If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I love The Gottman Institute’s research. John and Julia Gottman have conducted over 40 years of breakthrough studies on marital stability and divorce prediction. The one statistic I seem to quote every week is “there is an 81% chance that a marriage will self-implode when a man is unwilling to share power. The problem is that even the most thoughtful, progressive, egalitarian men aren’t aware of their tendency to resist influence.” This is the impenetrable armor of toxic masculinity.
I love helping people tackle change. I believe people can change. My job would suck if I lost faith in that. I know how to help people get sober, deal with loss, let go of the past, face their fears, learn to love more genuinely, and develop skills to manage complicated feelings- if you’ll let me.
I only get to do my work with people who are open to influence. They made some decision and then an appointment and at least for the hour, are committed to letting me lead. Therapy doesn’t work unless you let the therapist do what therapists do and marriage doesn’t work unless you do what partners are suppose to do- influence.
Of course there are some women who refuse to be influenced…can we not talk about that right now? This is about a specific pattern deeply tied to the gender roles we are socialized to. If you can’t see it or think gender power imbalance isn’t an issue in your relationship, I challenge you to dig deeper.
Marriage is the Ph.D. of life. You pick someone to know your limitations, see you struggle, know your assets and be your partner. You may not have known it at the time, but you hired yourself a life coach…for life. Now consider that this person is now one of the world experts on you. They are your mirror. If you are willing to look- they will show you the best and worst of you. If you want to know what to work on, ask your partner. If you want to grow, listen to your partner. If you want a fresh perspective, let them tell you the one thing they wish you knew. But you’re going to need to put down that sword and a few layers of armor to get to the good stuff.
I haven’t found the key to the impenetrable armor.
As a therapist and as a woman, there are a bunch of people in the world who see no value in what I offer. Luckily I mostly just get to ignore those people… the one’s I care about read my newsletter, come to my workshops, ask my advice, search out my influence.
Sometimes in couple’s therapy a guy will look like he wants my help, looks like he is seeking partnership but he doesn’t do the homework or doesn’t hear the suggestions or mostly wants to defend and argue. I can only do that for so long. If you don’t let me lead in the office, there is a good chance you don’t let your partner lead in your relationship. You want to be right. You want permission to keep doing what you have always done.
Here’s my point- if you cannot get your partner’s attention and nothing you do seems to make things better… you might be one of the 81% of relationship implosions that aren’t your fault. You didn’t know. You gave it your all. Sorry about that. I get that divorce sucks but so does this. Sometimes knowing when to say goodbye is the greatest gift you can give yourself.