This is the fourth installment of my series on Gottman’s Sound Relationship House. I have taken all of these from Gottman’s books The Marriage Clinic and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I highly recommend the second book, because it is written for non-therapists and is a quick, easy read. But if you are up for something more scientific, The Marriage Clinic is one of the very best, most interesting books I have ever read.
The fourth level of the Sound Relationship House is about accepting influence from your spouse. Generally speaking, Gottman’s research shows that wives tend to accept influence quite readily from their husbands, even in unhappy relationships. Unfortunately, the opposite tends not to be true. Men sometimes think it’s “unmanly” or “hen-pecked” to accept influence from their wife.
By not allowing your wife to influence you, you could “win the battle but lose the war,” according to Gottman. Listening to her suggestions, taking her advice, and letting her contribute in important ways to the relationship helps build trust and unity.
Claiming that the man is “the head of the house” is not a reason to ignore your wife’s opinions. A wise leader always gets input from his team.
Accepting influence will help avoid power struggles in the relationship. It will also model for your children appropriate male-female relationships and teach your children respect.
Accepting influence from your wife means showing her honor and respect. It means turning off (or pausing) the TV when she wants to talk to you. It means giving in to her on things that are important to her.
Gottman says, “I believe the emotionally intelligent husband is the next step in social evolution. This doesn’t mean that he is superior to other men in personality, upbringing or moral fiber. He has simply figured out something very important about being married that the haven’t–yet. And that is how to honor his wife and convey his respect to her.” (The Seven Principles, page 109)