Dear Wombat and Dingbat,
How does one love a person who is never wrong? Because they are never wrong, they don’t apologize or say they are sorry. It’s never their fault! Any suggestions are much appreciated.
Maybe I should take this one. I love Wombat, and she is never wrong.
Sometimes she snarls at me, and shoves me to the ground to indicate just how much more right she is than me, which I do not appreciate.
Sometimes you need an explanation which is…emphatic. Otherwise you might not listen. I never actually hurt you.
You hurt my feelings.
Well, for a second. My feelings heal very quickly. It is one of my best things. But not everyone has that talent, so my solution of just always be happy might not work for Sometimes.
That is surprisingly astute. I would say one thing you might want to look at, Sometimes, is whether your question is really your question. Do you want to know how to love someone who is never wrong, or do you want the person you love to stop acting like they are infallible? Those are really very different questions.
I love Wombat, even though her never being wrong is kind of annoying, because there are lots of other things I do love about her—like how we play chase and bitey face, and how she keeps my ears super clean, and even, sometimes, her good advice.
Which is never wrong.
Also, I am very loving and forgiving by nature. Those are two more of my best things.
But I wonder if Sometimes really means to ask how to change the person’s behavior so that the person, who I will call Smarty Pants, learns to admit they are wrong, or say they are sorry.
So how would I get you to admit you were wrong?
Doesn’t apply, since I never am wrong. But let’s assume, since Smarty Pants is not me, that sometimes they really are wrong. And Sometimes needs to get them to admit it. Probably what is called for here is therapy, so that Smarty Pants can learn to process their feelings and undo lifelong patterns of shame that make it too threatening to admit their mistakes.
Do you have lifelong patterns of shame?
Nope. I’m just that rare kind of being who is always right. You could call it one of my best things.
I’m not sure I would. Anyway, do you think Smarty Pants would go get therapy if Sometimes asked?
Not likely. But there is something else that Sometimes might try. It is possible that although Smarty never actually admits to being wrong or apologizes, that there may be things they do that are intended to communicate apology without having to ever do the scary thing of admitting they were wrong.
Like how sometimes you are extra nice after we squabble.
Could be. So, we haven’t had a chance to observe, but maybe there are little things Smarty does that are intended to convey apology, like putting gas in Sometimes’s car, or giving Sometimes a back rub or clearing off the kitchen counter tops. And Sometimes could reinforce those behaviors by saying thank you, or expressing how helpful that was.
Or maybe a kiss on the nose. Sometimes after we’ve had a spat I feel better with a kiss on the nose.
I agree that a kiss on the nose is nice. But the point is that Sometimes might be able to increase the odds of Smarty Pants doing something that feels like an apology by looking for opportunities to reward anything that could be interpreted that way. But more than that, it will probably also make Sometimes feel better to look for those points of kindness or connection. And ultimately, feeling better about the relationship is the goal.
I would feel better about our relationship if you didn’t ever snarl at me and throw me to the ground.
Think of it as an opportunity to make good use of your best things.