For years, husbands have been stuck with the mantra “happy wife, happy life” because nothing rhymes with husband. The closest anyone has ever come was “happy husband, stuff gets done.” Some have suggested to replace the old, tired, gendered “happy wife, happy life” mantra with the much more postmodern “happy spouse, happy house.” No doubt, this is more palatable as it positions the husband and wife as equals and equally responsible for the happiness index at home.
It is a fact that a couple’s happiness is closely tied to how satisfied they feel about their marriage. To live “happily ever after” is the dream of every couple. But good marriages don’t just happen, according to Dr. John Gottman, the author of the best-selling Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. They take time, patience, and two people who truly want to be together. Dr. Gottman’s evidence-based principles will help couples build a strong foundation of friendship, manage conflicts, and develop shared dreams and meaning for their marriage and family.
I want to draw your attention to the fourth principle: Accept your partner’s influence. This is a critical skill to resolving conflicts in the marriage and (wait for it….) it is mostly for men.
Dr. Gottman’s long-term study of newlywed couples revealed that:
“Even in the first few months of marriage, men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages, and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives’ influence. Statisistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81% chance that his marriage will self-destruct.”
It does not suggest that men should give up all their power and become subservient to their wives, but it does reveal that the happiest, most stable marriages were those where the husbands did not resist power sharing and decision making with his spouse. Sounds pretty simple, right? There’s more to it and they are all found in the book.
Having a happy marriage is important because it has a proportional effect on parenting. When your marriage is not going well, your parenting skills and your children will suffer. The adults in the most successful families do not neglect marital problems. They routinely examine their relationship and how it can be improved. Sometimes children are a convenient excuse for not dealing with serious marital difficulties. They think, “The kids require so much of our attention now; once they’re grown, we’ll have a lot of time to talk about the problems we have in our own relationship.” But that is a prescription for marital and parenting disaster.
A poor marital relationship will result in negative parenting which impacts children directly and indirectly. When children witness conflict or domestic violence between their parents they could experience increased emotional arousal (stress) and reactivity (anxiety disorder). Concerns about emotional security will impact their ability to regulate their own emotions.
Feelings experienced during interparental conflict could spillover into the parent-child relationship resulting in negativity, harsh discipline, and emotional withdrawal on the part of the parents. The other thing that could happen is that parents who lack love and affection in the marriage might compensate by showing their children more love and affection. This is not necessarily a good thing.
Marital conflict affects fathers more than it does mothers. Studies have found that mothers are better able to compartmentalism roles as spouse and parent such that they are able to relate to their children with empathy immediately following a marital conflict. Fathers, on the other hand, are more vulnerable to marital conflict. They tend to display negative and punitive fathering after a conflict.
So you see, the quality of your parenting is affected by the quality of your marriage. If you want to be a better parent, work on your marriage.