Couples Counselling Tip - Avoid Being Right.

This article offers suggestions on how to avoid the trap of  "needing to be right".

The Problem of "Needing to be Right"

In your relationship do you find yourselves arguing over ‘who is right’?' It's easy to fall into the trap of one you needing to be right. Arguments can become a battle over who will have the last word and who is going to be the vulnerable one.

Our need to" be right” easily leads to indignation, where we blame our partner for how angry we feel because our partner doesn’t understand how right or hurt we are and how wrong they are. Winning against your partner doesn’t make for a happy relationship.

The need “to be right “ may originate from our experiences of being shamed as a child for getting something wrong. We can be triggered into feeling that our sense of "being Ok and of value" is at stake if we lose the argument.

Here are some strategies to avoid the trap of  "needing to be right".

Accept That Your Partner Thinks Differently To You

It's inevitable that your partner is going to hold a different view to your own. The key is to accept that it's Ok to have different realities/ different views. Notice when you polarise into a "one of us is right" and "the other is wrong" kind of argument. Instead acknowledge that you hold different views and if a collective decision needs to be made focus on  how can you reach an agreement that both of you can live with. 

The process of 'how you go about " reaching agreement on collective decisions  is as important. If you listen to each other's needs and concerns with curiosity and care for each other the fact that you started with different viewpoints doesn't need to become a conflict.

Notice When You Are Triggered

You know you have been triggered when your partner says something and you feel hurt /misunderstood /wronged /disrespected. You feel a pang in your gut from being hurt by what your partner just said.  At first you may only notice after an argument what happened .With practice there becomes enough of a delay so you can respond by saying ,'Ouch'  rather than retaliate.  Give yourself a moment to notice if the feeling is in any way familiar from earlier in your life eg. When a parent wasn't listening or was telling you what to do when you felt samll. See if you can identify what ,'story' you are making of what your partner is doing to you. This is difficult to do as at all costs we don't want to feel vulnerable. For this reason there is some investment in making it our partners fault.

In the moments it seems so true that they are 'making us feel something..or doing something to us...A better way of looking at it is realise that is is because you and your partner are so important to each other  you are emotionally invested and unconsciously trigger and re-live early life wounds with each other.  Eg  an early feeling of 'not being good enough'  or feeling shamed by a parent  is now re-experienced with your partner as ,'Whatever I do ..he/she criticises which leaves me feeling, not good enough/ powerless. Although it doesn't feel like it, the larger perspective is that power conflicts /struggles are inevitable stage in healthy relationships and working them through is necessary to deepen intimacy.

Take time to soothe yourself

When you catch yourself 'needing to be right', take a moment to soothe yourself. You can soothe yourself by paying attention to your body and then considering other possibilities to free up your thinking.

  • Notice your breathing. Take some deep breaths to release tension. Try taking longer out breaths than inbreathe to relax your body. Feel the ground under your feet. Notice tension in your body.
  • Remind yourself of the following: It's Ok for you to disagree. Your worth isn't at stake. It's not about winning and losing. Arguments are not black or white.  It's Ok to have different viewpoints. We could be are both right in our different ways.

Show you are listening

In arguments we long to be understood. Paradoxically the best way to help your partner understand you is to first show you understand them.  Instead of arguing back, show what you have heard. Instead of a quick ,"I understand what you are saying"  say  something like, ’Let me see if I’m getting this..,’followed by repeating their main points. The key to doing this, is to have the intention to understand your partner rather than rushing through, because your focus is on getting back to what you want to say. After reflecting back, pause, or ask if they want to say more. Your partner won't mind you interrupting them to reflect things back as long as you keep the focus on them, rather than stealing their wind, by putting your opinions in. Reflecting back isn't agreeing with your partner or evaluating what they are saying. It's showing you have heard what they have said by repeating back the content with the intention to connect. You will get the chance to share your views once you have fully heard them.

If you take the time to understand your partner they will be more receptive to your
viewpoint. Do ask questions to discover the meaning have they given to what's happened.

Express your feelings and needs

Underneath arguments over 'who is right?' are feelings and unmet needs. Directly expressing what we feel and need, saves our partner having to guess. It also increases the chances of us getting more of what we want. Sometimes it's difficult to know how we feel. We might know we are angry and upset and need a moment  to feel what's  underneath our anger. We may be feeling unappreciated,disrespected,hopelessness or blamed. Identifying feelings helps work out what we need. We may need reassurance, recognition or attention.
The rub is that most of us fear being vulnerable. We tend to be defensive and attack rather than dare express what we are feeling underneath our anger. Intimacy comes from risking showing what we feel.

Take a Relationship HealthCheck

See the article , What Makes Love Last?
 whicht describes how to stay connected to your partner and keep your 'relationship love tank' full.


It takes practice and time to learn how to sufficiently soothe yourself so that you are are able to respond rather than react. The first step is recognise your trigger points. You can apply these strategies even after an argument to help make up. A significant step is to recognise that there is room for two viewpoints. You don't always need to agree. Understanding each others feelings and needs is more important than sharing the same viewpoint.

If you are arguing without being able to resolve issues consider attending couples counselling  to get support together as a couple . Couples counselling helps you develop the skills you need to listen to each other and express your feelings in a way that your partner can receive.


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