Dr. John Gottman, a well-known couples counseling guru, has been researching the differences between marriages that are successful and those that fail for 35 years now. You might have heard that his research demonstrates that he can predict with around 90% accuracy a couple’s future success or failure after only minutes of hearing a couple discuss a recurring conflict they’re experiencing. A bold statement, truly. He jokes about not being invited to dinner parties often….no kidding.
Aside from unwelcome dinner party tricks, he’s actually got a lot of really great things to say about keeping our relationships strong and how we can weather hard times together.
In his best-selling book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” (1999), he writes about what couples can do to make their relationships successful and prove him wrong. One of the these principles is “let your partner influence you.”
We all know the feeling of being in a disagreement, argument, or heated debate with someone who is as unwavering as a brick wall. The other person is unwilling to hear our point of view and would rather jump off a cliff than admit we might have a point. It’s incredibly frustrating.
All of us also probably know the feeling of being this brick wall ourselves. We feel in every ounce of our being that we’re right, they’re wrong, and this discussion is a waste of oxygen.
In our most intimate relationships this happens sometimes to all of us, but when it’s happening most or all of time the person who’s consistently not feeling heard can begin to feel invisible, small, and unimportant.
Therefore, it’s important for all of us to remember that part of loving someone is letting them contribute to us…..and this doesn’t just mean make us a sandwich or bring in a good paycheck….
We must practice letting those who love us influence us, change our minds, give us a different perspective, or offer new insight. Being able to contribute to those we love allows us to feel wanted and needed, and like we’ve got something valuable to offer – which directly impacts our self worth.
Allowing for contribution is important in our parenting as well. Letting our kids have great ideas, new strategies, and helpful suggestions makes them feel powerful and important.. Kids that feel no space to contribute in their world either whither and feel small, or declare their power with greater volume and force.
So, let’s practice letting others influence us by allowing those who love us to contribute to us. Being right all the time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, anyway. It might feel powerful in that moment, but the consequences come later as our most precious relationships become strained, the voices of our loved ones becoming more silent.
By allowing space in our relationships for both partners to feel like they matter and have great value, we protect the notion that together we are something more. Because if we truly nurture each other’s “self,” the union we create is stronger than the sum of its parts.