On to post three in our Gottman series. Today we look at the importance of accepting influence from one’s partner.
Let me start by saying that this one is mostly for the men. Not just the men, to be clear, but mostly. In heterosexual relationships, the research shows men often need a little more help than their female partners when considering issues of influence, respect, power and control. The thought of relinquishing power and control can be difficult to accept, particularly in a culture where there are gender discrepancies in which women come out with the short end of the stick (yes, statistics STILL show that women continue to earn less than men even when doing the same job; women continue to carry more of the load at home even when both work full time jobs, and have your seen the makeup of Congress or looked at how many women run Fortune 500 companies? I will say no more). When it comes to relationships, though, I can tell you with certainty that if one partner is “winning,” then both partners are losing. That’s why it’s critical that you (both) learn to Accept Your Partner’s Influence. Dr. Gottman’s long-term study of newlywed couples – mostly heterosexual – revealed that:
…even in the first few months of marriage, men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages, and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives’ influence. Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81% chance that his marriage will self-destruct.
The study doesn’t suggest that men should give up all their power, but it does reveal that the happiest, most stable marriages were those where the husband did not resist power sharing and decision making with his spouse. Sounds pretty simple, right? So, how do you fare?
Read each statement and circle T for “true” or F for “false.”
1. I am really interested in my partner’s opinions on our basic issues. T F
2. I usually learn a lot from my partner even when we disagree. T F
3. I want my partner to feel that what he or she says really counts with me. T F
4. I generally want my partner to feel influential in this marriage. T F
5. I can listen to my partner, but only up to a point. T F
6. My partner has a lot of basic common sense. T F
7. I try to communicate respect even during our disagreements. T F
8. If I keep trying to convince my partner, I will eventually win out. T F
9. I don’t reject my partner’s opinions out of hand. T F
10. My partner is not rational enough to take seriously when we discuss our issues. T F
11. I believe in lots of give and take in our discussions. T F
12. I am very persuasive and usually can win arguments with my partner. T F
13. I feel I have an important say when we make decisions. T F
14. My partner usually has good ideas. T F
15. My partner is basically a great help as a problem solver. T F
16. I try to listen respectfully, even when I disagree. T F
17. My ideas for solutions are usually much better than my partner’s. T F
18 I can usually find something to agree with in my partner’s positions. T F
19. My partner is usually too emotional. T F
20. I am the one who needs to make the major decisions in this relationship. T F
1. Give yourself one point for each “true” answer, except for questions 5, 8, 10, 12, 17, 19, 20.
2. Subtract one point for each “true” answer to questions 5, 8, 10, 12, 17, 19, 20.
6 or above: This is an area of strength in your relationship. You willingly cede power to your spouse, a hallmark of an emotionally intelligent marriage.
Below 6: Your relationship could stand some improvement in this area. You are having some difficulty accepting influence, which can cause relationship instability.
**side note: Gottman’s research shows that gay and lesbian couples are notably better at accepting influence than straight couples.
Until next time, peace.