It might sound like I’m kidding, and it may come across as a little pretentious, but I believe there are two very important keys to a healthy relationship. First – separate bathrooms. This may seem a little silly, but I assure you it helps keep the peace. Even when I was single and had a roommate, we insisted on living in an apartment with separate facilities. As far as I see it, what we do in here is totally non-social (for most, that is) and therefore private in nature. I have no problem sharing with someone, I’m quite capable of doing so, but there’s also no need whatsoever to force our paths to cross in this area of life. My wife has the master bath in our home and I occupy the one in our basement. Besides, my schedule varies on occasion which usually means I’m getting up earlier than she does. Having a shower, and somewhere to make “other” noises away from the bedroom allows her to sleep while I ready myself for the day.
The second, and by far more relevant key to maintaining a healthy relationship in my life has been practicing this philosophy – “When a fight is about to start, the other person is always right”. Sound tough to swallow? Aw, that’s too bad. Keep in mind every kind of relationship can benefit following this mindset, from work to casual friendships. Here’s why this is key. It’s ALWAYS less painful to admit you’re wrong rather than fight about whether or not you’re right. And man, I mean always. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe and push for what you feel must happen in order for the best scenario to take place, but stepping over the line that says “fight!” usually leads to regret and anguish not to mention other, more serious long-term problems. Disagreements are plentiful and let’s face it, unavoidable, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I have never seen the benefit of letting them deteriorate into an emotional mess. Doesn’t matter in the long run if I’m right anyway. Think I’m wrong? There’s two very important reasons I’m not, and here’s why.
The fastest way to prove someone wrong is to let them do it their way.
Let that little observation sink in for a bit. The only time I’ll step in and insist on stopping (or at least delaying) what’s about to happen is if I’m 100% sure someone is going to get hurt. If danger is imminent, then I’ll intercede. Other than that they can proceed with whatever agenda suits them. If their way turns out to be incorrect one of two things will happen, either they will concede to another way and allow a little humility to seep in or they’ll stand their ground even if they know they are wrong, which is a good sign you’re with the wrong person to begin with.
The worst case scenario is more time and money.
Even when I’m absolutely positive I’m correct, the worst thing that will happen (other than imminent danger, which I’ve already talked about) is that we’ll end up taking a longer road which may also cost more, and honestly, this possibility isn’t all that horrible. Usually very little happens which actually sets up a disaster. Not only that, of all the times I’d bet my life I was right, about half the time I ended up eating crow and conceding in the face of reason, so practicing an attitude of open-mindedness ends up teaching me a little humility, and who couldn’t use more of that?
I do not avoid confrontation; I embrace it in many cases because it gives me the chance to prove I’m the better, more level-headed person. I was once running a job where the supervisor came up to me doing his best impression of an emotional windmill. He was red-faced, mad, and quite animated. I kept my calm and stepped a little too close while I said something like this, “Do not talk to me this way, I will not respond. I will respond to respect and kindness, which honestly, I’ve shown you all along. Please keep in mind that I want to get the job done too, probably more than you do.” After that he was indeed kind and respectful and we had no further conflicts. He did, however, continue bullying everyone else who was willing to take his brand of crap.
I did not step over the “fight” line as much as I was being invited; though I must admit there’s almost always temptation in these types of situations. I’m an emotionally healthy man, able to release the proper feelings in the proper doses so there’s no build up of unreleased expression, which I think leads to all kinds of health problems for many. Instead of instinctively responding with some sort of regrettable defensive anger, the satisfaction of logical and productive re-direction always leaves an intense satisfaction. Besides, I’ve said it before “He who walks away from confrontations with the lowest blood pressure, wins the game.”
I wish I could say I’m level-headed all the time, but that simply isn’t the case. Occasionally I’ll lose my cool in instances where no one but me is involved. This leads to situations where someone (usually my wife) will come running in and ask me what that crash was and why all the yelling is going on. Hey, at least I save my outbursts for more private opportunities of expression. I’ve said it before and I really do believe this. The pain most men carry is rooted in the inability (or at least unwillingness) to properly express themselves when emotions are generated. This means when we feel something, we have a tendency to hold it back; it’s been generated but not released. Problem with this is that all manufactured feelings will eventually surface, but they will be unexpected, mutated, and amplified. All too often this is the case when alcohol or other drugs are involved.
All this being said, I never want to be incorrect about anything, who does? As I stated before I’ll always do my best to present my viewpoints and opinions as calmly and logically as possible, but there’s a huge difference between standing your ground and stepping over the line. Dropping the perceived need to be right does two things, it opens the mind to a possible better way that might not have been conceived otherwise and it eliminates potentially lighting an emotional powder keg. Don’t get me wrong, I ALWAYS want the best right thing to happen, it’s just that I no longer feel I must be connected to the final outcome. I have no need to be an author of the solution. Besides, being silently peaceful is much more preferable to being vocally upset no matter who’s right or who’s wrong.
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood