Do you know someone who has to be right all the time?
Maybe this person is your partner. Or you.
Let’s look at an example. A couple is getting ready to go to the woman’s mother’s house. The woman’s partner is taking a long time to get ready. And he is in a sour mood about how early they have to leave. He tells her that the drive to her mother’s house is only 10 minutes long. She tells him that the drive is closer to 30 minutes. If he doesn’t hurry up, they’ll be late and her mother will be upset.
The man argues that the drive is, in fact, only 10 minutes long. He mentions other houses or buildings that are around the house that are a quick drive, and that rush hour will be over soon. The woman holds her ground, saying that there is no way they can get there in 10 – or even 20 – minutes.
They continue to argue over the length of the drive. And build up a lot of anger before arriving at the mother’s house.
What Is “Right Fighting?”
In the situation above, the couple could have quickly dropped the argument about how long it takes to get to the woman’s mother’s house. Instead, the woman could have told the man, “I feel hurt by the fact that you do not want to visit my mother…” and addressed the larger issue at hand.
If the couple continues to argue about routes and traffic lights and rush hour, they could go on for hours and wear themselves out arguing over one issue. Because each of them wants to be right.
This is “right” fighting.
Right fighting doesn’t usually deal with feelings or abstract ideas. When a couple begins “right fighting,” they are usually harping on an issue that could be solved with a Google search.
Both partners, however, believe they are right, and will stand by their ground and not budge. This is not only exhausting, but also unproductive, and only leads to more anger within the relationship.
To people who do not have this habit, or hold traits that lead to constant “right fighting,” a fight over a simple fact can seem downright silly.
In the midst of an argument, however, the fact at hand is no laughing matter. Unfortunately, the reason a person may seek the need to be right all the time is also no laughing matter.
What Causes “Right Fighting?”
Most of the behaviors we exhibit in a relationship are developed in a time we don’t even remember. Our relationship with our parents plays a big part in way we navigate relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners.
If someone feels the need to be right as an adult, they were probably raised by parents who consistently told them they were wrong. This doesn’t stop at facts. There is nothing wrong with a parent that tells a child that 2+2=4 when the child thinks it equals 5.
But let’s say a child comes into a room and tells their parents that they are cold. This is relative to each person. The mother or father may also feel cold, or may feel warm for a variety of reasons.
The parent can either acknowledge the child’s reality (by offering the child a jacket or blanket) or dismiss the child’s statement (by telling them that it’s actually warm in the room). A child who is subjected to the latter is more likely to become adamant when their reality is tested by another person.
The funny thing about someone who was raised this way is that they seek partners who have similar attributes. We seek out many traits that are similar to our parents when we find a partner, but “someone who always wants to be right” is not exactly one that we put on a dating profile.
Recognizing that they hold this trait, and that their desire to be right all the time can bring unnecessary trouble to their relationship is not always easy to admit. It’s certainly not easy to admit that they get this trait because they were neglected or put down by their parents.
Whether or not you want to admit this, however, it may be the reality that you have to face. And the longer you resist addressing your need to be right, the more it will affect your relationship.
How “Right Fighting” Stops You from Finding Couple’s Answers
“Right fighting” isn’t just a pain. If you and your partner argue over who is right, you spend less time focusing on the actual issue at hand.
For example, if you and your partner are spending 20 minutes arguing over how long the drive from your home to your mother’s house takes, you are ignoring the real issue: that your spouse does not want to spend time with you and your mother.
During that 20 minutes, the only progress you have made is building up the anger against each other, which is certainly not helpful if you are trying to find a couple’s answer.
What You Can Do to Stop “Right Fighting”
When you find yourself in an argument with your partner, be sure to stay present and think clearly about what you are saying and what you are arguing about. If you catch yourself “right fighting,” take a step back.
Ask yourself, “are these minor details important to the issue at hand?” If they are not, calmly set the issue aside and focus on the more important conflict.
Once you develop a couple’s answer to the main issue at hand, you can go back and clear up minor details. Most of the time, though, you will find that those details don’t matter after you’ve kissed and made up.
As we mentioned earlier, the need to engage in “right fighting” goes back to our childhood, and this habit cannot be changed overnight. Recognizing, facing, and correcting this issue may take time.
Visit a Houston relationship therapist to learn more about how Imago Relationship Therapy addresses “right fighting,” and other similar conflicts in a relationship.