: “what is your view,
wish, understanding or feeling about this?” Then listen with interest to
your partner’s views _particularly when they greatly differ from your own.

The idea that if people share the same view they are better suited for
each other, is a romantic notion of early courtship. It is only in early
dating that partners rejoice about finding similarities in their
ordinary preferences. They tend to see those as omens for their
suitability as a couple. “Isn’t it amazing that we both like Jazz,
dancing and walks along the beach?” They fail to see that these
preferences are more widely shared by many others who are not intended
to spend their lifetime together.

It is not to be expected that two people with different personalities
and upbringing will consistently share the same life views. If you are
among the few couples who happen to have similar preferences and
interests- count your blessings! For the rest of you- you are the norm. Life with a complementary partner is often most rewarding. It does,
however require partners to be consistently approving of each other and
rejoice in their differences.

For healthy and respectful connection with your partner, please consider
the following:

  • You are both right about your individual perceptions, needs, wants,
    and ideas.
  • Marvel at your partner’s view. Use it to expand the scope of your vision.
  •  When you have the urge to prove that you are right- ask yourself how
    else you may overcome your temporary insecurity without involving your
  • Be gracious and generous in affirming your partner if he or she needs
    to be right.
  • See your partner’s need for being correct as a plea for support.
    Provide it lovingly.

Remember- you are always right when you are supportive and loving toward
your mate.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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