By Barbara Steingas
Marriage, I have found, is about compromise and avoiding arguments by removing ego. About twenty years ago, my late husband and I went to the Big Island of Hawaii to attend an Anthony Robbins multi-day seminar called Life Mastery. It covered five main areas including relationships. Here, we discovered that the quality of our lives, particularly of our relationships, is based on the questions we ask ourselves.
The importance of questions
From the time we are young, most of us are taught to ask disempowering victim-based questions. Questions such as, “Why are people doing that to me?” Or “Why are people being such jerks?” These types of questions revolve around our ego and create a separation between us and the other person. They also cause us to give our power away. And they make us feel like there is something wrong with us for the other person to treat us in an upsetting way.
When we ask ourselves empowering questions, however, we can take our ego out of the equation. Then we can see things in a more objective way, rather than taking things people do or say so personally. We can maybe see the hurt and scared little kid inside that person, draw ourselves closer to them, and maybe offer help. I like to ask myself, “What is going on with that person that is making them say or do that?” This way, we can more easily resolve any issues before they become out-of-control blowups. These fights tend to occur when we stay in our egos rather than our heart spaces.
Committing to the relationship
The best question we learned that week in Hawaii in regards to relationships was asking ourselves, “Am I more committed to the relationship or to being right?” We don’t realize how much our ego needing to be right is a big part of what causes conflict. This is especially true in our closest relationships with family members and spouses. Little things can slowly escalate to a huge mountain of discord as people try to top each other by exerting their power, which causes further hurt and anger.
I remember when I was growing up and my mom and I would spend the summer in Germany visiting family. She was one of seven kids. During family gatherings, there would ultimately be a heated discussion where everyone would insist their opinion was the right one. This ended up in many fights and hurt feelings. I wish my mother and her family had learned this simple, yet powerful strategy to help them learn to agree to disagree. It would be better to stay in their love for each family member, rather than overriding that feeling with the subconscious need to be right and to feel significant or in control.
Avoiding arguments by removing the ego
One evening, simply asking myself, “Am I more committed to the relationship or to being right?” thwarted what could have escalated to a serious fight and rift in my relationship with my late husband.
It started on the way to Burger King to get dinner. We heard a rattling noise in the car, one of my husband’s pet peeves. When he asked, “What is that?” I teased him and replied, “Oh you and your rattles.” He thought I was being snippy because he was getting hangry, so he made a snotty remark. Then, me also being hangry, got nasty back. When this happened, his way to handle it was to get away from me. However, we were in the car, so he decided to drive me home before we made it Burger King. I knew his strategy, and when we arrived home, I stormed out of the car and into the house as he drove away.
Knowing he only had the car key and I was the only one who had the house key, I locked the door. I went into our bedroom, laid down on the bed, and folded my arms. In anger, I thought, that will show him to drop me off back at the house. A few minutes after I began this brooding scenario, the question popped into my head: Am I more committed to being right or to the relationship? I was forced to answer and this allowed my anger to dissipate because I was definitely more committed to my relationship with him. As a result, I immediately went to the front door and unlocked it. A short while later, he returned because he, too, had the same experience and felt bad about us fighting.
Come together and share
We made up by apologizing to each other and shared our epiphanies. This caused us to laugh about how silly the fight had been. It had been prompted by us being cranky and hungry.
This leads me to wonder how many silly arguments escalate because we choose being right over our relationship? Couples may not understand or recognize that the ego is taking over and clouding their true heartfelt feelings for each other.
In a Psychology Today post titled Managing Relationship Conflict: Letting Go of Being Right, Hal Shorey, Ph.D says, “By being consciously aware of the being right ego versus staying in our heart space and being committed to the relationship, you can work out disagreements in a more healthy way that keeps you and the other person connected to each other rather than creating rifts and distance that can eventually dissolve the relationship.”
Avoiding arguments by removing ego can make a marriage better and help partners grow.