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      You can be right, or you can be happy.

      right or happy | kourtney thomas choice discovery

      My husband has a saying that he likes to bring up when talking about relationships:

      “You can be right, or you can be happy.”

      I doubt he came up with it. I think he attributes it to his grandfather or something, who also probably didn’t come up with it, but none of that matters. It’s become a bit of a mantra, and he so coolly drops it into conversation at just the right times.

      For a lot of people, this just brings a little laugh and an implication that if you just put your partner’s needs ahead of your own, your relationship will be smooth sailing. See also: “happy wife, happy life” which, of course, implies that a marriage or partnership would only be between a cis man and woman, and also perpetuates about a million shitty gender and marriage stereotypes. Not really where I’m going with this.

      For me, this is a seemingly throwaway phrase that’s deceptively layered. It always stops me in my tracks and prompts me to dig deep and reconsider, well, basically all of how I’m acting.

      You see, I have always liked to be right, and I have always been a bit of a jerk about it.

      And, most of the time, I don’t see that until well after the fact, sometimes when it’s way too late to make amends.

      And, I’m really sorry for the last time I was a jerk about it. Mean it.

      I love/hate being challenged by this when my husband throws it out. Because every single time, it brings me to my knees, like WHAT in the HECK am I arguing about? More importantly – WHY?! Dammit, what is WRONG with me?!?

      I have yet to recall a time when it was worth it. When something I was getting all indignant, or defensive, or just plain ignorant, about, was something worth risking harmony and love in my relationship over. Unfortunately, I can recall that I’m still throwing myself on the “but I’m right!” bus more often than I’d like to admit.

      (Notable exceptions here are topics related to social justice and political issues. “Right” may not be the appropriate descriptor, but those arguments – if they are arguments at all – are the ones I do consider worth it.)

      I do it all the time, and not just with my husband. For example, a while back, I got in an argument with a friend about the legality of flying with CBD oil. My husband and I had discussed the topic frequently while we were living in Colorado, and with his background in law enforcement and DEA training, I decided I knew everything, and of course was 100% right. I wasn’t. I was totally wrong, which a two-second Google told me. But, in true Kourtney fashion, I acted like an ass about it, and damaged a friendship over something so dumb I could kick myself. (FYI, it’s perfectly legal to fly with CBD oil, as long as it’s derived from hemp, so check your labels.)

      Every time, hindsight is 20/20. Like, wow, could I not have let that go? Yes, I could’ve easily let that go. Or at the very least, I could’ve stopped for one freaking second and listened, took a breath, maybe opened up the conversation to go in a more amenable direction. Probably learned something, and improved my relationship to boot.

      I don’t necessarily think of this phrase in a literal sense. I do not think that right or happy are the only options. It’s much grayer than that. But that’s what’s so brilliant about him dropping it around every so often – it’s the reminder for me to soften. To back off. To remember that there’s more to any relationship, to my happiness, to my partner’s happiness, than me being right, or either of us being right.

      And really, what’s right? What’s happy? It’s all gray, all open to interpretation.

      I grew up needing to be right. Living in a black or white environment, not a lot of gray. This is the type of behavior that I saw, that I understood to be acceptable. And it can be hard to shake learned behaviors and responses that are so deeply ingrained, but ultimately, my behavior is my responsibility, and I can only place so much blame.

      But, what’s super cool about aging is that you start to get a better feel for what’s important, what really matters in your life. And you also start to see that you can change, if you want to. It takes a lot of conscious work, and doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s possible. So every time I feel that need to be right hurtling out of me, I try to catch it just a tiny bit sooner than the last time. Eventually, I may even get a better handle on it before it rears its ugly head.

      All of this to say, I doubt I’m the only person out there who struggles with the need to be right. (It’s similar to the need to control everything, or perfectionism, which I know is a real challenge for a lot of people I know.) And just a reminder that it’s not about being right or wrong, happy or miserable, black or white. It’s about taking a breath, doing some self-reflection, and considering all the walls you might be building around yourself, the stories you might be telling yourself, and how that might be manifesting in your daily life and relationships.

      Maybe, just maybe, it’s worth releasing the stories and relinquishing the need to be right. Maybe it’s worth letting go, and reconsidering before it’s too late.


      Are you the type of person (like me! ugh.) who likes to be right? I’d love to hear a story. You can always send me an email here. Or, if you like more stories and reflections like this, you can sign up for emails from me right here.

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