are the most important factors in marriage success?
According to marriage
research conducted by John Gottman, among the most important predictors
of marriage success are:
· The man's ability to
accept influence from his partner; and
· The woman's ability to
moderate her approach to seeking influence.
In other words, marriages
succeed when both partners give up some control.
For men, this usually
means agreeing to try some of the approaches suggested by his partner
instead of withdrawing, surrendering or jumping in with a premature
resolution at the first sign of conflict. We're not talking about
merely complying with your partner's wishes regardless of whether
you agree. It's not that she always gets her way. Influence means
respecting her viewpoint and being willing to discuss issues.
For example: He wants
to buy a small car. She recommends a larger vehicle, since they
plan to start a family soon. On reflection, he decides that it makes
sense to buy something larger.
For women, a moderate
approach usually means toning down her insistence on getting a reaction
from her partner even when she feels desperate to have a response.
She doesn't give up raising the issues that are important to her,
but she's patient and sensitive in how she engages him.
Example: Rather than
asking him to discuss what kind of car to buy on a weeknight when
he's tired, she suggests that they talk about it on the weekend.
Instead of starting the discussion on a critical note about his
preference, she is careful to suggest that they consider their future
needs before deciding.
It's a bit paradoxical.
Both partners seem to get more of what they want when they give
up some control. How can this be? As we've often noted, men and
women have different styles when it comes to conflict, as in so
many other things.
Men have a very low tolerance
for unstructured conflict. They just can't seem to stand it when
their partner brings up a sensitive issue, especially when they
are feeling burdened or depleted by work or other demands. They
often react by distancing themselves or withdrawing.
(These findings about
gender-related characteristics are based on marriage research result
averages for the genders, so while there may be individual differences
and exceptions, the findings hold for most people to a greater or
Women on the other hand,
can't stand to feel ignored, especially when they're trying to bring
up something that's important to them. And that's just how they
feel when their partner gets overloaded and withdraws. Often they
react by criticizing and/or escalating. And that's just what their
partner can't tolerate.
So for guys: Try to be
open to your partner's point of view. Don't avoid issues or try
to railroad your point of view. If you start to feel overloaded,
it's okay to withdraw until you feel more able to handle a rational
discussion. But it's important to let your partner know that you
aren't dodging the issue. Make a specific appointment to resume
the discussion-"in twenty minutes" or "Saturday morning
at breakfast"--so she'll know that you hear her.
And women: Start discussions
calmly and positively. Avoid criticizing and escalating. If possible,
schedule a mutually agreeable time to discuss your issue when your
partner is feeling less depleted or burdened.
Believe it or not, these
are the behaviors that research shows are among those most likely
to contribute to a successful marriage.
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2003, Patricia S. & Gregory A. Kuhlman. You may copy this article
for non-commercial use provided that no changes are made and this
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