John Gottman, a marital expert and a researcher has long studied what makes a marriage successful and long lasting and his findings may surprise you. His latest study involved 130 new couples whom he studied over the course of 12 years with the purpose of identifying the factors that influence the longevity and success of a marriage. His results were particularly interesting and surprising as one of the main factors was connected with the gender inequalities and the emotional intelligence of our society.
Gottman was able to conclude that marriages in which wives have a bigger influence over the husbands tend to be happier and have a lesser percentage of divorces compared to those in which men limit the influence of their wives.
You probably wonder why is this huge responsibility placed solely on the men? Well, as he explains in his latest study, this skill and its importance is not limited to only heterosexual males. But, owing to our socialization, men struggle with this issue the most. The wives, even the ones that are unhappy in their marriages, tend to be more accepting of their husbands’ influence, while same-sex couples achieve the balance of power quite naturally .
The New York Times published an article named 7 Principles for Making a Marriage Work in which they state that marriages can overcome disagreements quite easily but when we react negatively to our partner’s remarks instead of trying to solve the problem, we get into trouble.
Since men are taught to always overpower and win in an argument, this concept of letting the wife prevail is difficult for many, especially in the heat of an argument. According to Gottman, a whopping 65% of all husbands tend to overreact and burst into negativity in an argument with the help of the 4 horsemen – defensiveness, criticism, stonewalling and contempt. This is what makes the marriage fall apart from within, the inability for them to have a constructive argument.
It’s not that women are immune to these behaviors but the men have a bigger tendency of using them when they want to resist the influence of women and prevail. Women are used to resorting to these measures in a different way. The wife can criticize, become defensive and show contempt when she’s angry but she will always consider her husband’s influence when reaching a decision about anything.
Unlike men who are taught to be leaders, women are taught to bring peace so this difference may make it difficult for a woman to exercise her influence and become her partner’s equal in a relationship. On the other hand, this also makes it difficult for men to accept this influence. It may come as a surprise but even the men who consider their wives as equals, don’t take tis influence so lightly.
You may find this a bit far-fetched, but the numbers don’t lie. The study revealed that marriages in which men don’t accept their wife’s influence have an increased chance of falling apart, 81%.
But even though men have been taught to be the leaders and to always come out as winners, this can change, they can adapt and learn to accept their partner’s influence. How, you ask? They have to change their mindset and turn the ‘I’ into ‘We’, turn ‘win’ into ‘solve and simply connect with their wives on a deeper level. It’s definitely not an easy task, but it’s attainable, as long as there’s will power and the desire to make the marriage work, everything can be achieved.
What men need to remember is that winning is not the most important thing in a marital argument, it’s strengthening the relationship and solving the problem, that’s what will make your marriage last.