You can either be right or you can be in a relationship.

I recently heard the saying,

“You can either be right or you can be in a relationship.”

Upon Googling, I didn’t find an attribution, but I did find another version that goes,

“You can either be right or you can be happy.”

Both are very thought provoking! For a relationship to be healthy, we have to care more about the relationship than ourselves. Stated in mathematical terms,

Healthy Relationship = Selflessness > Selfishness

Our desire to be right is a sign of a strong ego, and the ego only cares about itself. Satisfying the ego may result in short-term pleasure but leads to long-term pain. For example, your partner may yield to your stubbornness a few times, but after a while, they might explode in rage or turn completely cold.

So how can we overcome this bad habit? The best way is to care about the other person more than yourself. Their happiness is your happiness. Their frustration is your frustration. In an argument, you would naturally focus more on consoling their emotions and less on debating logic.

It might be hard for us to make a 180 degree shift from always wanting to be right to suddenly being very emotionally caring, so a stepping stone is to contemplate the logic of being right. The fact is, everyone sees things differently, so even if I can’t see things from their perspective right now, I can at least accept that they are seeing the situation from a different set of eyes and background, and their view is no less valid than my view. To give a concrete example, some people see a young woman in this picture, while others see an old woman:

Image Source

Both perspectives are valid. (In case you don’t see it, the young woman’s ear is the old woman’s eye. The young woman’s necklace is the old woman’s mouth. The young woman’s jaw is the old woman’s nose.)

Given that different perspectives are all valid, a motto I follow in relationships is “Harmony is always right.” In other words, if I yield my perspective to harmony, then I am right.

My Experience

I have a bad habit of always wanting to be right, but I’m working hard on correcting it. For example, recently I went to buy some groceries. My mother told me to not buy too much because there’s lots of stuff in the garden. When I came home, my mother said, “Why did you buy so much?!” To which I replied, “What do you mean? I didn’t buy much at all. Plus it’s mostly stuff that can last a long time in the fridge.”

That response showed that I instinctively valued my ego more than the other person’s feelings. If I truly had the other person in mind, I would have said, “Oh I’m sorry for startling you. I didn’t forget your instructions, but maybe I didn’t understand what you mean by ‘too much’ so could you explain so that next time I won’t make the same mistake?”

This situation is analogous to the picture above. I see the groceries and think it’s not much. She sees the groceries and thinks it’s a lot. Both views are valid. The important thing is to value the other person’s emotional wellbeing above my own ego.

Conclusion

The next time you feel the urge to be right, remember that both your perspectives are valid, and harmony is always right.

Originally published at https://www.weeklywisdomblog.com on August 6, 2021