07/12/2011 06:47 pm ET | Updated Sep 11, 2011

I'm Right, You're Wrong: Egos and Relationships

Happiness in relationships is a choice. Here's how it works: Our partner says something we disagree with, whether it be an observation about us, a recollection of something we said or did, or a perspective about the world and its workings.

Rather than let it go or agree to disagree, we often tend to get caught up in our ego and its need not just to be right, but to also have our partner acknowledge that we are right. And so we make an issue out of who's right and who's wrong. We make a mountain out of a molehill. We not only insist on correcting our partner, we insist on nothing less than total capitulation to our point of view.

We continue to get in their face, and we refuse to give in because we know we're right and we're not going to give them the satisfaction of thinking they're right and we're wrong. We stay at it, we stay adamant, we stay angry and aggressive in making our point, even when it leads to an escalation of negative emotions and very bad feelings about the relationship.

Oftentimes nothing is resolved, our partner chooses to remain oppositional to our point of view and everybody is miserable. Oftentimes, even in those scenarios where we get our partner to capitulate, to admit their error and our correctness, we still aren't happy because all the effort it took to get the acknowledgment has generated a tremendous amount of ill will and negative energy.

We got our, "You're right," but at the expense of our happiness and at the expense of the relationship, which suffers in the process. On the other hand, if we decide it isn't important that we insist we're right and that we're okay with them thinking whatever they want to think, then we don't need to exert any effort to prove or insist upon anything. In which case, we have kept the peace and everybody's happy.

Bottom line: In disagreements and differences of opinion with our partners, it behooves us to choose our battles. This means we overlook as much as possible in our partners, we release the need to be critical and correct them and we don't sweat the small stuff as much as possible.

However, there are times when the issue we're discussing is too big, where it's not about pride or ego, where it really does matter that everybody be on the same page, and where it really is necessary that we clarify who's right and who's wrong. In cases such as these, choosing our battles means we take a stand, we speak up and hold our ground because if we don't, happiness in the relationship will surely not prevail.

There is one other scenario in which happiness will not prevail, and that is when we have decided to take the high ground position of, "I'd rather be happy than insist I'm right," but then resent having done so.

This is another example of our ego getting in our way. Despite initially being successful at putting our ego aside in order to do what's best for the relationship, we allow our ego to jump back into the game. When this happens, we must remind ourselves that our ego is not our friend. We don't need its help, and we don't want it involved. And then we let go of the resentment, grateful that we have a relationship that may not be perfect but is nurturing, loving and sustainable.

If we decide we'd rather be happy than insist on people seeing things our way, and we choose our battles such that we very rarely need to insist on anybody seeing anything our way, we will have happier and healthier relationships. There will be more frequent quality time in our relationships, and we will be happier in general because our head won't be filled with pointless score-keeping and resentments.