When You Right Fight, You Argue for All the Wrong Reasons

Conflict is an unavoidable part of relationships. When you spend a lot of time with someone – particularly if you live together – there’s bound to be friction from time to time. However, when conflicts escalate into right fighting – the relentless pursuit of being right at the expense of resolution – they can erode relationships and breed negativity. 

So, why do people engage in right fighting, and how can you break free from this destructive pattern?

“You’re Not Listening to Me!” 

Right fighting often stems from a deep-seated need to validate our opinions, beliefs, and values. Many people who engage in right fighting dealt with parents or others in early childhood who tended to negate those opinions, beliefs, and values, making them feel like no one listened or cared. Like they didn’t matter.

  1. It’s not just your parents. Societal and cultural influences play a significant role in perpetuating the phenomenon of right fighting. From an early age, we   taught to value assertiveness, confidence, and independence. While  but 
  2. traits are essential for self-expression and empowerment, they can also contribute to an adversarial approach to conflict resolution, where winning becomes the ultimate goal at any cost.

Additionally, right fighting can be fueled by ego and insecurity. When our sense of self-worth is tied to being right or winning arguments, we become hypersensitive to perceived threats to our intelligence, competence, or authority. We need to prove that they are wrong and we are right.

Bottom line, when we feel challenged or threatened, whether consciously or subconsciously, our instinct is to defend ourselves. Unfortunately, this innate desire to win arguments and assert dominance can override our ability to empathize with our partner and find common ground, leading to a cycle of escalating conflict.

But it doesn’t have to, and here’s the good news: often, people with the particular emotional wound that causes them to engage in right fighting tend to choose partners with the same wound. Why is that good? Because if you can both become aware of the issue and actively work against it, you can actually help each other to heal that wound.

Breaking the Right Fighting Cycle

While the impulse to engage in right fighting may be deeply ingrained, it is not insurmountable. There are several strategies that individuals can employ to break free from this destructive pattern and cultivate more constructive approaches to conflict resolution.

Practice Self-Awareness

The first step in overcoming right fighting is to recognize when you are falling into the trap of prioritizing being right over finding resolution. Pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors during conflicts, and identify any patterns or triggers that contribute to right fighting tendencies.

Shift Your Mindset to Your Partner

Instead of focusing on yourself and how threatened you’re feeling, actively work toward showing your partner that you see and hear them. If they say they told you to pick up milk, repeat this back to them – even if you don’t remember it that way: “You remember telling me to pick up the milk and I didn’t do it.”

What’s the point of this? It shows them that you’re actually listening and acknowledging their point of view. Which, at minimum, avoids escalating the argument, and may even start the work of de-escalating. You could then follow up with something like, “That sounds really frustrating.”

Keep in mind that you’re not agreeing what they said happened, just acknowledging that’s their experience of what occurred and empathizing. Because, in the end, who’s correct isn’t going to change the problem: either way, there’s no milk. So the argument isn’t about solving that – it’s about recognizing and respecting your partner’s feelings. 

When You Show Your Partner You See Them, Right Fights End

Remember, right fighting is about the need to have our thoughts and feelings validated. To have the other person acknowledge that we matter. Being aware of your own feelings and making yourself focus on your partner not only serves to prevent you from engaging in right fighting – it’s likely to knock them out of that heated zone and put both of you back on the right track.


Of course, no one is saying it’s easy in the heat of the moment. If you just can’t stop right fighting with your partner, we are here to help. Get in touch to see if we’re a good fit.

Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803