Relationship or being right?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Can't stop fighting?

Trapped in conflict?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Which is more important a relationship or being right?

The conflicts between people often revolve around who is right. Reminder, relationships do not all need to be primarily romantic or sexual ones. We have relationships all the time with people. Counselors spend a lot of time thinking about and working on something called the “therapeutic relationship.” The relationship between you and your therapist or doctor matters immensely.

Sometimes the most impactful relationships are the ones we have with people we say we are not in a relationship with. A lot of time in therapy is spent on the remnants of relationships past. You may still need support and healing from things that happened in that past relationship. You may have frustrations and anger from trying to deal with that ex now in the present.

Couples coming in for therapy wants to know who is right.

Don’t spend your time going for counseling to have a third-party decide who is right. It is a waste of your time. Sometimes a counselor can help a bit with a thing called “reality testing.” Which means if someone’s thinking is a bit off we can give you some perspective. How does an outsider see things? That does not automatically mean that anyone is right or wrong.

What often should be on the table is the question, “Which is more important to you, proving you are right or saving the relationship?” Some people would rather toss the relationship than admit they were wrong about anything.

If you are thinking that describes you to a “T” then consider if you need to always be right, even at the cost of a friendship or relationship, may be saying volumes about the issues you should be working on in therapy. Mainly this means you need to work on you not them.

When you get into a disagreement is it important for you to be right?

If in a disagreement you feel you always need to be right, you may need to be right, and alone, a lot. People with intact egos can admit when they are wrong. Those who feel confident in their position do not need to prove others are wrong to validate themselves. It is usually the very insecure that need to stay on the argument until they force the other person to agree.

Right is in the eye of the beholder.

Two people can disagree and both of them can be right. Perspective makes all the difference. A couple comes in for relationship counseling. Over the weekend they went shopping for a new car. New to them anyway. They have no car and riding on the bus is making their work lives more difficult.

One of them, probably the man, picked out a car and insists they need to buy this one. His partner is insisting that they can’t afford the car it costs too much. This conflict has rapidly escalated from problem-solving to who is right and then heads for the stratosphere when they each begin attacking the other.

Things like “you only think about yourself” and “you are so selfish” get said. Who is right? How would the therapist know? You can ride the bus, maybe, but how long does it take to get there with the transfers? Does the bus even go to the place you work at? How far will you have to walk and so on? It is also very likely that this car is too expensive given this couple’s income.

The trap here is that each has a stake in being right rather than in solving the problem. Some of these need-to-be-right arguments tear relationships apart and may even end in divorce. See it was never about buying the car, it was always the emotions behind being right and having the other person support you.

You can’t beat someone into believing what you believe.

This form of conflict resolution and the need to have others agree with you has been going on as long as humans have walked on two legs. At least I believe it has.

We see this playing out on a horrific scale in the Middle East. From where I sit in the western world all members of the Islamic religion seem very alike. The differences between them seem minor. But they can see differences that lead them to violence in an effort to make everyone else believe what they believe.

Less we get smug about this, Christianity has a long history of fighting to get everyone to believe what they see as the absolute truth. Unfortunately, the Catholics see one truth and the Protestants see another. The Protestants have always prided themselves on being able to divide up into increasingly small groups and exclude all who do not believe correctly.

Despite our efforts to have a pluralistic society, there are plenty of conflicts over who’s belief about what is the correct one. When countries, religions and political parties are so quick to fight it out over whose belief is correct, is there any wonder why people extend this to closer relationships, like partners and friends?

Getting the other person to stop arguing with you does not make you right.

It is tempting to believe that if the other person or country stops fighting you then you have won and that means you were right. Neither of these things may be true. My earnest hope is that our leaders, political and religious, will find a way to get countries and religions to stop fighting over whose belief is right. My efforts are more directed to helping couples, family and individuals to work on putting their relationship before their need to be right about everything.

On the personal relationship level, when the other person stops expressing their opinion you have probably damaged the relationship.

Consider for yourself – is it more important to be right, win the argument even if this ends the relationship?  Win enough arguments and you can end up in a very lonely isolated world.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Stop trying to push the wall – self-defeating behaviors.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Trying to push the wall.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do you keep trying to push that wall out of your way?

You can waste a lot of time trying to push things out of your way that are not about to move. Insisting that things be the way you want them to be and expecting others to fix you can be ways of staying stuck in the unhappy life you have been living. Continuing to insist on the way things need to be is like trying to push over the wall. You expend a lot of energy but in the end, you are the one who gets knocked down.

How many of these self-defeating behaviors have you been engaging in?

Complaining about the way things are.

