Don’t bet on it.
Just like you, they probably think they are right and it’s you who is being difficult, stubborn, hateful, irascible etc.
You’re stewing. Angry, ticked off, and convinced that it’s pretty near the end of the world if things don’t turn out how you’d like them to. You’ve gotten to the point where you can’t remember a single thing your wife (or husband, partner, friend, employer, colleague) every did right. In fact, aren’t all the good things they did suspect, now? Perhaps they always had ulterior motives!
But what if you could change all this tension and pain into peace in about thirty seconds flat?
You can. It’s called “giving in for the sake of peace” and it is not really part of the American (or Western) culture. It’s more an Eastern thing, and also very much rooted in Jewish mysticism and ethics.
It doesn’t mean giving in when someone wants to harm you, it means giving in when you can’t see eye to eye with an individual in your life, someone who you want to remain in your life.
It isn’t blind pacifism, which allows evil to flourish for the sake of so-called peace. It is a kind of personal seed-planting, where you shift your priorities in order to help a relationship flourish. It’s sending sunshine when you really want to smash someone with a good thunderstorm or two.
And it can work wonders, surprisingly, even if the other person isn’t as heavily invested in the relationship as you are!
It means looking the other way at a spouse who is frequently late, or who forgets your birthday or just doesn’t “get” you; it means looking the other way when your otherwise exemplary colleague insists his name goes first on the paper you are co-writing; it means allowing your friend to believe in a political outlook different from your own, and not demonizing them or making fun of them.
It means allowing the other person to have skills and talents you don’t have, and “failings” you don’t have either. (So, maybe they aren’t the world’s greatest listener, but do they show their love and affection in other ways? Maybe they consistently take out the garbage or cook dinner or make the bed or pay the bills? Maybe they are sloppy, slobby even, but take care of all the details of each vacation you take or always wake up with a smile on their face.)
It means when you are having that fight, the one that’s been simmering for a while, or perhaps just exploded “out of nowhere” you excuse yourself, take a solid thirty seconds in another room, and ask yourself: Is this really worth it? It is it worth hurting this other person, even momentarily, in order to have what I want, now?
Okay, you’re probably saying. I can do that. But what about that other person? He/she will walk all over me, never allow me to be right, never admit he/she is wrong.
Here’s an amazing thing that some marriage counselors might not tell you: When you change, the other person simply cannot relate to you the way you were anymore because you aren’t the old you—you are different, calmer, able to put the relationship above the moment (and above self, at least some of the time). You are more at peace, stronger, and able to see that there could conceivably be another point of view. In fact, you’ll feel a new kind of power, the power to change reality, really change it.
Even some of the most fractured relationships* can improve when only one person is doing the initial peace-work. It’s like a jump start for a two-engine plane. If one engine gets going, the other eventually may be able to, too.
When a peaceful and supportive relationship becomes your primary goal (not getting what you need in the moment, per se), you may be astonished at how the other person responds to the shift in your outlook and behavior. And you might be astonished at how good you feel.
It’s a new kind of power, the power over self, not others.
By saying “Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe you are right. Why not see if we can find a middle-ground, or just agree to disagree?” over and over again, you may eventually hear back: “No, no, I see it another way. Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe you’re right!”
When it becomes comfortable to admit that you might be “wrong” and when you realize you won’t implode, melt, or other wise self-destruct, the other person begins to feel that being wrong (or being right) isn’t all that important a thing.
If you begin to see yourself as the kind of person for whom peace and good relationships are near the top of the list of what’s important, other people will begin to see you that way too, and maybe even relate to you that way. You’ll give an offering that only a very callous, entrenched individual will find easy to discard. Most will treasure it.
There’s a true story we heard about recently: An elderly husband and wife, who are known for their exemplary relationship have spent a lot of their retirement flying around the world visiting family and friends. One day, their daughter who is flying to an overseas wedding with them and is sitting in between them, asks her father, “Dad why do you always take the window seat?”
He replies, “I’ve flown in the window seat for nearly fifty years because your mother prefers the aisle seat.”
She turns to her mother, “Mom, I see you always tick off the aisle seat. Do you really find it more comfortable?”
“No, dear, I just know your father likes to look out the window.”
Eventually, all three talked and realize that for over fifty years, each was giving up what they thought the other would prefer, even though it wasn’t so! The wife really would have preferred the window seat, and the husband, the aisle. Each was willing to forgo their own preference in order to please the other.
*If you are in an abusive relationship, this is not the kind of skill that can be easily transmitted. It is imperative that you get support/help for abusive relationships.