Dr.Marcu Abreu Relationship Evolution Program
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The Importance Of Influencing And Being Influenced In A Marriage

Influence is an essential aspect of any intimate relationship. In the happiest marriages and relationships, there is a give and take. It's more of a partnership rather than patriarchy or matriarchy. That being said, sometimes it can be challenging to accept influence from our partners or exert influence over them.

Over the last several blog post, we've covered the first three principles that Gottman's research suggest are the building blocks of a long-term happy relationship. We started our journey with friendship in a marriage. Gottman defined friendship as Love Maps, Fondness system, and turning toward your partner or responding to each other's need for connection. In this blog post, we'll explore tips on influencing and evoking influence in your marriage by finding common ground and ensuring the relationship is built on trust, respect, and equality.

Jane and Jake have been married for six years and have two children. They came across some unexpected money and wanted to use it for the kids' college but had different ideas about what to do with it.

Jane: I can't believe you did that! You invested in cryptocurrency when I told you I was not comfortable using what we agreed would be the kids' college fund. I told you we should consult with a financial advisor.

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Jake: We made 20% on the money.

Jane: That is not the point. I was hurt. After we talked about it, you still went behind my back. It's like you don't care what I think.

Jake: I knew what I was doing. I know more about investing than you.

Jane: (Rolling her eyes) Are you kidding me? You got lucky. Things could have gone the other way.

Jake: I researched everything before I did it.

Jane: You don't get it! That is not the point. You didn't care what I thought. That money is for the kids. OUR kids! It's like you think I don't know how to handle money when I was fine before meeting you. At least I was not bankrupt.

Jake: That's a low blow.

Me: Okay, guys. Before this escalated any further, do you see where you got derailed?

Jane: Yeah, he doesn't get the point.

Jake: We made 20% on the money.

Jane: That is not the point. I was hurt. After we talked about it, you still went behind my back. It's like you don't care what I think.

Jake: I knew what I was doing. I know more about investing than you.

Jane: (Rolling her eyes) Are you kidding me? You got lucky. Things could have gone the other way.

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Jake: I researched everything before I did it.

Jane: You don't get it! That is not the point. You didn't care what I thought. That money is for the kids. OUR kids! It's like you think I don't know how to handle money when I was fine before meeting you. At least I was not bankrupt.

Jake: That's a low blow.

Me: Okay, guys. Before this escalated any further, do you see where you got derailed?

Jane: Yeah, he doesn't get the point.

 

Jake: You see. This is why we can't talk.

Me: What was escalating your discussion?
Jake: Forget it; I got a better idea. I'll just go along with her. I'll just say 'Yes, dear,' to everything. Okay!"
Me: I see how that can seem like a good way out. But do you think that will work in the long run?
Jake: Happy wife, happy life. Right!
Me: Well, yes. But I don't think either of you wants that. Accepting influence is not agreeing, complying, or giving in. By accepting influence, you acknowledge that your partner has a valid point of view. Therefore you might be able to find a way to include both perspectives in the final solution.
The solution is not that hard, though.
Me: So, what escalated your discussion?
Jane: Those four horses
Me: Yes, the four horsemen that Gottman identified. Criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. Jane, will you please summarize what you want to say?
Jane: Yes, I am hurt that you went behind my bac..

Jake: I researched everything before I did it.

Jane: You don't get it! That is not the point. You didn't care what I thought. That money is for the kids. OUR kids! It's like you think I don't know how to handle money when I was fine before meeting you. At least I was not bankrupt.

Jake: That's a low blow.

Me: Okay, guys. Before this escalated any further, do you see where you got derailed?

Jane: Yeah, he doesn't get the point.

Me: Wait, wait. Remember, I feel hurt about a specific situation, and I would have...
Jane: I feel hurt about the fact that you did not take my feelings into account.
I know, I know, don't use "you."
I feel hurt. I think my opinion does not matter; I feel like I am not an equal partner, and with what you did, I don't feel I can't trust that you have my feelings in mind. I feel discounted.
I would have liked to have been included in the decision. You knew I did not want you to. You knew it.
Me: Okay, so Jake, can you tell her what you heard?
Jake: Yes. She was hurt. I lost her trust, and she feels I don't value her input.

Me:  It's just about including each other. Being considerate of each other's opinions and therefore feeling open to sharing no matter how crazy it might seem. It's about showing trust, respect, and admiration for your partner and their contribution to your life. 

You need to recognize that if you don't trust your partner, they will be in survival mode. They don't believe you have the best in mind for them because you are not even willing to listen to them. They are worried they will lose control, pride, comfort, time, etc. if they listen to your ideas. So it's vital for influence that you build your partner's safety in you and your solidarity. 

The bottom line is that research done by Gottman and Jacobson suggests that the less you take influence, the less influential you are. The opposite is true; the more you allow yourself to be influenced, the more influential you become. 

