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Family Talk: Men, listen up! ... to your wife

A study shows marriages are less likely to end in divorce if husbands allow their wives to influence them. [Thinkstock]
A study shows marriages are less likely to end in divorce if husbands allow their wives to influence them. [Thinkstock]

This column contains marriage advice for husbands. Wives: Do NOT read this!

Despite this opening sentence, I strongly suspect wives will read it anyway, with the idea to clip it out and give it or forward it to their husbands. Gents: I only write this column. I can’t control its distribution.

What I’m about to share with you might not be readily accepted, but it is necessary-for-your-marriage-survival news. Consider the results of bona fide research reported at gottman.com from one of the marriage advice gurus of America, Dr. John Gottman:

In a long-term study of 130 newlywed couples, Dr. John Gottman discovered that men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce …

It takes two to make a marriage work and it is just as important for wives to treat their husbands with honor and respect. But the research indicates that a majority of wives — even in unhappy marriages — already do this.

This doesn’t mean women don’t get angry and even contemptuous of their husbands. It just means that they let their husbands influence their decision making by taking their opinions and feelings into account. Data suggests that men do not return the favor.

Statistically speaking, Dr. Gottman’s research shows there is an 81 percent chance that a marriage will self-implode when a man is unwilling to share power.

When I’m told something has an 81 percent chance of making my marriage implode, I pay attention.

I’ve heard it said that 8 out of 10 statistics are completely made up (I can’t remember the source), but I actually think the Gottman statistic is valid because I have firsthand verification.

I married a Texas girl who is smart and thinks for herself. She isn’t reluctant to share her thoughts, but she is also a good listener and open to persuasion. She asks for my opinion, and it influences what she does.

My Texas bride married a New York guy with a mind of his own. He tries to be smart and think for himself, but he has had to work at becoming a good listener and being open to advice.

I remember as a young boy I once told my father, “When I grow up, I’m going to be president of the United States!” Dad replied, “Why do you want that job?” I stuck out my chin and said, “Because nobody tells the president what to do.” Dad wisely remarked, “Son, even the president is married.”

Over the years I have learned that the Texas girl has an eye for detail, and she looks for long-term implications from decisions. I have learned I make better decisions when I listen to her. That doesn’t mean we always see eye to eye, and it doesn’t mean I always follows her advice. But, I try always to listen and allow myself to be influenced by her.

I am 100 percent sure I don’t want an 81 percent chance of my marriage imploding. Men, how about you? Listen to your wives and allow yourself to be influenced. You’ll be increasing your chance of an implosion-proof marriage.

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›

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