Complaining can feel good when you are doing it. The trouble with that behavior is that it keeps you stuck where you are. The more energy you put into complaining about what is, the less strength you have to take action and change the situation.

Insisting others need to change for you to be happy.

Your happiness can not depend on others. Work on you. Change who you are and how you see things and others will have to change to keep up with you. If you create a happy life you provide the push others may need to begin to change. Be the change you want to see in others.

Playing the blame game.

Whose fault it is, only matters in court. Sometimes not even then. Focus on who can solve this problem, generally, that is you. If you can’t change it then you need to accept it. I wanted rain today. We didn’t get it. Is that Gods fault or should I be out planting drought-resistant plants? See how that works?

Blaming your life on where you are.

This is often called a “geographic” solution. You can’t be a great artist where you live. You need to move to Paris. Trouble is you do not speak French. Solution? Become the best artist you can be where you are. Learn French for that someday you move there after you become a famous artist.

This formula works for lots of things. People tell me that they can’t quit drinking or drugging because of the neighborhood they live in like there is somewhere that you can move where there is no drugs and alcohol. Work on what you can change and do not blame where you are for your defects. It also helps if you are working on changing the place you find yourself in.

Expecting things to go your way.

Life does not always go the way we want it to. People who create a happy, successful life do not always get everything they want. Actually, the happiest people may have had the most to overcome. Develop the ability to bounce back no matter what happens and eventually things will start looking up.

Thinking someone is your missing part.

Two sick people can’t make a healthy relationship. I am not talking about physical or even mental illness here. People who struggle with challenges in life can learn ways to be the best people they can be. Do not expect to find a perfect person to complete you. Become the best person possible and you will attract the kind of people you want into your life.

Unhappy people tend to jump into relationships thinking it is the other person’s job to make them happy. Before long they are feeling angry and hurt, that other person let them down.

Right fighting.

You can waste a lot of your life insisting that you are right even when you are wrong. Let other people have their opinions. When others are wrong, let them be wrong. Believe me, in life you will have lots of chances when you stop at rest points to look back and see the places you went wrong. Let others have that same opportunity. You do not always need to be right. You do need to understand why others do not agree with you.

Focusing on what others think about you.

Some people will like you and some won’t. What others think about you is really none of your concern. The more you do in life the more you will be criticized. If you do nothing you will still be criticized.

Do the best you can. But do not do it for the acclaim of others. There will always be some people around you that you can’t please no matter what. Accept they are the way they are and work on you. Consider the feedback of others but do not let them determine your goals, values or your self-esteem.

Believing you have to be perfect.

There are no perfect humans. We all make errors. It is required to make errors in life. Learn from your errors but be gentle with yourself. Trying to be perfect is like trying to push the mountain out of your way using brute force. It will never happen. Set a more realistic goal. Be the best you can. Learn and practice your skills but also accept the inevitability of your errors. Making errors does not make you bad, it makes you human.

Trying to drive while looking in the rearview mirror.

An occasional glance back in the mirror can be helpful. It is good to see how far you have come. But if you are stuck in the past always looking back for the good old days you let life’s today’s slip by you headed for the past with no living done.

Past pain may have left scars but it does not mean that you need to continue to live in that pain.

Being afraid to watch the movie because you do not know how it will end.

Life is full of surprises. You have to try things. Some will turn out well and some will be – you know – another learning experience. Sure you should take into account the risks in life but do not let the uncertainties of life keep you from living.

The best endings in life, as in the movies, are often surprises. You can’t take all the risk out of life without taking out a lot of moments that will take your breath away.

Worrying about the future instead of preparing.

Worry by itself does not change anything. Trying to anticipate all the things that could go wrong leaves you helpless and anxious. Plan for the future knowing that things you did not foresee can always happen. Worry keeps you stuck in the problem. Prepare for the possibilities and then live life.

Being afraid to get off the beaten path.

The great rewards in life often fall to those who took a new path. Invent something, go somewhere new and try something you have never done to get the most out of life. The conventional path is often the boring one. Be the real you.

Letting fear keep you from doing things keeps you from growth. We learn best when exposed to things we never knew existed. What could you do if you could do anything? What would you be if all possible states of being were open to you?

Putting off your dreams until someday.

There is no someday. It is always today. You are living your life preparing for what will be. Enjoy the journey of life or you will regret the end. Dream big or dream small but continue to dream and then make those dreams a reality. The hugest of dreams can begin with small, day by day actions. Someday may never come but you will always have today. Make today the day that good things happen in your life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why couples have communication problems

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Old phone

Bad Communication.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

There are reasons why two people have communication problems.

