About ten years ago I had a therapist who I really loved, and she introduced me to the concept of Getting To Be Right Wars.
GTBRW’s are those conversations you have with another person that soon turn into arguments and sometimes full-on blowouts.
The ones where you have convince the other person that they are wrong and you are right.
The ones where the other person just isn’t getting it, and you are not going to stop until they finally do.
You MUST get them to see the light.
Of course, you never really get to that point.
You both just keep getting-to-be-right each other to death until you both explode.
I have probably engaged in the most GTBRW’s with my husband.
These exchanges with him are particularly infuriating.
The GTBRW therapist clued me in and helped me recognize when I was engaging in battle.
That didn’t mean I stopped, though.
But at least there was an awareness.
The GTBRW therapist ended up moving her practice, and a few months later I found a new one.
My husband and I went to see her together.
She also pointed out the GTBRW’s.
But she pointed them out a little bit differently.
She gave me a magnet that read,
You can be right, or you can be married.
But the GTBRW’s haven’t been limited to just my husband.
I’ve engaged in them with my parents, my kids, my friends, my coworkers, on Facebook, here on the blog and I’m sure a whole bunch of other places.
I’ve really been working on them in the past few years because I see my kids doing the same thing.
And it’s really annoying.
I can only assume that when they’ve witnessed me attempting to be right with my husband (or anyone else) they are super annoyed, too.
So I try to work on this with them a lot.
We have talked about GTBRW’s.
When the kids start to go at it, I’ll pop my head in and yell-whisper, “DON’T ENGAGE!”
Sometimes one of them gets it and backs out, ending the war.
Sometimes nobody does and they just keep going.
But even if they don’t stop themselves, I know they have developed a level of awareness because on those times when I do not catch myself and I allow myself to be sucked into a GTBRW, one of the kids will say, “MOM! DON’T ENGAGE!!!”
The fact that they recognize when other people are engaging in a battle lets me know they get it.
And we’ll keep working on this together.
I’ll remind them, and they’ll remind me.
THEY DEFINITELY REMIND ME.
In the same vein of the GTBRW, the other day, I was listening to an Oprah podcast and she was talking to Byron Katie who said, “Defense is the first act of war.”
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH.
Because this is not the way we usually think about it.
We look at the person slinging the first insult or accusation or whatever as the person declaring war.
But it’s not war if you don’t fight back.
I say the same thing to my kids when they are running inside.
One of their go-to responses is, “But he/she was chasing me!!!”
And I tell them, “Nobody can chase you if you aren’t running.”
That often stops them in their tracks.
Not literally of course. But they never have a quick response for that, and it makes them think.
I have repeated defense is the first act of war to myself countless time since I heard it for the first time a couple days ago.
It’s eye-opening how often I feel compelled to jump to my own defense.
And it’s shocking how quickly a situation is diffused when you simply don’t defend yourself.
You leave the aggressor left with nothing to come back at you with.
An “act of war” doesn’t have to be a big blow out. It can be any interaction with anyone.
It could be an exchange with your husband.
Let’s say your husband comes home from work, you are a stay-at-home mom, and he says, “The house is a mess.”
You could fire off a list of everything you did that day.
Then you’d be defending yourself. And now you are preparing for and engaged in a battle.
OR, you could simply say, Yep! It sure is!
And no war.
This is the next thing I’ll be working on with the kids as I continue to work on it myself.
If you find yourself in repeated arguments with the same people, take a look at your participation in them.
And then see if you can catch yourself.
You don’t need to come back at anyone with a defense or a response or a put-down or whatever.
Instead, silently repeat to yourself — or heck, even say it out loud — Defense is the first act of war.
Give yourself a reminder.
And then don’t engage.
When you can remember to do that, I bet you’ll see a decline in those super maddening interactions (and your blood pressure) immediately.