Yes, you read that right. Accepting influence is one of the markers of a healthy relationship. The media, your mother, and married friends may have told you otherwise:
Stand your ground! Don't give in!
If you give in now, you'll never have a say in this.
You can't let him control you! Show him you're not going to back down.
The reality is these mindsets pull a couple apart and do not contribute to a happy relationship. The goal is so to have mutually supportive, open communication that allows you to deeply understand one another's perspective on issues. Compromise comes easier when you can truly step into your partner's shoes and see things from his perspective.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE HAVING A HARD TIME ACCEPTING INFLUENCE
1 | Ask your partner to "tell me everything about your perspective." Have him give you every thought in his head about the issue at hand. Before he begins, clear mental space for yourself and let go of your stance, just for a few minutes. No decisions will be made here, it's just about getting a better understanding. I recommend taking notes, as it's easier to focus on what he is sharing and helpful to refer back to. Once he feels "done," switch roles and share your perspective with him.
Ask yourselves: "Do we have any areas of common ground?" "Do I understand where you're coming from in a deeper way?" "Am I inclined to be a bit more flexible at this point?" If the answers are "yes," you may be able to find a compromise here. If not, move on to Step 2.
2 | Write a list of your stance on the topic. Specifically, make two columns and label one "Flexible" and the other "Inflexible." Draw a line halfway down under the Inflexible column (this list should be at least half as short as your Flexible list).
In the Flexible column, write down all the areas of flexibility you have on this topic. These are specific pieces of the larger pictures that you could live with being different. For example, if you and your husband are having a hard time agreeing on what house to buy, this list might include things like, "how large the garage is" and "having a pool."
"In the Inflexible column, write down your non-negotiables - the things you must have to feel comfortable. Using our previous example, this might look like "it is no more than 30 minutes from my parents" or "it has three bedrooms." Again, this list should be as brief as possible and notably shorter than the Flexible list.
From here, sit down with your partner and both of your lists. Discuss your areas of flexibility and inflexibility and see if you can find common ground in your Flexible lists. Ask yourselves, "can we come to a compromise here?" If the answer is no, move on to Step 3.
3 | Go deeper. Connect with your partner regarding his underlying dreams, values, and beliefs surrounding this topic. Ask him, "what is it about this that is so important to you?" "Do you have a deep-rooted belief or value that comes into play here?" "Does your perspective stem from your experiences growing up?" Take turns asking and answering these questions to get a deeper understanding of where your stance is coming from. This is not a 5 minute conversation - it should take at least 20 minutes.
Afterwards, see if you can come to a place of agreement on the presenting issue. Try to be open and flexible, empathizing with your partner's deeper experience. If you're still not able to resolve the issue, it may be time to seek professional support.
This can be one of the most powerful exercises I teach the couples I work with. I encourage you to give it a try and let me know how it goes in the comments below. Here's to compromise!
Meredith Silversmith, MA, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Co-Founder, and Clinical Director of Nassau Wellness. Meredith is passionate about her work and truly enjoys her time with clients. She specializes in couples therapy, chronic conflict, infidelity, communication issues, and teen issues. Read more...