Above: This marriage is more than just luck.
It was the Fall of 2010. We were packing up after a very relaxing family weekend at a cabin in the woods. My husband, Guy, had done a lot of bike riding, putt-putt golfing, and game-playing with our two young kids to give me time to read. I was in Life Coach Training and Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is had been assigned. And thank God. I was inhaling it.
As we loaded up the car, Guy was happily sharing his plans for a smooth Sunday evening transition back into the workweek. My gut clenched. Now was the time to tell him what I had neglected this whole, lovely weekend to tell him: even though I knew how much he loved staying home on Sunday nights, I had made plans for us to go out for dinner with another couple. I just hadn’t known how to say no to them.
Guy is easy-going. Even so, I had such a dread of confrontation that I’d made a habit of keeping unpleasant things from him until the last possible minute.
“I told Kevin and Janet we’d have dinner with them,” I blurted out and braced myself for defense.
Guy froze. “Why do you do that?” he asked.
I remained silent, eyes downcast.
“You always say yes when you mean no,” he went on. “What’s worse is you knew that saying yes to them meant saying no to me.”
I drew in my breath to defend myself, but an idea from Katie’s book Loving What Is came to me that changed everything: when someone criticizes you, particularly someone who knows you well, Katie says, “Listen. Then go inside yourself to see what’s true.”
Parroting Katie and hardly recognizing the words coming out of my mouth, I said to Guy, “You may be right.”
Guy, who had drawn himself up to his full height and was clearly preparing to unleash a torrent of words, waited a beat, then simply exhaled and returned to his normal size with a puzzled look on his face.
“Wow,” he said. “Thank you.”
It was the first time in our 16 years together that I had just listened, rather than prepared my defense or attack as he spoke.
We stood together in stunned silence. What now?
What now, indeed? We did cancel those plans that night. But more importantly, those four little words, “You may be right,” changed our relationship.
It was the first domino to fall: He knew I would listen, so he started listening to me, too. Because I knew he would listen, I became less afraid of confrontation. As I spoke up with more confidence, he became less reactive.
That moment at the cabin also taught me to trust Byron Katie. Agreeing with her philosophically is one thing. But if the application of one little cast off phrase had such a profound impact on our marriage, what would her process of Inquiry do?
The beauty of the Work is that it changes you. And when you change, your relationships evolve, often without any need for Big Conversations.
I invite you to experiment with the four little words that cracked my marriage open in a way I didn’t even know it needed: “You may be right.”
Say them with sincerity, and they are an offering to your partner that tells him, “I’m listening.” Say them as a placeholder for yourself, while you go inside to find out where he’s right – and where he isn’t. Plant them in the ground between you and be astonished at the intimacy that grows there, in the space where self-defense used to be.
I shared, now you go: what results did you get from this phrase? Please share in the comments!