About a year and a half ago I was in the market for a new car. We had bought a new Nissan for Yvonne in 2014, and I was driving the Chevy Astro van that we had purchased back in 2000, which had 268,000 miles on it. I had decided that I was going to buy a 2016 Honda Accord. But which Accord…
And with what options?
I had figured out the colors, that was easy. Choosing some of the options such as wanting an automatic transmission, power everything, and satellite radio were no-brainers. These choices were easy for me to make. Yet I found myself struggling with some other decisions, such as whether or not to get the sun roof, and which type of seat covering. I liked the cloth interiors that Honda was offering since they were way cooler than any of the interiors of any car that I had ever owned.
Then again, the leather interior was really nice…
I had never owned a car with leather seats. I wasn’t even sure how much I would like the leather, and it does get hot in the summer. Right? And they did cost a fair bit more than the cloth seats.
So many options to choose from. And what to do about them…
The truth is I really had only one option here. I looked to the person who knows me the best to help me make this decision. That would be my wife, Yvonne. Since the options that I were considering would cost more money, I knew the value of her opinion on these decisions. Over the years I have learned the value of asking Yvonne her thoughts on major decisions. And, not surprisingly, there has been a whole lot written about the benefits that couples receive when they accept their partner’s input and allow one another to help them make their decisions.
And that makes Accepting our Partner’s Influence in the fourth ingredient in our recipe for a great marriage.
Men, are you listening???
Well, this article isn’t only for men, but it is mostly for men. Men tend to need to be alerted of the importance of heeding their wives’ input a bit more often than women need to be reminded to check in with their husband’s thoughts. That being said, it is essential that both men and women to become adept at accepting their partner’s influence.
There was a study that began to track the habits of 130 newlywed couples over a nine-year period. This study showed that men who allow their wives to influence them ended up having happier marriages than those who didn’t. Statistically speaking, men who do not allow their wives to influence their decisions have an 81% chance that their marriage will crumble.
This information doesn’t suggest that men are to become weak, powerless wimps. But it does find that the happiest, most stable marriages are the kind in which the husband does not demand all of the power. Marriages where the husband and wife work together to make significant decisions are the ones that work the best.
Personally, I have one acquaintance, who I have known for over 25 years, who could be a pretty good case study about this subject. His story illustrates the potential damage that can come when husbands resists accepting any influence from their wife. This man has a long history of buying houses, buying cars, moving the family, and making large financial decisions all without ever going to his wife for her thoughts. What are the results? This man has been divorced three times and was in his fourth marriage last time I spoke with him.
The challenge that so many men are faced with is that even the most thoughtful, progressive, egalitarian men aren’t aware of their predisposition to resist their spouse’s influence. Our natural inclination is to lead, take charge, and protect.
So, what can men do?
A first step is to become aware of our default conflict style. Take stock to see if criticism, defensiveness, contempt, or stonewalling creep into the conversation when our wives attempt to give some input into our decision making. When allowing these “four horsemen of the apocalypse” into play we are not capable of receiving input or accepting our wives’ influence. When men use these behaviors during conflict it is a sign that “winning” is more important than your relationship.
The second step is to make a conscious commitment to accepting input from our spouses. Not only will this help reduce the negative impact of making decisions on one’s own, but it will do much to strengthen the friendship between the husband and wife-our first ingredient in the recipe for a great marriage.
Marriage expert Dr. John Gottman states that accepting your partner’s influence is a successful strategy for building respect, power, and influence. Gottman found that when men accept their wife’s input, and allow themselves to be influenced by their wife, their wives are less likely to be harsh with their husbands when discussing a difficult marital issue. This means that both spouses win, the relationship is working, and that both partners will be more likely to honor and respect each other.
Back at the Honda dealership I chose to listen Yvonne’s input before choosing the interior. She knows me, and knew that we would both be happy if we got the leather interior and the sunroof. I accepted my wife’s input and have never looked back.