Say Goodbye to Mr. (or Ms.) Right

When I was newly separated, I was absolutely furious with the fact that my soon-to-be ex-husband wanted me to take on some debt that he had charged onto a credit card in my name. If he refused to pay it, it would blemish my credit report so I didn’t want to default and felt as if he were holding me hostage. “Can you believe he did that?” I wailed to my good friend Andy after about ten minutes of venting on my part. I just couldn’t stop going over and over it, laying out an argument for why I was right and he was not and I wanted Andy to agree with me. Finally, Andy said, “Melinda, you are right, you are so right, you are the Queen of Right. And most people would agree with you. Now, however, what does that getcha? Do you really think he will thank you for showing him how wrong he is?”

I was dumbfounded and embarrassed. What I really wanted was vengeance; I wanted my ex to feel the way I was feeling now, which was hurt and angry. I wanted him to say I was right so that I could feel superior to him and therefore feel better about myself for ending the marriage. When I thought about it, I hated it when someone tried to make me wrong and here I was doing the same thing to someone else. He might never admit he was wrong—and maybe he wasn’t from his point of view, which, even though I didn’t agree with it, he certainly had a right to it. In reality, I felt powerless in the situation, and justified going off about it to anyone who would listen.

It also doesn’t help that we live in a culture that glorifies the need to be right. The political forums are one big shouting match that seems to embody the notion that being right is determined by who is left standing. It’s everywhere: from religious movements to YouTube, many models of ineffective conversations about the need to be right—and to ‘win’. It’s no surprise that we apply these tactics to our relationships…with quite predictable damaging results. Communication shuts down and unaddressed issues pile up like trash on the beach after a hurricane. Resolve now to not be the one in the relationship who creates more trash.

So how do you know you’re stuck in the need to be right?

1. There is usually an accusation involved and a description of some sort of grievance. Keywords are “should” or “should have”; “You/They need to______”. If you have a need to blame someone you’re being a Mr./Ms. Right.

2. You find yourself telling someone “You’re wrong”.

Then what?

Remember the concept that the other person can disagree with you without being wrong. And telling them what an idiot they are isn’t likely to create a conversational space where they are able or willing to listen to your point of view. When no one is listening, issues get swept under the rug…and yet still greatly drive the relationship.

Isn’t it time to let go of being Mr./Ms. Right and start being Mr./Ms. Respectful?

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