Rigid Has Consequences
So many couples argue incessantly and have no idea that this is destroying their relationship, the peace in their home, and their kids’ ability to get along well with others. Their blind spot is that they both wholeheartedly believe that it is necessary to have an opinion about everything that transpires in their world. This is wrong and was learned in your childhood, either directly or as a counter-reaction.
There are two types of people who constantly push their opinions and preferences on others. One type grew up in an argumentative home where everyone seemingly argued about everything. This was so normalized that they have no idea this is not how healthy families are. The stress was a constant. When people grow up in families where everyone is always pushing their own way, they innately see everything as a battlefield, from where to go on vacation to what to eat for dinner and everything in between.
The other type of person who argues constantly with a partner is someone who was told that children should be seen and not heard when they were a kid, and never had their opinions considered. These adults now often put their own kids’ opinions on a pedestal, frequently leading to a situation where their entitled kids don’t respect them. They want their opinions heard and valued in a way that they never were when they were kids, and they also want their kids to constantly express their opinions.
When either of these people marries someone with similar tendencies, the home can turn into a battlefield, with constant bickering among parents and kids. Everyone believes that having an opinion is essential in every situation, and if you don’t express yourself then you are somehow less of a person. On the contrary, when you have an opinion about every single thing, you actually loose creditability. Nothing you advocate for is taken seriously, because you are just as vehement about plush pillow preference as you are about how frequent intimacy should be to big life decisions.
Rigidity is defined as a quality found in people and objects that don’t bend, though they might eventually break. These rigid, inflexible traits will rob you of the joy in the simplicity of life. Rigidity cannot laugh or see the bright side. More importantly, rigidity will not give you an opportunity to grow and learn.
Children observe their parents and absorb all the stress of a home where there is constant conflict. And if you think your kids don’t notice your conflict, you’re in denial (article about this coming soon). They also learn to be very argumentative, both with their siblings and with their parents. The home becomes a setting for power struggles.
Being inflexible and rigid ensures that you will have difficulty in your career, in friendships, and in intimate relationships. Parents need to work on their own unresolved childhood issues to ensure that they don’t unintentionally reward their kids for being rude and selfish to others. Often, parents who grew up feeling invalidated say things like “Good job advocating for yourself” when their own child says something truly self-absorbed or unempathic to someone else, instead of helping the child develop an awareness of other people’s feelings.
This brings me to the 20% rule. If you zoom out and look objectively at life, there really are only a few things that a person should be so deeply convicted about that happen in a day. Successful, centered people know how to be flexible and roll with things, adapting to new environments and changes effortlessly. Flexibility is one of the most sagacious devices to battle conflict. Try to only express an opinion about 2 out of 10 things. Think about this from the perspective of a CEO. If a CEO had opinions about 80% of the things going on in their company, they would not get anything done and the company would fail. Instead, they delegate about 80% of things and focus their attention on the top 20% of things that are real priorities and deeply consequential to the success of the company at a macro level. These are the high-level things about which they have important opinions. This is leadership, to trust in your partner and focus on building up not tearing down.
Caring about every single little thing is endemic to people who have low self-esteem. Getting their way about everything is a litmus test of how much others respect them. Since they constantly feel disrespected by the world, when a barista fails to remember their coffee order, this is taken as blow to their ego. When someone on Social Media disagrees with them, they take it as a smackdown to their intelligence. Training your kids to think that their opinion on every tiny thing deeply matters means that they will constantly be getting into conflict with others. Don’t confuse this with feelings. Your children’s emotions and needs are not what I am discussing here. They will appear, and feel, like their self-worth is predicated on getting tiny little victories at every moment instead of based on larger core values. Think about it this way; would you care about it if you were only going to be alive for another year?
Things worth speaking up about by people who are confident and big-picture thinkers; are being in a loving marriage, modeling good behavior for your kids, giving and receiving respect, preserving the integrity of your home.
If you stopped arguing about 80% of the things you currently argue about, your parenting would improve dramatically, as you would be modeling strength, confidence, and flexibility for your kids. Open mindedness is a huge predictor of healthy relationships. Only openminded people can sit back and not sweat the small stuff. Most parents want their kids to be appreciative and aware of their privilege, but then model behavior like fights over which tropical destination to choose for a vacation. How can kids have gratitude when their parents don’t?
Becoming aware of your rigidity and letting it go has the potential to transform the environment in your home to one that is peaceful versus one where every tiny decision becomes a fight to the finish and a battle of wills between two insecure people. It is also an exemplary way to model healthy adulting to your kids. You may find yourself transformed internally from having to take the big picture view about what is important and worthy of spending your limited time on this planet arguing about and what is not. Try it for a week and see.
If you don’t transform it, you will transmit it.
Silvia Farag, MSW, LSW, PsyD Candidate runs the Christian Center for Counseling and works with adolescent and adult clients in individual, couples & family therapy. Her personal philosophy is that through human connection, we can foster the encouragement needed to take courageous steps toward creating positive change. She uses evidenced based and strengths-based approaches & believes in the inherent ability of everyone to overcome when they are willing to step into their potential. Therapy illuminates the path so the client can make conscious steps towards emotional health. Her attitude is one of respect and acceptance of each client’s individuality, allowing for the creation of a safe, therapeutic space. Silvia serves with Coptic Women Fellowship, an archdiocese ministry focused on enriching, supporting, and strengthening the lives of women, along with the clergy and several accomplished women of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.