Why Receiving Influence is a Skill Every Husband Needs to Learn

Do you ever wonder why your wife just isn’t getting on board with your decisions? Whatever your idea or plan was, it made perfect sense. But your wife isn’t going along with it–and in fact may even be pulling the other direction! This podcast is about one thing we husbands must learn to do well in order to be together as a couple on our decisions.

Image courtesy of PK under the Creative Commons license.

Receiving Influence

Receiving Influence is something we must learn to do well. It simply means that the husband makes himself open to persuasion from his wife. This is something that marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, emphasizes as a critical trait of healthy marriages.

It’s the opposite of being stubborn or domineering and it is particularly important that the husband pays close attention to this. Marriage is a great tool to help us become less selfish. It is sometimes hard to be open to our spouse’s influence and that might be seen in comments where we dismiss their input by saying something like, “Nonsense, what are you talking about? That’s ridiculous!” Or even more subtle remarks like “It’s not that big a deal…” or “I’m sorry, but someone had to make a decision”.

These types of statements tell one’s wife that I’m not willing to receive her influence.

Why is it Important to Receive Influence?

Not being open leads your spouse to become angry and frustrated. That often leads to contempt and criticism: both of which are highly corrosive in a marriage. It leaves the other spouse feeling disrespected and erodes a sense of us, creating two “me” spouses.

Ephesians 5:28 says “Husbands love their wives as their own bodies”. This really puts the husband under obligation to serve his wife’s needs as much as his own. When you do a good job of receiving influence, you’re signalling your wife that you’re recognizing here presence, worth, feelings and opinions.

How Do I Get Better at Receiving Influence?

Dr. John Gottman calls it the “Aikido principle”. It’s a rule from Japenese martial arts: you must yield to your opponent in order to win. You become more powerful by sharing your power with your spouse.

  1. Realize it’s not about win or lose. It’s about understanding each other and honouring each other by recognizing different perspectives.
  2. Try a different point of view. Instead of sitting across the table from each other on an issue, try shifting your thinking so that you’re together looking at the same problem. Don’t let the problem come between you, but be united against the problem.

Make this:
couple-opposed
Become this:
couple-together
See the difference? You may even find it helpful to physically move closer towards and beside each other when discussing major decisions. Instead of you-me-problem it becomes us-problem.

Part of the idea here is learning to understand each other and to honour different perspectives. When we approach a major decision together, we have the opportunity to both maintain our own self-esteem and also to build understanding.

So What Can I Say to Let Her Know I Hear Her?

Receiving influence is a combination of perspective and communication skills. We’ve addressed the perspective issue above. As far as communication skills go, try some of these answers next time:

  • That’s interesting. Help me understand where you’re coming from a little better.
  • It seems like this is really important to you. How is it important?
  • It seems like you’re scared of something here. Am I right? What is causing you fear?
  • (Go straight to empathy) Wow, I can certainly see how that would be frustrating for you.

See how these are inviting your wife closer rather than pushing her away? This tells her you are honouring the huge role that she plays in your life.

Q&A Section

Question from someone identifying herself as “JustChill”:

Why doesn’t my husband consult me when making plans for us? For example, he invited friends over for dinner without asking me and only informed me less an hour before they arrived. He invited my parents out to dinner by asking them without even telling me of his intentions. He told me where we would vacation instead of asking me if I wanted to go there. He also said we would be moving out of state and never formally asked me if I wanted to move, he only said, “why wouldn’t you?” What explains this behavior? I understand my husband wants to be the “man” but its not right that he makes plans as if we are the same person.

Well, that ties right into what we talked about in this episode! Have a listen to find out how we answered the question!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Caleb and Verlynda, thanks for this episode. I often see an added challenge enter a marriage when one of the partners has a unique diagnosis (in the specialty I work with, it’s Aspergers). Unfortunately, too many partners, either female or male, discount their partner because of the diagnosis, causing to a lack of reception to influence from the other. And many times, it’s the wife who is refusing to share influence because she’s so frustrated by the Aspergers characteristics. I like the image of working side by side to face the problems in the marriage.

    • Hey Steve, I appreciate your comments. It’s easy to put someone in a box and treat them a certain way as a result…I think we can all be guilty of that in different ways.

      I’m also glad there’s specialists like yourself who are able to work with particular issues like what you mention!

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