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Being right versus being happy

I was telling my wife, Mariah, about two gentlemen I met this past week and how I really enjoyed getting to know them. The two guys, now great friends, married sisters and they shared with me a decision they had both made. They decided years ago that they could either be right or be happy in their marriage. They decided they wanted to be happy. Mariah didn’t take it the way I meant it. I didn’t explain the concept very well and she took more as an insult. As a result, this is my attempt to explain it effectively.

When those gentlemen shared their decision with me, one thought I keep having is how hard I fight to be right. The more I think about it, the more selfish I feel. I frequently debate with Mariah about what I think is right. Usually, I end up feeling guilty and we both end up unhappy.

Does it really matter if I am right or not? Of course, it doesn’t. That is never the point, but Mariah often feels that I place being right above her feelings. My fight to be right makes her feel like my opinion is more important than hers. The only thing she sees or hears in these discussions is my lack of appreciation for her insight and feelings. 

My urge to be right is driven by the barriers or difficulties I envision. I let those barriers or difficulties lead me. I allow them to make me feel assertive and to ultimately fight. Mariah, on the other hand, envisions a much different perspective. Her perspective doesn’t involve barriers or difficulties. She usually sees the bonding, the fun, and the joy of the situation.

Let me share two examples to help you understand more clearly how my desire to be right can be less than helpful and eventually take away from my her (and my boys) happiness.

One example is about Mariah wanting to use a cartop carrier on our drive to Florida. I didn’t think we needed it. I thought I could get everything inside our vehicle. I also worried about how hard it would be to get it on top of our automobile. As I argued my perspective, Mariah felt like I didn’t value her opinion. Well, it turned out that we really needed it and probably could have used two of them. It also turned out to be really easy to secure to our luggage rack. I ended up being very glad we went through the effort to get it and that we actually used it. 

A second example is a little more detailed. Mariah and the boys wanted to go to the beech one afternoon. Mariah wanted to take Maggie (our  1 year old chocolate lab) and the boys wanted to fly their kites (each had a kite). As well, Madden and Miles wanted to ride their bikes. We also had to ride the golf cart with Maggie, Max, and the 3 kites. Does that sound like chaos? It did to me and gave me an urge to stand up for how I thought it was too much. I fought a little about the effort it was going to take to make it to the beech and how hard it would be to manage our dog and 3 kites. I eventually gave up and lost the fight. Madden and Miles rode their bike. Mariah, Max, Maggie, and I rode the golf cart behind them with the kites. 

On the way, we stopped the golf cart at every cross rode to make sure they were safe on their bikes. We finally arrived after what felt like a 2 hour ride that was only 0.25 miles down the road. As we arrived, Maggie must have realized that we were going to the beech because she became as rowdy as a caged tiger. Still feeling my defeat, I yanked her collar causing it to come undone and she was free like a bull coming out of the gate. She bolted toward the beech and was out of our sight in less than a second. The other people heading to the beech just watched as we entertained them with our chaos. 

As Maggie sprinted down the path to the ocean, each one of us called her. She eventually turned around and came back. As she got close to us, we all continued to call and wrangle her. Of course, she had no idea what to do since all five of us were screaming her name. In the meantime, the other people stood there froze, just watching our show. We finally got her to stop and put on her leash.

Once we made it to the beach, it seemed the hard part was behind us. However, putting one of the kites together was like building a model airplane. Imagine putting it together while holding a caged tiger on her leash. I was afraid to let one of the boys hold her so I helped Mariah build the kite while holding her. Maggie was jumping and trying hard to get to the water. We were able to get the kite put together, but it wasn’t easy.

We flew the kites and let Maggie swim. I was very surprised how well Max held onto his kite. He walked up and down the beach and held onto the kite as if it was his favorite blanket. Maggie swam and decided to poop in the ocean. We were able to clean it up.

After the adventure was over, it was time to head home. Remember, we had two bikes, a golf cart, a dog, and 3 kites. Madden, thankfully, wanted to ride his bike. Miles did not. Mariah had to drive the golf cart so I could sit on the back holding Maggie and Miles’ bike. It wasn’t easy and we looked like the Clampett’s on a golf cart. We did make it back. We all had a great afternoon which coukd have been destroyed if I had not compromised.

Our life is always this chaotic. Unfortnately, I too frequently fight for what I believe to be right. I am trying to learn to go with the flow and follow James 1:19 more closely. I am not suggesting that I want to become a floppy fish and let them walk all over me. Being right is never more important than my wife (or boys) happiness even if it means it will be a lot of work. I never want them to feel like I don’t value their opinion and nothing is more important than how I make them feel.


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