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"It Is Not Enough To Be Right"

     I can now thank my mother for repeating that expression to me time and again: being right is all about me. Marriage is not all about me.

     “Right” matters in traffic & sports rules or issues of ethics and morality, but is a discussion about family responsibilities, (built on a pile of assumptions), really meant to focus on my being right, or about finding agreement?

     Dr. Phil McGraw calls this “Right Fighting,” where the right-fighter has a goal of conforming all around her/him to an understanding of the one “correct” and “only” perspective in an argument. This does not focus on compromise, respect, or harmony. It focuses on self.

     I’m afraid that too many people have the goal of being right—having the upper hand, feeling superior, making sure it is obvious that the other is wrong. I’m pretty sure that was my own motivation many times in the first years of our marriage. I escalated arguments beyond their completion just so I could make sure my point was clear as crystal. Truly, that’s bullying.

     If you are not prepared to work on regular compromise in your marriage, then be prepared for your conflicts to repeat themselves indefinitely. I believe that this is the most important of all marriage tools. Nothing in your life after your wedding day is just about you any more. Everything somehow touches at least one primary other.

     And I mean everything: your job; your friendships; your family of origin. What I eat, even—it might make me cranky, make me sick, make me mad at myself for not exercising restraint, OR make me pleased, satisfied and full of energy. Now, I come at my spouse pre-set as cranky, sick, mad, pleased, satisfied or full of energy.

     OK, how about what you read or watch on TV? How does that personal experience affect your partner? If you read romance novels and build up a false expectation of intimacy from a set of fictional characters, then it certainly has an effect on your relationship. If you, instead, pick up books about self-improvement, (or even about improving your marriage!), then the effects on your marriage can be exceptionally good! If all your time is spent before the TV in a fantasy world of sitcoms, soap operas or sports, and you are neglecting valuable time with your mate, then you are isolating and damaging your relationship. Or, (since I previously wrote on the issue of Internet addiction), maybe the influence that creates the “crazy” in you is too much time in front of the bright, glowing computer screen.

     Start to think through each of the social, educational, and physical environments you spend time in each day. You bring home the dust on your shoulders from a full day apart from each other, and then blow it in the face of your partner the minute you see each other. On a good day that can be very pleasant, but other times it is an unfair transfer of a day’s frustrations onto your married life.

     If you can begin to identify these problem areas and correct them, then you are on your way to a happier marriage!

Copyright © 2008-2015 Lisandrea Wentland

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