When couples fight, the need to be right can easily distracts us from the damage that insistence does to our relationship.
Most folks come upon it honestly. In childhood we need to build up a reserve of experiences where we were heard and understood. We need to have had enough chances to be right. Good enough childhoods offer us a well filled with enough trust that we will be seen and known, that we can better tolerate experiences of someone not understanding our point of view, our feelings, or where we are coming from.
If our childhoods didn’t offer us that reserve of trust, we can end up so fixated on winning a fight, on being “the right one”, that we are literally willing to destroy our relationship in the process. If we are lucky, our partner doesn’t share our same deficit. Because in truth, there is rarely a “right one” in an argument. Usually both people hold some rightness and some wrongness. Usually both people are going to have some apologizing to do. And of course both people need to be heard/ seen/ known / understood/validated/ acknowledged. The best way to get those things? To offer them first.
Some tips to being heard in a fight:
1) Take a deep breath and remember that to be heard, first you must be willing to hear the other.
2) It is okay to hear your partner’s point, to understand their injury/ feelings/ perspective, and to reflect back to them validation of the relevance of their points. There are no shortages of truths. They can have rightness and you can have rightness. Acknowledge their rightness fully and first.
3) Don’t worry about their wrongness yet. Offer up your most important truths first…the things you most need to have heard…rather than using your first “turn” to dispute any of their positions. As much as you can focus on your needs without touching their tender spots, or trying to “win”, the more likely you will be heard.
4) While you should limit the length of a fight,and take breaks when anyone is needing them, every fight needs a few rounds, and every round should include some apologies, from both sides, about all the ways you did’t hear or appreciate the other. This gives nothing away. It doesn’t mean they were right and you were wrong; you were both right and wrong in several ways.
5) Every time you find yourself getting defensive, take a deep breath, or a break, and re-group. Defenses were built to protect us from situations we hopefully are no longer in. Remember your goal; let your relationship matter to you more than your need to be right.
Lastly, I would say, spend some time taking care of the little kid in you who still needs to be heard, and be right, and be validated. Grieve the loss of the childhood that could have filled your well with trust, so that you can begin the journey of building experiences that you can rely on in the years to come.