There are those who say that “Winning isn’t everything.” Who are they kidding? Everyone wants to win! Ken and Allan play tennis. Tennis is always fun, but winning at tennis is a lot more fun than losing. Allan is a lawyer. Negotiating takes skill, and trying a case in court takes skill. Doing both well is satisfying, but winning a case in court (or through settlement) is way more satisfying.
People have favorite sports teams and jump for joy when they win, and cry when they lose. Vince Lombardi, the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said, “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing.”
People in marriages have arguments, and winning the arguments, or at least not losing, is really important most of the time. Once Ken and his wife, while on a walk, had a disagreement. His wife believed that an event had happened the prior week, while Ken believed it had happened about three weeks prior. The event was irrelevant. Ken and his wife did not argue, but neither changed their mind. Afterwards, both Ken and his wife, privately checked to see who was right. How silly is that? It really did not matter. The desire to be right can be very powerful, even when it does not matter.
Saying that “Winning isn’t everything” sounds nice, but contradicts millions of years of evolution. The species made it happen, and did so by winning. Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens roamed the earth at about the same time. Homo sapiens were more aggressive, and perhaps even cleverer. The earth is now populated by them. Why? Because they won. The Neanderthals lost and are gone.
Often, couples in marriages are preoccupied with who is right. Are the wife’s opinions about the husband, with which he disagrees, right? Are the husband’s opinions about the wife, of course with which she agrees, right? Sometimes those disagreements grow and grow, and before long the whole marriage, can be dominated by arguments about who is right, even to the point of a divorce.
Sadly, even after the divorce, when the couple has children, they can still be arguing about who was right and who was wrong, blaming each other for the misery of their arguments. Some of those arguments might be about the children. Or they might be continuing to argue about their negative opinions of one another, even when who was right really does not matter anymore. However, they keep trying to win the arguments. They sometimes even start using the children in the battle.
The point of all this is to take seriously the human desire to be right, or at least not be wrong. Hidden behind this desire is the desire to feel superior to others. In the 2008 Wimbledon tennis match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the match went to full five sets, tied to the very end and requiring the players to play a tie breaker. Nadal won because Federer missed his one final shot. Nadal held his fist in the air and made a screaming ape face and then fell on the court, cheered himself and cried. He won. Was he really superior? It might have easily been Nadal that missed the final shot, but he got the trophy.
In this Blog Series, we will explore the role of being right and wanting to be superior in troubled co-parenting relationships. The implications are far reaching. Parents in these relationships blame one another for the problems, certainly judge each other poorly and often find themselves being judged poorly by other people.
Our point here is a simple one: wanting to be right and wanting to win is just being human. In the next five Blogs, we will look more closely at this need to be right and to win in relationships and how those human instincts can lead to making poor choices and engaging in self-defeating behaviors. First of all, it is important to accept that being right, feeling superior and winning are not wrong or bad. They are human. This Blog Series how to avoid making major mistakes as a result of wanting to win and how to both can really win. Please stay tuned.