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Couples have a difficult time dealing with disagreement and conflict. Think about your own relationship. What happens when you disagree about something? Are you able to listen to one another, empathize, understand the other person’s perspective, and work toward a mutually beneficial solution?

Probably not.

Where Conflict Leads

For most of us, the pattern goes like this: We recognize a disagreement or conflict. Instead of listening to one another, we hone our arguments for why we are right. Instead of empathizing with each other, we criticize and put down the other person. Instead of trying to understand the other person’s perspective, we become more entrenched in our own point of view. Instead of working together toward a mutually beneficial solution, we fight to the death in order to win.

The Need to Be Right

Conflict escalates in relationships because we have a need to be right. It’s a need that is core to each of us. It feels good to be right, and it feels bad to be wrong. When confronted by a different perspective, we tend to harden our own perspective and try to win the argument.

This isn’t a good method for building a strong relationship. In a good relationship, it doesn’t matter whether or not you win or are proven right. You aren’t at the debate team national championship. It’s not you against your partner. You and your partner are on the same team.

Do You Want Relationship or Do You Want to Be Right?

Sometimes it’s important to soften your stance for the sake of the relationship. A common question I ask couples is this: Do you want relationship or do you want to be right? Who cares if you win an argument about politics or whatever? The more important thing is building and maintaining the connection and bond with your partner. Winning an argument with your partner is like losing the forest for the tree. The argument is the tree. Your relationship is the forest.

Save the forest.

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