Why Can't You Shut Up? How We Ruin Relationships—How Not To
By: Anthony Wolf, Ph.D. (Ballantine)
Fight clean: Disagree without bickering, sniping, rehashing or destroying your relationship.
One of the greatest threats to satisfying relationships, says Anthony Wolf, a practicing clinical psychologist, is our overwhelming need to be right when we disagree. This innate characteristic, which he defines as our "baby self," can damage or destroy relationships, especially with those closest to us. In his latest book, Why Can't You Shut Up? How We Ruin Relationships—How Not To, Wolf shows how we go wrong: by not letting go when we're not getting our way.
I decided to try out Wolf's theories on a recent dispute with my wife.
Our children, ages 7 and 10, love watching television. If allowed, they'd sit in front of the set until their brains melted. While I try to get them to stick to time limits, my wife is more lax about enforcing these rules. I worry they're becoming TV addicts and she thinks I should cut them some slack.
But then she started letting them watch American Idol, which meant they stayed up past bedtime two school nights a week. Rather than a levelheaded conversation addressing this particular difference of opinion, the disagreement escalated into a nasty spat that dragged in other conflicts and past grievances. Filled with righteousness, I wanted not only to prove her guilty of this offense, but also of other outstanding crimes and misdemeanors, such as covert adjustments to various household budgets, using her car as a moving trash bin and helping the kids think of chocolate as a kind of daily vitamin.