Larry James' BLOG

Thursday, April 15, 2010

You Wanna Be Right. . . or Happy?

Filed under: Relationships — Larry James @ 6:00 am
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This is a questions that I ask on a frequent basis with my coaching clients and sometimes the answers are surprising. Some people simply feel they must be right all the time and would rather be miserable, isolated and alone than admit that their partner just might be right.

I am often surprised at some of the things that couples fight about. To some they may sound silly and not worth making an issue about. But to others they are at the center of their unhappiness with each other. just because you disagree, does not make you wrong.

When you analyze any disagreement what you find is that the topic is always the same. The issues that get a couple going are endless: from not picking up socks, to the frequency of sex; rolling the toilet paper over or under (yes, this really does come up), to not helping with the housework and much more.

As disagreements escalate, the issues invariably shift to who’s right and who’s wrong. What is interesting about these “Right Fights” is that they are not about needing to be right, but come from the feeling of being wronged. Once wronged, we withdraw emotionally until the other person makes it right. This disconnect comes out as defensiveness, and shifts the conversation from what’s wrong (our pain) to who’s wrong (the person who hurt us).

Next comes the “blame game.” That never works. We blame our partner and they blame us. What ever happened to accepting responsibility for our own actions? When you take 100% responsibility for your challenges and look deep within, you are likely to discover that at the root of each challenge is a fear.

If you can become aware of the particular fear, you can start to work through it and let it go. Sometimes it’s about just being heard; not particularly caring about being right but having your partner hear what you have to say without any fear of not being able to make your point or hearing any annoying rebuttal.

When your are in a heated discussion, the need to have your partner concede can be so overwhelming that you lose sight of the common goal which should be to better the relationship and come to a mutual understanding. Staying adamant, angry and aggressive in making our point, leads to an escalation of negative emotions and bad feelings about the relationship. Rather than let it go or agree to disagree, we often tend to get caught up in our ego and its need, not just to be right but to have our partner acknowledge that we are right. Your ego is not your friend and you don’t need its help.

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? How do you decide? It is worth holding on to your position if doing so does not forward the action of the relationship? It is important to look at the bigger picture. Is it good for the relationship? And, does it “really” matter? “Who cares?”

What is the solution? The solution is to address the feeling of hurt while being connected. The key is not to work on having a conflict-free relationship but instead to learn how to manage conflict in a productive and respectful way.

Another secret for breaking free from this cycle is to learn how to quickly identify what you do want, rather than focusing on being right and on what you don’t want. When you learn to focus on what you do want, it’s possible to escape this cycle and find genuine happiness.

From your point of view, it is likely that much of your anger is quite justified. You may feel that you are in the right when you get angry. But the key question is: does it make you happy? Does it contribute towards your happiness and that of your partner?

Brett WilliamsBrett Williams, author of “You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married: Love-Based Solutions For Couples,” tells us that the things on this list are not the core of our conflicts. These are the core of our unhappiness, but not our fights. Couples are really fighting about one thing: who’s right and who’s wrong.

“We get unhappy, and that’s normal enough, the problem comes in trying to express our unhappiness. In a healthy relationship, talking about the things that make us sad or hurt creates intimacy and strengthens our bonds. It creates understanding and compassion, as well as change.

In a conflict, we do not experience that bonding because our words create division and discord. It is not the topics that are bringing on these problems, but our delivery, our “right” fights.” – Brett Williams

Several surveys show the top six things most people argue about are:

1. Money
2. Sex
3. Work
4. In-laws (or outlaws) 😉
5. Chores
6. Children

I’m a strong believer in being happy. I would rather have a peaceful relationship. You have the choice to let the petty little annoyances go or hang on to them. You always have choice! Face it, you cannot possibly be right all the time. So give in. Let it go. Celebrate your personal breakthrough. Just say, “You could be right” and drop it.

It is important to understand that life throws you the same type of challenges over and over again, disguised in various forms until you learn the lesson. No matter how justified you think you may be, make your own happiness a priority.

If we decide it isn’t important that we insist we’re right and that we’re really okay with our partner thinking whatever they want to think, then we don’t need to exert any energy to prove or insist upon anything.

Are you combative or collaborative when a problem arises?
Do you want to win the fight or resolve the problem?
Do you want to be right. . . or happy?

The benefits of being happy are clear and tangible. The benefits of being right far less so. Carefully choose your battles. Always being right will cost you your happiness. There is much freedom to be found when you can let go of the need to be right. If you are someone you always has to be right. . . as Dr. Phil says, “How’s that working for you?”


Copyright © 2010 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” Larry James is a professional speaker, author, relationship coach and a nondenominational minister. He performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere.

Subscribe to Larry’s FREE monthly “LoveNotes for Lovers” eZINE. Contact:, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – and

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  1. […] happy now! It’s a choice you know. There is no future in the past. There is only right now! Focus […]

    Pingback by 4th 100 Tweets from Larry James’ Relationship Twitter! « Larry James' BLOG — Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 7:41 am | Reply

  2. […] Just. . . “Stop it!” Don’t do that anymore! Give up having to be right all the time. Let it go! Read: “You Wanna Be Right. . . or Happy?” […]

    Pingback by Me? Make a Mistake? Never! « Larry James’ BLOG — Friday, August 13, 2010 @ 7:24 am | Reply

  3. Kudos on a very well written article. We need to teach and learn conflict resolution skills.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

    Comment by MarriageCoach1 — Thursday, April 15, 2010 @ 6:18 am | Reply

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