Do You Want To Be Right, Or Do You Want To Be Happy?

By Nancy Pollard, LCSW, LLC
Nancy Pollard

There is a saying, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”  Well, the answer seems obvious!  Of course we all want to be happy, right?  But if that is so, why do we spend so much time arguing our points with the ones we love?  Why do we insist that we know the RIGHT way to do something?

A wife once complained to me that her husband said he had cleaned the kitchen.  In his mind he had.  He had put the dishes in the dishwasher, left the pans to soak, and called it good.  “NO,” she admonished, “THAT’S NOT HOW YOU DO IT.”  She wanted the counters wiped down and disinfected, trash taken out, and the floor swept from dinner crumbs.  He continued, “She doesn’t like how I mow the lawn or do the laundry, I never do anything RIGHT in her book!”  

A new mother has the perfect diaper bag when she goes out.  When dad takes the baby out, he has a disposable diaper stuffed in one back pocket and a baby bottle in the other.  Do they argue about this?  Is she right?  Is he wrong?  Is there a ‘right way’ to put a diaper on a baby, feed a child, put them to sleep at night?

Do you get criticized and judged over any of these scenarios?

  • You like things lined up symmetrically, but your partner loves randomness
  • You study and read the fine print, shop around, and do your research while your partner skims the details and says ‘yes’ without knowing why or how
  • You find it difficult to make a decision while your partner says ‘yes” quickly
  • You travel to foreign countries with a well-thought-out plan while your partner just wants to ‘go with the flow’ and see what happens

Do opposites really attract?  And when they do, then do they argue about who is right?

Whether it is filling the dishwasher, putting the groceries away, moving the furniture around, shopping for presents, balancing the checkbook…Which one of you is RIGHT?  Who wins?  The loudest one?  The aggressive one?  And what happens to the other person, the quiet, passive one?  Does that person lose? 

Now don’t get me wrong, healthy competition and winning can be a good thing!  There is a time and place for it.  Surpassing sales quotas and being a top performer is a worthwhile goal.  Winning a race or tennis tournament is satisfying and rewarding. 

There is also a time when the right way to do something is critical, such as baking where measuring is crucial.  Or when making a major purchase, because not doing your research can be costly, wasteful, and frivolous, and may lead to high and expensive consequences.

But being the winner in a relationship only produces a loser.  And if there is one loser, you both lose.  The goal in a relationship is to create a win/win and to bring out the best in one another and not the worst, to support and not break one another down.

In personal relationships, here are some helpful tips on how to play the game where both of you win:

  • Divide and conquer tasks – you don’t have to do everything together
  • Take turns captaining the ship – learn to follow one another’s lead
  • Accept differences
  • Decide when ‘right’ is critical or preferred
  • If you delegate, let go of the control over how it SHOULD be
  • Keep your sense of humor - enjoy the ride
  • Be aware if you are trying to be ‘right’ – if so, let it go
  • Consider the ‘whole’, the couple - not the parts, the individuals
  • Stop judging and being critical of another’s way of doing something.


Yes, you are right:  2 + 3 = 5.  But so does 4 + 1.

In your personal relationship, being right and winning leads to a life of headaches, arguments, angst, and frustration. 

So, “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”  If your answer is, “Well, it makes me really happy to be right,” consider this thought:

While it may make ME very happy to be right, in a relationship there are two people, not one.  It is not about ME, MY, MINE.  It is about WE, US, OUR.  Try being a couple in everyday actions.  Let go of the need to be right.  Embrace your loved one for exactly who they are, not whom you think they should be.

Just a little Mountain Therapy

Copyright © 2016 Nancy Pollard



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