Can’t Always Be Right

I articulated something the other day, one of those things I say and just knew I’d nailed it. This: “You cannot always be right and maintain a relationship.”

I was talking to someone and realized I’d just said something I’ve felt and said by going around the park many times before, but never articulated it so concisely.

right wrong

I had a friend (deceased now, alas) whose spouse did a world-class stupid thing. The friend said to me afterwards, “I realized I could have a really GOOD fight, or a marriage, but not both.” They opted to keep the marriage, which lasted a bit longer.

Someone else, a few years back, asked me how you forgave a spouse what they considered to be just short of adultery in severity. My answer, “You decide the relationship is more important,” which only sort of worked for this person, as they’re someone who has to be “right.”

The other couple I know where someone has to be “right,” both people involved are passive aggressive. Sounds like hell to me, but it isn’t my marriage, thank Gawd.

All of that went into the mix which resulted in this truth.

If you always insist on your own way, the other person will eventually get tired of it (unless they can’t for whatever reason) they’ll leave. It’s Gone with the Wind too, right?

Relationships are a continual negotiation, if you insist on “winning,” eventually you lose. You have to be willing to lose, just like you have to be willing to give some ground in a financial or legal negotiation.

I know a book dealer who was disliked by almost everyone in the biz in this state. The reason? He always wanted a bigger discount than the industry standard (20%) but when you were buying books from him, he always had a reason he couldn’t give you a discount at all. It only took a few transactions with him before you decided that you didn’t want his business or to look at his stock — for that reason.

You have to be willing to listen and give up something to get something. It’s the only way relationships work.

Bullying/abuse starts when there’s no willingness to give up anything, you have to always be right or in the power seat. At the extreme, you can get me to do what you want with a weapon pointing at me, but you can’t (unlike Chuck Colson’s adage) really change my mind. You can shut me up and mandate my behavior, but my heart will not be in it. When I can, I’ll revert to what I was before. True change only happens with negotiation, give and get, between people, groups, institutions, and within myself too.

The only way I can really live with the PTSD and the pain it causes is to acknowledge it, accept it, and give it some ground by paying attention to it. I mentioned to someone online that I do something I realize is dumb as a “safety” measure, because it really doesn’t make me safer, but it appeases my PTSD anxiety. In return, I sleep more.

I had to stop trying to get it to go away, stop being there, or change it. None of that worked. I have PTSD. It’s there; it’s going to stay there, and it is what it is. If I start there — now what? I do things like my “safety” measure because it keeps the PTSD quiet. I have to negotiate with myself. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, that is, giving it time to, was another way I acknowledged it.

It has taken me a long, long time to pull together all these strands to see their similarities.

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