Thursday, April 16, 2009

Accepting Your Spouse's Influence

John Gottman, a marital researcher, has studied what makes marriages work for several decades. In his book The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work he states that one important indicator of a successful marriage is how much each person lets the other influence them. What exactly is accepting your' spouse's influence? Essentially it is this: letting your spouse influence your decision making by taking their opinions and feelings into account. It is an attitude of respect that says "I wouldn't think of making a decision without you agreeing to it." Similar to the policy of joint agreement, Gottman shows that marriages where both spouses let the other influence them are the ones that have a much better then average chance of surviving and thriving. Couples who don't respect their partner's influence tend to have power struggles which increase their conflict and unhappiness.

Women seem to be more emotionally intelligent in this area as a whole (although I know plenty of women who refuse to let their husband influence them). Men, perhaps as a result of social conditioning, misapplication of theology, etc. seem to have difficulty accepting the sharing of power. Research has shown that the wives of men who accept their influence are far less likely to be harsh with their husbands when broaching a difficult marital topic.

So how do you stack up? I find that in therapy many people are not truly aware of how little they let their partner influence them - or how it's affecting their marriage. Try the following quiz taken from Gottman's book:

Accepting Influence Questionnaire

Directions: Read each statement and circle T for True and 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 relationship. 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. 1 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. 1 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 position. 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

Scoring: Give yourself one point for each True answer, except for questions 5, 8, 10, 12, 17, 19, 20. 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 share power with your partner, a hallmark of an emotionally intelligent relationship.

Below 6: Your relationship could stand some improvement in this area. You are having some difficulty accepting influence from your partner, which can cause a relationship to become dangerously unstable.

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