The Power of Accepting Influence in Relationships

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In the journey of building a strong and lasting relationship, one key factor stands out: the ability to accept influence from each other. Renowned psychologists Drs. John and Julie Gottman, known for their extensive research on marital stability and relationship analysis, emphasize that accepting influence is crucial for fostering mutual respect, emotional intimacy, and overall relationship satisfaction. But what does it mean to accept influence, and why do some couples struggle with it more than others? Let’s explore these questions and how you can apply Gottman’s insights to enhance your relationship.

What Does Accepting Influence Mean?

Accepting influence involves being open to your partner’s opinions, feelings, and suggestions. It’s about listening, understanding, and incorporating each other’s perspectives into your decisions and actions. This mutual openness helps create a balanced power dynamic, ensuring that both partners feel valued and respected.

Why Is Accepting Influence Important?

According to Gottman, couples who accept influence from each other tend to have:

  • Better Conflict Resolution: They navigate disagreements more effectively by engaging in collaborative communication, allowing them to find common ground and mutually beneficial solutions, ensuring both partners feel heard and respected.
  • Stronger Emotional Connection: Being receptive to each other’s views fosters a deeper emotional bond and trust.
  • Higher Relationship Satisfaction: Both partners feel valued and heard, leading to greater overall happiness in the relationship.

On the flip side, couples who struggle to accept influence often experience frequent conflicts, power struggles, and emotional disconnection, which can significantly impact their relationship’s health and longevity.

Why Do Some Couples Struggle with Accepting Influence?

Several factors can make it challenging for partners to accept influence from each other:

  1. Individual Personality Traits: Stubbornness, insecurity, and past traumas can make a person resistant to accepting influence.
  2. Upbringing and Family Dynamics: Growing up in environments where influence was not balanced can shape how individuals handle influence in their relationships.
  3. Cultural and Gender Norms: Societal expectations and traditional gender roles can hinder the acceptance of influence, especially for men.
  4. Relationship Dynamics: Power struggles, lack of trust, and poor communication skills can exacerbate difficulties in accepting influence.

Assessing and Improving Acceptance of Influence

Here are some reflective questions and strategies to help you and your partner assess and improve your acceptance of influence:

  1. Reflect on Your Experiences:
    • Can you recall a recent situation where you accepted your partner’s suggestion? How did it feel?
    • How do you respond when your partner disagrees with you?
  2. Evaluate Your Communication:
    • Do you feel heard and valued when you express your opinions to your partner?
    • How often do you find yourselves in power struggles during decision-making?
  3. Identify Emotional Barriers:
    • What emotions come up when you resist your partner’s influence? Why do you think you react this way?
    • How does it affect you emotionally when your partner doesn’t accept your influence?
  4. Develop Better Habits:
    • Practice active listening and empathy to understand your partner’s perspective.
    • Create a safe space for open and honest communication, free of judgment or criticism.
    • Work on compromise and collaborative problem-solving during conflicts.

The Impact of Accepting Influence

When couples learn to accept influence from each other, they experience a more harmonious and fulfilling relationship. Here’s how:

  • Enhanced Mutual Respect: Both partners feel their opinions matter, leading to a more balanced and respectful dynamic.
  • Improved Emotional Intimacy: Openness and vulnerability strengthen the emotional connection, making the relationship more resilient.
  • Greater Relationship Satisfaction: A relationship where both partners feel heard and valued is more likely to thrive and endure challenges.


Accepting influence is not about losing yourself or always agreeing with your partner. It’s about creating a partnership where both voices are heard, and both perspectives are valued. By embracing this concept, inspired by Gottman’s research, you can build a stronger, more connected, and more satisfying relationship. Start today by reflecting on your interactions, practicing empathy, and fostering an environment of mutual respect and openness. Your relationship will be all the better for it.

For more insights and practical tips on building a healthy relationship, explore our resources or contact us for personalized support. Together, we can help you create the loving and balanced partnership you deserve.

Maha Elias is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC), Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), Comprehensive Family Mediator (FMC), and sexual health and trauma-informed couples therapist with a private counselling practice in Victoria, British Columbia.

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