There’s an old saying….”be right, or be married”… While most peoples say it with a touch of humour, it’s more often said sarcastically. It speaks to the difficulties surrounding ‘righteousness’ in a marriage. It speaks to husbands or wives who think they know more, and/or are always right…and need to frequently let the other partner know this.  Righteousness is, indeed, a problem in a marriage; and the common saying being right or staying married reflects the frequency of the issue seen in marriage counselling settings.

So let’s review why ‘being right, or being married’ raises TWO important questions: Why is it a problem to be right? And why do we drive each other mad with wanting to be right, or defending ourselves when someone insists they know more?

Marital Challenges | Why do we need to be right?

The problem of righteousness in marriages.

1. The problem of righteousness isn’t new, and there are some cultural influences in ‘being right’ or ‘righteous’ and competitive with your loved ones.

  • It is generally accepted that history shows it was the same in Grandma’s day, as it is with modern couples today.
  • Competing about who knows more about a certain topic, who is more correct — and who is insisting the other one is wrong — has persisted over generations.
  • The trouble is that it has a one-ups sense to it — it’s a sign of disrespect (or de-valuing) of the other person’s intelligence, opinions and views.

2. Righteousness causes marriage conflict.

  • Taking the “I am right – you are wrong” position or stance causes conflict and heartache.
  • It sidelines the other partner, alienates him or her.
  • The feuding distance between you and your spouse grows. And grows. And grows. And grows.

3. It’s a put-down of the other person’s intelligence; and is often a sign of insecurity or uncertainty about one’s intellect (the righteous personality is one that is, deep down, uncertain of their intelligence in many — but not all — cases of the ‘I’m always right/know more; you’re always wrong/know less”).

  • In many instances, the person in the marriage who insists they’re always right — is sending a message to the other partner that the or she is not only wrong, but stupid!
  • This is especially prevalent in people who feel they know more than anyone else in the world, including (but not limited to) their partner(s); but the trait probably encompasses their colleagues, managers and anyone else in their community – righteousness is often a sign of superiority, which — ironically — stems from insecurity and self doubt.
  • Many self-righteous people, and those who feel they know more than others, feel they have a superiority of knowledge—
    • But often this stems from an insecurity; as being a ‘know it all’ or ‘always right’ is typically a compensatory effect
    • At other times, the need to be right reflects a personality trait that contains a sense of grandiosity and superiority rather than connection — it’s posturing, competitiveness and insecurity all in one trait!
  • So the way the partner who’s ‘always right’ states their knowledge, often drives the other partner to rise up and defend them self — because in essence they are being put down, shut down and/or disregarded, and often the ‘always right’ partner is ignoring the person’s intellect and savvy.

Again, this can lead to wives having affairs (if the man is always right) or husbands having affairs (if the wife is always right); as no partner will tolerate being put down continually and being told — directly or indirectly by the righteous partner — that they’re ‘stupid’ or less intelligent. If ths is your situation then connect with me FAST Book Your Call With Me

4. So why do we do it to our loved ones? Why do we always insist we’re right, and they’re wrong?


Why do we defend ourselves when we could just recognise our partner’s insecurity and need to ‘be seen as right’ even when there’s no human way possible one person IS always right? And certainly not in a marriage (not from what I’ve seen in the thousands of couples I’ve counselled through an acute, urgent marriage crisis).

  • Because like all humans, we want — and need — to feel heard.
  • Feel acknowledged.
  • Feel respected.
  • Feel validated,
  • Feel valued., most importantly feel smart and on top of things….not feel stupid…
Being right (or insisting you’re right all the time) doesn’t usually achieve any of these.  In fact, not at all.
Nevertheless, some of us still continue asserting that we are right. We’re attached to it in a strange way, as if our psyche or well-being  (or reputation) were dependent on being seen as the smartest person on the planet. But it backfires.  People move away from you when you’re always right. Or if it’s your partner, they distance themselves, become defensive or feel tense and uncomfortable in your presence.
Frequently the outcome is that the partner who insists on being right ends up having facts presented which shows he or she is wrong and guess what?…. then he or she feels stupid.It is an unpleasant hurtful cycle which destroys marriages.

5. You might be thinking to yourself, that sometimes ‘being right’ is important — tied to other awarenesses or outcomes.

  • Sometimes you’ll feel that it is crucially important to know what is right, and do the right thing.
  • Yes, absolutely. If this is the case, then in my experience typically both partners will come together and acknowledge this.
  • It is the seemingly petty stuff which gets centre stage regarding who is right and who is wrong.

But for the partner (husband, wife) who insists they’re always right, and know more than others — the partner with a superiority complex (and underlying inferiority or narcissistic traits), they’ll usually not work on their issues until the loved one leaves. And by then, it’s often too little, too late.

So if you have this problem in your marriage, it’s important to gain the help of an objective, caring facilitator for discussions and insights into how to bring the love back into your day to day relationships (or marriage), including mutual respect, open communication and emotional and physical intimacy.  To learn how to do the right thing instead of being right. Doing the right thing allows warmth and reassuring comfort to flow both ways. And Couple’s Coach, Dee Tozer, has helped thousands of couples find the way back to love and respect.

Do you have a breakdown in your marriage?  Is one of you always right?

Is one of you feeling put down, ignored, disrespected or unheard?

If you’re reading this page, or your spouse has had an affair because of righteousness – it’s not too late.

Insight into marital dynamics and relationship traits can help you save your marriage, and rekindle kindness, respect and loving warmth — including rekindling intimacy if your marriage has turned sexless or lacks intimacy

Many marital problems can be remedied by the right type of couples coaching and/or marriage counselling. Connect with me now Book Your Call With Me

Sometimes discussing what’s not working in a relationship feels too hard, or too painful.  If a partner checks out emotionally, they may still stay in the marriage, but be seeking partnership elsewhere.  The best course of action in this scenario, and in the other scenario’s above, is to invest in professional counselling rather than a divorce lawyer (‘dead money’).

That’s because most marriages start from a state of love, attraction, great sex and emotional intimacy. If a couple had it once, no matter how far they’ve strayed from having that, it can be healed if both partners are willing to give it a try and make the effort(s) required.

My programs help couple’s avoid those expensive, nasty divorces and difficult family separations that can wreak havoc on businesses, careers, family structures, social networks and everyone’s emotional well-being.  So don’t call that divorce attorney… try counselling.  Try six months, and if it doesn’t work (in my experience 80% of the time it WILL work if you’re both willing to put the effort in and share your insights), then at least you’ll have a more amicable parting. But as a couple’s coach, I’ve seen so many people throw away a marriage, or have an affair, instead of repairing and healing what’s gone wrong between them.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Book a free 15 minute call today to see how I can help.

Suggested reading: Does an affair or cheating mean the end of the relationship? Does cheating lead to divorce?

In an urgent marital crisis? On the brink of a separation or divorce?

Need a marriage counsellor urgently? Wondering which marriage counsellor should I call?

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