When couples come for relationship counseling the most common description of the problem is that they “have trouble communicating.” It is rarely that simple.

Both people speak the same language, in my office, this is primarily some version of English. They seem to be able to communicate just fine when they agree on things. We are out of milk, is rarely a communication problem.

What the communication problem is about is mostly the feelings and the hidden agenda behind the statement. “We are out of milk” becomes “You are so selfish, you drank all the milk again” or “Why didn’t you see we needed milk?”

Here are some common causes of “communication problems.”

1. You insist on being right – Right fighting.

You keep telling the other person you are right and they are wrong. They do not agree. No amount of communication training will make this other person start agreeing with you. Continuing to insist you are right and refusing to hear the other person’s point of view will not remove the communication problem.

Accept that the other person in your life may never agree with you about some things. You do not need to change their mind. They have the right to their opinion. They even have the right to be wrong.

You, by the way, also have the right to be wrong. When you are wrong, admit it. Continuing to argue to make yourself right or to hide your error will not improve communication.

2. You attack instead of request.

You walk into the kitchen and there are dirty dishes everywhere. You head for the bedroom and your partner’s dirty clothing is on the floor again.

You could hunt them down and let them know that they are a pig, they grew up in a barn and that their mother is the fattest sow in town.

This personal attack is not likely to improve communication. It just results in a counter-offensive about your family’s obsessive fanatical neatness.

3. You keep repeating things ever louder.

Yelling louder does not improve communication with deaf people or non-English speakers. Repeating the same thing over with the same words does not help couples communicate.

Do not say it over again until you have established whether the other person heard you and what they thought you meant by those words.

If they did not understand you the first time you need to use other words to explain. If they did hear you but disagree repeating yourself is likely to provoke a hostile response.

4. Your idea of communicating is getting your way.

Being good at communication will help you tell other people what you think and how you feel. There is no guarantee that you will ever get your partner to agree with you. Your partner has the right to think and feel what they want to.

Accept that no amount of communication will get other people to change in the direction you want them to change. Learn to work on changing yourself, become a better person and become more accepting.

5. You focus on being understood rather than on understanding.

Until you understand your partner there is no open space for them to understand you. Why would you want to understand someone who started every conversation with the assertion you were wrong and just needed to start agreeing with them?

Become better at understanding them and then as they feel understood they may be willing to try to understand you. A side benefit of really understanding others is that you may find they were not as opposed to what you wanted as you were thinking.

6. You expect your partner to know what you need – mindreading.

Have you ever heard that “If you loved me I wouldn’t have to explain,” or the comment that “If I have to explain this you wouldn’t get it.”

Do you think that because you need something your partner should know that and do the thing you want?

Somewhere this romantic idea got into our heads that two people who are in love are on the same frequency and just know what each other feels and needs.

There are times when two people in a relationship are on the same page and sometimes you do just know what your partner needs. But don’t expect your partner to be able to read your mind. Tell them what you want and need.

Ever had trouble deciding what to have for lunch? Maybe there are times you partner is not clear on their thoughts. Do not expect them to be able to read your mind when you can’t tell what you are thinking at times.

7. There are secrets you do not want your partner to know.

If you have secrets, big ones like an affair in progress or some spending you know they would not approve of you are headed down the road to poor communication.

When you are holding things back the relationship gets chilly. This does not mean that you need to blurt out every wrong thing you do and expect your partner to automatically forgive and forget. What you should be doing is working on having fewer things in your life you can’t tell your partner about.

Having secrets is guaranteed to reduce the communication between people.

8. You are communicating with someone else about couple’s issues.

Most couples do not have that talk about what is and is not cheating before they get into a relationship. Once these situations come up there can be significant differences between what partners think is OK and not OK to be doing.

Sharing things about your partner, about your sex life and other intimate issues, is a common way to reduce the communication in a relationship.

There is this temptation to talk to your family or your friends and vent about the things that are causing conflicts between you. But once you have let the secrets you share with your partner out to other people there is this tendency for those secrets to come back around and bite you.

Do you want your partner’s mother calling you about that problem you two are having in the bedroom? Don’t you share it with your family either.

Talking to a coworker about your relationship, especially a coworker of your sexual preference, is a dangerous step in the direction of an affair. As we have talked about in the past, affairs do not have to be sexual to damage your current relationship. Those emotional affairs, they can end the communication between you and your partner. Once the communication is gone the intimacy is sure to follow.

Have you had any of these communication problems in your relationships? Have you detected other communication problems? Feel free to leave a comment or send me a reply via the contact me feature and I will respond to as many as possible.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.