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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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The Need to Be Right

Q. I am requesting information on "the need to be right." I am in a relationship where my partner has the need to be right all the time. Even when he is wrong... he tries to argue it right. What is this behavior? It's very frustrating.

A. I'd call it very frustrating too! There really isn't an official, clinical name for what you describe, nor does "the need to be right" define a specific psychiatric disorder. After all, who among us likes to admit being wrong? However, we often see an intense and rather obnoxious form of this need in people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. These individuals have an overwhelming need to triumph over others; to assert their control; to have things their way at all times; and to insure that the world revolves around them.

Underneath the superficial bravado and contempt of the narcissist, you usually find intense feelings of insecurity and self-loathing. The need to be right is usually the armor plating of the individual's character structure, concealing the soft underbelly of his (or her) damaged sense of self. Of course, I have no idea whether your partner fits this picture. But I would suggest that if you intend to stay in this relationship, you consider getting some couples counseling.

If your partner refuses--and that's actually a good bet--you may need to reassess how important this relationship is to you, and how much endurance you have! You may also be interested in some books that deal with relationship issues, such as "Couple Skills" by Matthew McKay PhD et al; and Harriet Lerner's, "The Dance of Anger". I hope things work out for you and your partner.

September 2001

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