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Accepting Your Partner’s Influence

We are moving onto the 5th floor of the Sound Relationship House: Managing Conflict, which actually is composed of multiple parts. In this blog, we will be focusing on just one of the parts because they all play a key role in managing conflict among your relationship. Now, they say “managing” conflict instead of “stopping” conflict because even in the healthiest of relationships, it is impossible to 100% avoid conflict. That’s why it’s important to know what to do and how to best handle it when it does inevitably show up.

One of the first steps in managing conflict is accepting your partner’s influence. This essentially means taking your partner’s thoughts and feelings into consideration instead of just only thinking of your own. This may seem easy or obvious or like we already do this because, in theory, most people agree that it makes sense and is a good thing for both partners within the relationship to have an equal say in decision-making. While this may seem great and ideal, it doesn’t always happen and sometimes takes a bit more effort to make sure we are truly accepting their influence. “You imagine you’re good at working as a team, compromising, and going back and forth - if only your partner would be more flexible…” (Gottman). 

All relationships work better when both partners accept and have influence among one another and the relationship. It does require humility, empathy, and a genuine desire for mutual understanding. When we allow our partner’s perspective to have some impact on shaping our decisions and behaviors, it can lead to a healthier and more successful relationship, where both partners feel like they are contributing to the relationship, the decisions, and the life you are creating together.

When we talk about influence and what it means to accept one another’s, there sometimes can be a belief that if you go along with what your partner wants that means that you’re accepting influence. This can lead to negative feelings and potentially even resentment, because when we talk about accepting influence, we mean being open to the ideas and perspectives of your partner, not just agreeing or complying or giving in to what they want. When you accept your partner’s influence, you are acknowledging that what they believe and are saying is valid. You welcome their opinion, are willing to be influenced by it, and may even lead to having your own perspective changed by theirs. Accepting influence says to your partner, “You are important, and your opinions matter to me, even if I don’t agree with you.” 

It can be easy to resist influence from your partner, whether it’s intentional or not. They can show up in any number of ways and for any number of reasons, like individual personality traits, past experiences, or relationship dynamics. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to understand why that’s happening and in what ways it’s impacting your ability to accept your partner’s influence. Here are some factors that may be contributing to potential resistance to accepting your partner’s influence.

  • Independence: Some individuals may fear losing their identity or becoming overly dependent on their partner. People may resist their partner’s influence as a way to maintain a sense of control over their own lives.

  • Fear of vulnerability: Resisting influence can also be a defense mechanism driven by a fear of vulnerability. Opening oneself up to another person’s influence requires a level of vulnerability and trust.

  • Past trauma/Negative experiences: Individuals who have been hurt in the past may be more guarded and hesitant to allow their partner’s influence, fearing history will repeat itself.

  • Communication styles: When two people within a relationship have different communication styles, it can potentially lead to misunderstandings and conflicts when it comes to negotiating and discussing influence within the relationship.

It’s important to understand that these underlying reasons for resisting influence are often complex and multifaceted, and may require introspection and communication to address effectively. 

When we don’t address them and resist our partner’s influence, it can create various challenges within a relationship. It can hinder effective communication, intimacy, and mutual understanding; it can cause a decrease in empathy from some partners, can create a power imbalance, and increase difficulty in resolving conflict, which will overall play a huge role in the relationship satisfaction. 

Accepting our partner’s influence can have a huge positive impact on the relationship, and can allow your relationship to be shaped by both you and your partner’s decisions, behaviors, and interactions together. Let’s talk through some factors that can be positively affected by accepting one another’s influence.

  • Open communication: It entails fostering an environment of open communication where both partners feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or dismissal. It involves actively listening to your partner, seeking to understand their perspective, and being willing to engage in meaningful conversations.

  • Empathy and understanding: Accepting your partner’s influence requires empathy - the ability to empathize with your partner’s emotions, experiences, and needs. It involves putting yourself in their shoes, considering their feelings, and acknowledging the validity of their perspective, even and especially if it’s different from yours. That can create even a deeper sense of understanding within your relationship.

  • Collaborative decision-making: It involves and increases the ability of making decisions together as a team, rather than unilaterally or dominantly. Both partners have a say in important matters, and their input is valued and considered. It leads to more compromising and finding common ground.

  • Mutual growth and support: When we accept our partner’s influence, we foster mutual growth and support within the relationship. It creates a dynamic where both partners feel empowered to contribute to each other’s personal development and well-being. It’s about lifting each other up, celebrating strengths, and navigating challenges together. 

Accepting your partner’s influence is a fundamental part of building a healthy, fulfilling relationship. It strengthens the bond between partners and cultivates a sense of unity, where both individuals feel valued, understood, and supported. It also plays an essential role in managing conflict. Once we focus on understanding one another, it can be a lot easier to work through conflictual moments.

Written By,

Emily Blair, ALMFT



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