Is the problematic way husbands and wives argue about marital problems any different from the way Republicans and Democrats argue? Whether we’re talking about professional politicians, husbands and wives, or friends and relatives discussing today’s headine-making political problems, every discussant seems to need to be right, thereby making the opposing point of view wrong.
When a person is accused of being wrong he feels attacked and so will attack back — creating a tit for tat argument that will continue endlessly, perhaps leading to more hurtful attacks and counter-attacks. Problems, whether in marriages, friendships or government, are never resolved this way. Intimate relationships can suffer permanent emotional scarring whether you win or lose the debate.
When we approach debates or arguments with the desire to understand, and perhaps even to learn and appreciate the other person’s point of view, but not to get an agreement, we shift the interaction away from who is right, or more powerful, or more convincing.
In couples counseling, as well as in individual therapy, I have found that understanding both ourselves and others leads to respect, compassion, and acceptance of the justification for various points of view, including our own, requiring no defensive arguments. It also leads to a happier life.
Robert N. Shorin, ACSW, BCD
Robert N. Shorin, ACSW, BCD received his certificate in psychoanalysis from the American Institute in Psychoanalysis. He maintains a private practice in couples and individual therapy in Syosset, Long Island and may be reached at 516-314-1766.