How well do you share decision-making with your spouse? More importantly, how well does your spouse feel that you share decision-making? This week I have been reading Gottman’s principle on allowing your spouse to influence you. He tells us that relationships that have great equality are the happiest marriages. He explains it like this:
“Perhaps the fundamental difference between [people] who accept influence and those who don’t is that the former have learned that often in life you need to yield in order to win. When you drive through any busy city, you encounter frustrating bottlenecks and unexpected barricades that block your rightful passage. You can take one of two approaches to these impossible situations. One is to stop, become righteously indignant, and insist that the offending obstacle move. The other is to drive around it. The first approach will eventually earn you a heart attack. The second approach – which I call yielding to win – will get you home.” (1999)
Yielding is hard! It goes against some of our most basic instincts of self-preservation (not to mention our pride) and must be a very intentional act. With practice (lots and lots of practice), it can become easier, but it is rarely natural. Dr. H. Wallace Goddard, another relationship expert, explains it this way: “The natural man is inclined to love himself and fix others. God has asked us to do the opposite. We are to fix ourselves by repenting, and to love others.” (2007) In other words, if there is something in your relationship that is bothering you, look to see which of your own imperfections is the culprit. If your spouse’s indecisiveness bothers you, work on your patience. If you are bothered that your spouse makes plans without you, improve your communication skills and ask regularly what they are planning. If you are in the middle of an argument about who is right and you cannot understand how your spouse could possibly think what they do, work on your investigative skills and ask questions until you do understand their point of view.
If you have been reading this and thinking, “yeah, my spouse should really read this, he/she really needs this lesson.” then you need this lesson just as badly, or even worse. Your assignment is to go back and reread from the beginning making sure to focus on what YOU NEED to learn from it. Which message do you think would be a better relationship builder? “Honey, I don’t like this about you, change,” or “I know that I am imperfect and I will work to better myself for you.” (the correct answer is the second one).
Irving Beckers as quoted by Goddard says, “if you don’t like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious; if you do like him, he can turn his plate over into your lap and you won’t mind.” (2007) So, do what you can to foster that loving relationship. Share the power in a relationship, make decisions together, compromise, focus on your spouse’s strengths, work to improve your own imperfections.
For fun and practice with allowing your spouse to influence you, try Dr. Gottman’s island survival game (Click here for the survival game!) Just remember this is a focus on improving you, not your spouse!
Goddard H.W. (2007) Drawing heaven into your marriage: Powerful principles with eternal results. Fairfax, Virginia: Meridian Publishing.
Gottman J.M., Silver N. (1999) The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert. New York: Harmony Books.