The couples therapy session began:
Jason: I couldn’t believe it. Monica came home from the grocery store and didn’t wipe off the packages before she put them away. I showed her an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that established the virus can last for 72 hours on plastic and 24 hours on cardboard.
Monica: And the same article said infection is “theoretically possible but unlikely.” I think Jason is making too big of a deal out of this. His anxiety is driving me crazy. After I got home from the grocery store, he insisted I change my clothes and wash the outfit I wore outside. I am using a mask and washing my hands for 20 seconds. It feels like he wants us to live in a bubble.
Jason: She doesn’t care if we get sick. Just because we are 38 years old doesn’t mean we can’t get the virus and die. Haven’t you seen the stories on TV?
Monica: You are watching too much news.
Jason and Monica were at an impasse in their chronic conflict about how careful they should be to protect themselves from COVID-19. Their arguments always ended up in a battle about who is right and who is wrong. The result: a dead end. No understanding or empathy for the other’s point of view. No coming together to resolve their differences. No problem solving.
Arguing about right and wrong is one of the biggest roadblocks we see in couples. It prevents them from learning more about each other and using their differences to deepen their relationship.
Focusing on “right” and “wrong” consistently turns into a lose-lose battle. It:
- Complicates the issue at hand;
- Signals judgment of your partner’s thoughts and feelings;
- Polarizes the conversation; and.
- Creates disconnection.
We asked Monica and Jason what they agreed on. Both of them said they wanted to avoid the virus and stay healthy. That’s where we started.
Bob explained: Thoughts and feelings are not “right” or “wrong.” The way we see it, all thoughts and feelings are “right” in the sense that they are genuine representations of what each partner is thinking and feeling.
The key to effective communication is not to determine who is correct; it’s to help your partner learn and understand more about who you are and what you think and feel. It requires patience, listening and empathy.
Next time you and your partner find yourselves in the right-or-wrong tug of war, don’t focus on getting agreement or convincing your partner about the “rightness” of your position. Be curious about each other’s point of view. Ask questions and dig deep. Work to understand why your partner sees it that way. Discover more about the lens they are looking through.
The exploration of contrary thoughts and feelings offers the opportunity to connect, validate each other’s point of view — whether or not we agree, build trust, and work as a team. The result is a stronger relationship.
Remember the goal is not about “winning,” but rather about protecting our relationships from “losing.” Matters of right and wrong should never be the end of discussions, but rather the beginning.
Your relationship deserves the highest level of support. Relationship Experts, Bob and Lori Hollander are committed to helping individuals and couples build connection and deepen bonds in a world that often makes it difficult.
Call them at 410-363-2825 or email them today, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit Milkos on Canva