The Secret to A Successful Marriage

Written with love, by Pastor Dave Page

If you want a successful marriage and one that will last a long time, the advice from John Gottman, recognized as one of the ten most influential therapists of the past quarter century, is quite simple: Be willing to do what your wife says.

Gottman and his colleagues studied 130 newlywed couples for six years in an effort to find ways to predict marital success and failure.  Couples who used techniques such as active listening were no more likely to stay together than couples who did not, reported the Journal of Marriage and the Family.

Wedding 64

Wedding 64


Accepting Your Spouse’s Influence

The marriages that did work well all had one thing in common - the husband was willing to accept his wife’s influence.

“We found that only those newlywed men who are accepting of influence from their wives are ending up in happy, stable marriages,” Gottman said. The husbands who failed to listen to their wives' suggestions and complaints, greeting them with stonewalling, contempt and belligerence, were doomed from the beginning, they found.  By the way, this is great advice for brides. Does your fiancé listen to your advice now and accept your influence?  If not, you are headed for a unstable marriage.

In the researchers' observations of couples, they found little evidence of women failing to listen to their husbands. But the study did not let wives completely off the hook. Women who couched their suggestions and complaints in a gentle, soothing, perhaps even humorous approach to the husband were more likely to have happy marriages than those who were belligerent.


Needed: Emotionally Healthy Husbands

Gottman is calling for emotionally intelligent husbands. Some men are really good at accepting a wife's influence, at finding something reasonable in a partner's complaint to agree with.  This group represents perhaps a third of all men, Gottman added.  Another group just rejects all attempts at influence. That's very characteristic of violent men, but a majority of men do it to some extent. They feel, “If I give in on this, I'm going to lose everything. I'm going to be totally manipulated and controlled.”

That is not to say men are the source of all problems in a marriage.  But changing their attitudes is a very powerful lever in altering the course of a marriage.


An Example of Influence

For instance, a woman says, “Do you have to work this Thursday night? My mother is coming this weekend, and I need your help getting ready.” Her husband replies, “My plans are set, and I’m not changing them.” As you might guess, this guy is in a shaky marriage. A husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial, because research shows that women are already well practiced at accepting influence from men. A true partnership only occurs when a husband can do the same thing.

Megan Mack Photography

Megan Mack Photography

Learning to Honor Your Wife

It took me a few years of marriage to realize what a goldmine of wisdom my wife really is.  She is a great discerner of people and helps balance out my natural risk taking personality with her cautious temperament. She gives my life perspective.  I think the key for a husband is to believe (deep down in his bones) that his wife is for him and not against him. I know my wife has my best interest at heart. I seek out her feedback and welcome her influence in my life.

I like the saying, “Behind every successful man is a surprised woman.” Ha. The more familiar phrase, “Behind every great man there’s a great woman” was originally coined by Meryll Frost, chosen as “The Most Courageous Athlete in 1945.”  Frost was a college football quarterback who fought in WW2 and then came back to star in football at Dartmouth.  As Meryll received his trophy, the plucky quarterback unfolded the story of how he was able to come back. He said, “They say behind every great man there's a woman. While I'm not a great man, there's a great woman behind me.”

The Apostle Peter said, “Husbands must give honor to their wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker (physically) than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.”[1]

[1] 1 Peter 3:7 (NLT)