Right and Wrong in Relationships
If you are like me, then you have pondered this question, at least at certain times or in certain situations. To get to the bottom of this question, we have to look at what right and wrong are. We also have to look at how emotions really work. Most importantly, as you might imagine, we have to look at what one should do when there are differing opinions. The problem, herein, is the number one reason that relationships break down.
To really understand this, I would like for you to visualize something. You are a puzzle piece. Your partner is a puzzle piece. Every person on the planet is one, as well. Throughout our lives, we try to do what? We look to find a piece that interlocks with ours. When we are laying out a puzzle, we call that the right piece. In relationships, we say that is the right person.
The thing is that our puzzle pieces are not squared, they encompass rounded edges of varying shapes and sizes. When romantic partners argue, they pull away from one another, breaking the perfect seal between puzzle pieces. At times, partners go to war, butting heads. What happens, is as you can imagine. Puzzle pieces are being forced at one another, bending and wearing down the outjutting portions. As time passes, the pieces do become squared, in shape. As might be imagined, these pieces can very easily come together or come apart now. Additionally, there is now no perfect seal, as there is significant blank space between pieces.
What this means for reality is that partners lose the drive that is necessary to interlock with each other, leaving each individual intact. Partners fight, sometimes bitterly, forcing change upon their partner, or even upon themselves. As the infatuation hormones necessarily subside, partners are left with seeing each other being flawed. We can try as hard as is possible to find “the right person”, but in the end, there is no guarantee of anything, as time passes. Partners can argue about absolutely anything. It is not incompatibility that dooms relationships. It is the way they try to interact or interlock; that may doom the relationship, between even the most hopeful and well-intentioned couple.
As a relationship coach, the titled question confronts myself daily. It is not something that is easy to come to terms with, but to terms, we must come. You see, when we look at right and wrong, instead of seamless interaction (interlocked pieces), we force one partner into one category, and one into the other. If one partner is wrong, the other, necessarily, must be right. If one partner feels victimized, the other has to become the villain. These are relational terms that no couple can harmlessly navigate. These terms transmogrify the partnership from one of a romantic nature to one that resembles a medieval battlefield. In essence, it is not love.
The answer to this question is that any partner that falls into the right/wrong paradigm becomes wrong. To me, wrong translates into “unworkable relational terms.” This means that the relationship cannot survive, at least in its current state, when partners make the choice to do battle, instead of giving love. If you look back to the visualization of the puzzle pieces, the only way partners can stay together, is if they have changed each other, no longer interlocking seamlessly. This results in much lower highs and higher lows.
The conflict resolution techniques that almost every couple uses, only guarantee distance and an unresolved conflict. What we are left with is pride. “I’m right, and she is wrong. I will not back down.”
To really solve this problem for you, I have to explain what true love really is. True love takes those “right people”, leaves them intact and maintains the strong bond. What is true love, then? True love is unconditional love. Throughout my studies (former and ongoing), I have not once found a single marriage counselor that promoted unconditional love. They either promote conditional love indirectly or directly. In essence, a counselor will work with individuals to list all of the unacceptable qualities or actions that a partner brings to the table. Throughout the counseling process, they try to change the counterparty or give individuals ways to inform their partner that they need to behave a certain way.
I will explain the positions of two very famous psychologists that work in this field, although leaving them unnamed. To one, unconditional love doesn’t work, and no one really believes in it. As such, individuals have a number of conditions that must be in place for their love to flow to their partner. This psychologist asks his audience if they would love their partner, regardless of their actions. This line of reasoning, fundamentally, does not make sense. We say “I love you.” We do not say “I love 95% of you.” To really love, means that we love our partner’s flaws. To go further, we might not even see them as flaws. If we look to the rest of this article, placing conditions on our gifts of love, only result in taking the relationship out of the romantic mindset. Conditional love guarantees the progression towards being roommates.
The other psychologist is famous for his work with men, teaching them to no longer be a push over, in the face of an angry wife. The gist of this is to tell one’s partner that he will not tolerate her behavior and walks away. This specific approach seems, prima fascia, to be great advice and that it would work. The community supports it. In essence, it misses the point entirely. It forces partners into the villain/victim roles. When the (in this case) wife refuses to fit that role, the relationship begins failing or fails.
What I have found, is that unconditional love is the only thing that guarantees the bond to survive. Unconditional love was there; every single time partners ran towards one another. In time, it is taken for granted, and that connection degrades along with it. What few realize is that each partner feels like they are the victim. This is no minor statement. That angry wife that is yelling at the husband, she feels victimized before she began yelling. The husband then feels victimized. Who is right and who is wrong? Neither.
What Do You Do?
In every situation, you have to consider the circumstances from each partner’s point of view. We also must consult with reality, taking opinion and bias out of the equation, as much as possible. Those that master relationships also master how to not take things personally, which is no simple skill to master, but a path that is well-traversed. When you encounter an angry partner, instead of falling into the victim role, you are well-advised to just listen. Find out why your partner feels the way they do. You don’t have to agree or disagree. When we fulfill the victim/villain roles, the heart of the conflict is never unveiled. When we choose to listen and question the upset partner, with curiosity, the relational connection does the heavy-lifting for you. Again, when individuals get stuck thinking that their partner’s behavior is unacceptable, they (like their partner) step out of the role of romantic partner and step onto the battlefield. When individuals, instead, see their partners with eyes of unconditional love, they feel their partner’s pain and seek to be there, guaranteeing that difficult moments are short, few and far between.