Why can’t he see I’m always right?


by Susan Prosser on April 6, 2010

Dear Susan,

My husband and I so often disagree on things that I wish someone could come in with a video to record our arguments to determine who is right.  Why is it that what seems to clear to me is so unrecognizable to him as the truth of the matter?  Am I crazy?

Dear Crazy,

“What we see with our eyes tells us what we believe not what we see”.

Perceptions are truly deceiving for all of us – otherwise we would all be readily able to see another person’s perspective and there would be no disagreements to be had.  The challenge of being in a relationship is to be willing to see the world from the other person’s perspective.  We all have a different way of seeing the world which we have carefully developed since childhood.

I have my own private logic or filter and let’s say it is green.  Let’s say my husband’s worldview is blue.  I can only see a situation to be green and he can only see the same situation as blue.  We could spend time into eternity trying to convince each other of the “right” way of seeing things but we would not be very connected or happy in the process.

When you and your husband are fighting, both of you feel and believe that your way of seeing things is the only viable way of seeing the issue.  It makes sense to you, it is true, it is just, it is the way things are done… you get the drift.  The problem is that your husband has the exact same beliefs and is equally convinced of his own perspective.  Watch any debate, whether it be political, moral, or ethical, from an adult or child, world leader or the person in the car that just cut you off – we all believe we are right.

One of the goals in creating a harmonious relationship is to learn how to see the world from you partner’s perspective.  I often remind couples that they can want to be right or they can want to be happily married – not both.  Think of it – we spend all that time and energy trying to prove to our loved one that he/she is wrong!  How painful and difficult for both of you. Trying to be right does not achieve resolution and only creates distance and hurt.

The art of learning how to see the world from another perspective is the process of growing closer to your spouse (and any other person you are in relationship with for that matter).  When my filter is green for example, blue is foreign and does not make sense.  But the person who sees and believes in blue is my loved one, therefore it is my job to care about the blue world.  I don’t have to agree with it but I do need to enter it and poke around a bit and learn what it feels like.  When I can do that I discover that the green of my filter must seem strange, threatening and wrong to the blue one.

Once I get that concept I can create a powerful alliance with my loved one who may calm down once he/she feels understood and validated.  With good fortune, he or she may be willing and able to return the gesture and attempt to see the world from your perspective.  When that happens it feels so good that the original argument becomes less important.  Actually, what really happens is that the people become more important than winning.

So, to make sense of the opening quote – if you believe that you need to be right then you will need to argue until the other person is defeated – you will not be able to see your opponent, or listen or care for that matter. On the other hand if you believe that connection, compassion and understanding are important you will be able to make your point and listen to your loved one.

So ask yourself, “what it is that is so important about winning?”.  Maybe you feel that is the proof that you are cared about, or powerful or significant.  Maybe you believe it is your responsibility to make sure that things get done the “right” way and the fight is worth it.

I hope you will challenge yourself to take stock of the price you will pay for being right and winning arguments.  One price is that it hurts relationships, and another is that it hurts you in that it causes a high stress response in your body which can translate to health problems.

I wish you all a happy spring and strong connections with your loved ones.