In Marriage, You Win by Yielding (b200)

Today’s relationship nugget for #marriagemondays is the fourth principle from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Dr. Gottman says that to make your marriage work, you need to:

Let Your Partner Influence You

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous three principles that I covered in my previous three #marriagemondays posts (click on the title to read the post):

The word here is partnership.

Here is the dictionary definition of “partner”:

“one of two or more people, businesses, etc., that work together or do business together”

There is no partnership if there is no influence. There is no “together” without being affected by your partner’s thoughts and feelings. In what sense can you call your spouse a “partner” if you don’t take his or her thoughts into account. To be married is to choose not to be an island.

In his research, Dr. Gottman found that:

Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81 percent chance that his marriage will self-destruct. (p. 100)

Dr. Gottman isn’t intentionally singling men out. Partnership runs both ways. But his research indicates that most women, even in troubled marriages, are sharing power with their spouse.

The idea of letting your partner influence you cuts across all religious systems, including those teaching that the man is the head of the house. This principle is about respecting your partner rather than ignoring their thoughts or bullying them into submission.

From Dr. Gottman’s research, men often don’t realize they are refusing to be influenced by their spouse.

In many cases, I suspect, men who resist letting their wives influence them are not even aware of this tendency. There are men who consider themselves feminists who interact with their wives in ways that belie this label. (p. 103)

This refusal to be influenced leads to all sorts of consequences that make marriages less satisfying and less likely to succeed in the long term. Spouses who don’t feel like partners can turn to nagging as a means of influence. Conflicts that could be peacefully resolved often blow up because of the constant negative relational pressure experienced by the spouse who doesn’t feel like a partner. Couples engage in power moves to get their way instead of partner talk to meet everyone’s needs.

How does one identify this problem and begin to move in a better direction?

Introspection and dialog are good ways to begin. Can you name a specific time recently when:

  1. You and your spouse disagreed on the best course of action, and you chose to act on your spouse’s idea rather than yours?
  2. You disagreed with your spouse, voiced your disagreement, and felt heard?

You can grow as a couple in sharing power by practicing habits 1, 2 & 3 (see above). Remember there may be ways to meet both your needs or meet in the middle somewhere. You will never know this if you don’t talk through issues with a realistic expectation of sharing power.

Letting your partner influence you will yield relational dividends every day. Your relationship will be smoother. Your conflicts will resolve more smoothly. It may seem paradoxical but, as Dr. Gottman writes, when you allow your partner to influence you, you are:

Yielding to win

Look for ways to compromise. Seek out points at which you can yield. Recognize that your relationship is so vital that some of your personal interests are rightly sacrificed to the good of the marriage.

And men, just put the toilet seat down when you are done. (or, better yet, close the lid, too.)

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it is helpful to you.

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1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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