One Key to Succeed at Having a Miserable Relationship

Who makes the decisions in your marriage or relationship? Do you honor and respect each others’ feelings and opinions? Do you or your partner or spouse feel more like a passenger than a driver? Especially with men, if they allow women to influence them, their relationships are much happier and much less likely to lead to separation or divorce. Probably because of a mix of factors, including socialization and perhaps biological differences, women usually allow their partners to influence them, even when their relationship is in distress. It doesn’t mean that both women and men can't get stuck in negative patterns together, but it is much more likely that women will take their partner’s feelings and opinions into account. In unhealthy marriages or relationships, it’s much more difficult for men to do the same.

Do You Have to Lose Yourself in Your Relationship?

Accepting influence from your partner or spouse doesn’t mean giving up your own opinions or feelings. A key factor is to respect your partner or spouse, and share decision making with each other as equally as possible. Even when you disagree, search for common ground and try to understand the emotions and most importantly the meaning behind what your partner or spouse feels or thinks.

A challenge in male/female relationships is that men can easily escalate negativity in the relationship, instead of matching or decreasing the negativity. Usually this occurs through what John Gottman calls the four horsemen that destroy relationships: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. When even one of the four horsemen occurs, most likely influence is being pushed away. If you use one of the horsemen to increase negativity between you and your partner or spouse, you are significantly increasing the likelihood that your marriage or relationship could end in disaster without an intervention, such as marriage and couples counseling and therapy.

What to Remember

  • If you resist influence from your partner or spouse, you are four times more likely to have an unhappy marriage or relationship
  • If you accept influence from your partner or spouse, he or she is much more likely to not be critical or contemptuous toward you when a conflict occurs
  • When you accept influence, you’re much more likely to feel a deeper emotional connection with each other
  • If you feel you are always right, you’re much more likely to have a contemptuous attitude toward your partner or spouse
  • The more influence you’re willing to accept from your partner or spouse, the more influence he or she will accept from you

You can read more about accepting influence from your partner or spouse in John Gottman’s “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Gottman Method Couples Therapy is part of the Loving at Your Best Plan for marriage and couples counseling and therapy in NYC.

Share Your Experience

Do you find it challenging to accept influence from your partner or spouse? Do certain issues in your marriage or relationship occur that are so upsetting that it’s hard to yield and see what the meaning of the issues are for your partner or spouse? Have you worked through some of these challenges in your relationship, and found some resources to help you succeed? Are the roles reversed in your relationship, where the female partner can sometimes find it challenging to accept influence? Share your experiences in the comment section below.

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