Gottman says the 65% of American men are incapable of accepting influence. This is a staggering number, as I mentioned in earlier posts when high double digits show up in social science research, something important is being described.
Gottman assigns a gender tag to criticism, yet I wonder if the refusal to accept influence at the heart of it all?
Helping women to prevent “harsh start-up” is a core tenet of Gottman Method couple therapy.
Just about every couples therapy model out there points out the problem with phrases like: “you always.. and you never.” But socialization may be at the heart of this problem.
The problem just might be starting with men in the first place.
Men are socialized to pursue influence, respect, and power. They like having it. They like getting it. They are culturally rewarded for achievement, often accumulating influence, respect, and authority in the process.
Giving up such essential male prerogatives is a hard and high price to pay for intimacy. Is it necessary?
Accepting influence is an important skill for both partners to acquire in an intimate relationship…as early as humanly possible.
Gottman’s research reports that even in the early days of marriage, men who have to capacity to accept influence have, by far, significantly more happy unions.
They are also far less likely to divorce than men who robustly and regularly resist their wives’ influence.
Gottman says that when a husband is not willing to share power with his spouse, there is more than a 4 out of 5 chance that his marriage will implode eventually.
Gottman explains that he is not advocating that men surrender their power wholesale, it is more about being open to another point of view.
Husbands in happy marriages accept that their wives will seek to have influence, and do not expect resistance in wanting reciprocal influence with their spouse.
This free flow of power is a trait found in the happiest marriages.
The cultural blinder of patriarchy may impact a man’s ability even to notice male privilege, and an inability to accept influence quickly inhabits and inhibits his defensive posture.
Try making “accepting influence” part of how you roll as a couple.
Early in your relationship, notions of influence are still being worked out and may remain largely unexplored.
You have to both decide what kind of partner you want to have, and what kind of partner you want to be.
Gottman recommends flexibility around accepting influence. He urges couples to cultivate an appreciation for how you can “yield to win.” By yielding to win, Gottman is describing a negotiated relational space that makes room for influence.
During an assessment, a science-based couples therapist asks…How is conflict managed between the couple? Who escalates and why?
Gottman tells men that if you want to have influence… accept influence. It is, by far, the most effective way to engage with your partner.
This is where Gottman discusses the relationship between a husband’s accepting influence and the critical cascade that brings on the Four Horsemen.
Gottman once wrote that “….wives of men who accept their influence are far less likely to be harsh with their husbands when broaching a difficult marital topic.” Reciprocal influence is a vital skill for preventing and resolving marital conflict. But this is a skill to be acquired early, and particularly by men. Strong influence accepting skills will prevent an excess of power struggles and emotional gridlock at a later point in the marriage.”
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Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He is the Blog Editor. He currently works online seeing couples from Massachusetts at Couples Therapy Inc. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.
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