In other words, if you want to be listened to by your spouse, you must listen and respond to what your spouse is telling you. By demonstrating to your spouse that you value them as a person, they are more willing to listen to what you have to say. 

Let's use this to build some skills and habits...

The research also suggests it's harder for men to take influence or accept counsel from their spouses. 

It seems natural; whether because of upbringing or biological, men tend to be more independent. Men tend to take charge, especially in areas where they feel they have a gift. Being decisive and having authority are traits that we glorify in men. Religion, culture, and socio-economic level all play a role in this dynamic of taking influence. With this knowledge, we can become mindful of how this dynamic plays out in our marriage. Who in your relationship is more likely to take counsel? 

Once you are aware and mindful of the most valuable perspective in a relationship, which is treating each other as partners rather than boss and subordinate, you can take the next step, learning how to find common ground.

What does it mean to give influence or evoke influence?

To give influence, we must feel confident enough to ask for our needs without fear of silencing or shame.

Jake, Jane needed the security she voiced by wanting you to be safer in your investments. You looked around and saw no need for safety as you were confident you had it handled. That is when you discounted her emotions. You went from "we-ness" to "me-ness"

To go from "me" to "we" requires a shift beyond just black and white, right and wrong, to working together in creating something that includes both perspectives. In my opinion, this is the beauty of a relationship. You have someone to share the world with. You have someone that can give you a different perspective that allows you to grow beyond your one-dimensional world.

 In an argument or disagreement, when at a crossroads, you can either stay silent about it and not evoke influence (in which case the problem will only get worse because of resentment) OR speak up so they know how much this matters and establish boundaries by finding common ground and evoking your influence. 

It can be hard at first--I know talking with someone who has denied you something sounds uncomfortable, but this is NOT a time to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. This is a time to let go of avoidant strategies like distancing, attacking, and defensiveness.

 

Finding Common Ground

The first step to finding common ground with your partner is listening. Listen to what they have to say. Try to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective. One of the best ways to influence your spouse is to listen to them. Give them a chance to speak their mind without interruption or judgment. See what part of their request is reasonable. You may not always agree with what they have to say. Still, you must respect their opinions and allow them to share their thoughts openly and honestly.

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Listening also shows that you trust your spouse enough to give them a chance to speak their mind without being interrupted or made to feel wrong. Avoid being judgmental of your partner.

Remember, you both came from different backgrounds, so you may not always agree with your partner - but that is the beauty of it. If you're having trouble seeing eye-to-eye on something, try to find a compromise that will work for both of you. 

 

Me: In your issue, it could have been as simple as only taking part of the money and investing it in crypto. That way, you would have included Jane's input when making the decisions. After all, she's your equal partner in the relationship. 

Jack: Yes, but she always shoots me down. 

Me: If you find yourself with a very critical inner voice, one in which you can feel the urge to become defensive or critical with your partner. If you want to argue your position rather than discuss a solution fervently. If you are not debating the issue because you don't think they will agree, it might be time to take a sheet of paper and start with this five-step process. 

Step 1: Clear The Air

Not everything that you think you should tell your partner, but you can write it down. Write down why you feel so strongly.
Ex. She will say no anyways. He won't listen. I know what I am doing. He's going to do whatever he wants anyway. I am right; they are wrong. Write everything down. After writing everything that is bothering you. All your emotional energy and the reasons that you are right.

Once you have written everything down, it's time to create goodwill.

Step 2: Create Goodwill

Write the reasons you should listen to your partner. Write at least 15 reasons.
Ex.

My partner has given me good advice in the past...

My partner handles the day-to-day finances...

Step 3: Strong Boundaries

Write down all the things that you are NOT willing to give on. The things that are hard limits.
Ex. Jake: Investing in cryptocurrency, using the money for kids' college
Jane: Investing in safe investments like mutual funds, use funds for kids' college.

Step 4: Common Ground

Write the areas in which you can be flexible.
Jake: not all the money needs to be invested in cryptocurrency, and I didn't, by the way.
Jane: We can have a compromise on where we put the money. Some in safe investments and some in riskier investments.

Step 5: Hammer out some details you can agree on.

For example,

  • How much should we invest in each?
  • When should we reevaluate the investment?
  • What percent return are we looking for?
  • Should we have outside advice?

Influence is an essential aspect of any healthy relationship. For a relationship to thrive, there must be a give-and-take between partners. As fair and straightforward as this may sound, it is much more difficult in practice. It's a natural impulse to want to take the easy way out. Many men rather face a lion than face an emotional conversation, and they don't realize how they rationalize to avoid it. For a marriage in which both partners are happy, it's essential to listen, find common ground, and ensure that you include your partner's input and needs when making decisions. Remember, respect, trust, understanding, and equality are the foundation of any successful relationship.

How do you think it's important to be balanced when influenced by your spouse?

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