John Gottman observed seven specific behaviors that seem to be predictive of successful marriages, which he calls “the seven principles for making marriage work.” This is the title of one of his books which is often recommended for those wanting to improve their marital relationships. One of these principles is letting your partner influence you.
Happy marriages result when spouses treat each other with respect and are not resistant to sharing power and making decisions jointly. In these marriages, couples seek for common ground rather than getting into power struggles. It is important for both partners to let their partner influence them.
For either spouse to accept influence does not mean that they can never express any feelings of frustration or negativity. In fact, trying to suppress these feelings will result in even more conflict. The problem arises when one partner escalates rather than trying to match or tone down the other partner’s dissatisfaction. Partners who are skilled in the art of compromising and validating one another’s emotions and who are open to understanding one another display emotional intelligence.
Educating yourself about the importance of allowing your partner to influence you is the first step in establishing this principle. The next step would be to practice compromise. Choose a conflict you have been struggling with and then role-play how you would both listen, validate each other’s feelings, and seek out a compromise. It may be easier to start with a small issue, such as deciding which T.V. show to watch. Being willing to watch a show that your partner loves is one way to show that you care about what they are interested in. When you have had sufficient successes with minor issues, you will be better able to handle issues you are more passionate about.
Jennifer White, CSW has extensive experience in helping clients with faith transitions, sexuality concerns, anger management, substance use disorders, domestic violence, and self-esteem. She has also taught psychology and social work classes as adjunct faculty at Utah Valley University.