• Maureen Houtz, LMFT

Sushi or ?


What comes to mind when you hear the word Influence?

Influence as in Under, DUI, drunk driving? Or maybe we worry that our teens are too influenced by social media, their friends, what is current?

Influence is an interesting topic and often misunderstood.

Ask yourself what influences you? Is it what others say, what is popular, what passes as socially acceptable?

What causes us to consider these as information or modifiers of our behavior?

Do we weigh these notions against what we believe to be true? Or do we allow the world to influence us because we don’t have our own set of standards of what is good, moral, upright, holy? Do we rely on antiquated notions or information? Do we grandstand?

In working with couples, the area of influence is greatly misunderstood. We work together as a partnership, perhaps, allowing input from each party, weighing the ideas and opinions against the bigger goal, the mutual values we have expressed. Maybe in a perfect world?

If you find yourself in a relationship where the above mentioned process is happening, blessings to you. I am glad for you and yours.

Given that my sample is couples in turmoil or chaos, the idea of influence is skewed.

It’s been my professional experience that this partnership, meeting of the minds, weighing against the greater value is rare.

~One or the other thinks they are being told what to do and maybe they are.

~One or the other thinks they are the Head of the Household in such a way that there is little to no room for collaboration.

So what is influence? I will start with what it is NOT.

It isn’t one person telling the other what needs to happen or else.

It is not My way or the Highway.

It is not manipulation or game playing.

It is not based on if you love me you would……..

Any couple who has seen me will tell you I use business partnership and friendship as metaphors for couples.

When you are in a partnership, I would hope that the one who is the better 'numbers' person will be the one overseeing the budget. ( ideally best for both to be involved)

If one of you is more mechanical, that one might be the better one to do the repairs or get the repair people out. If one of you is the minister of laundry, then laundry is your task.

What doesn’t work well long term is to make decisions based on who is the loudest, bossiest, or scariest.

Back to influence. How do we influence our children?

We can yell and scream and even stomp our feet, but what works best is setting a good example. Yelling at your children to stop yelling is…. You see the irony?

Wouldn’t it be grand if we always asked our partner “Is this a good time?” When we are preoccupied we cannot give our full attention. We cannot expect to be influential or accept influence if we don’t give our ear or our eyes to our partner.

Influence- It has to start with respect. Do you care what the other thinks, feels, knows?

Do you have to be right all the time? Did you decide long ago that no one can contradict you, upstage you or know more than you?

When she comes in and tells me that none of her thoughts or feelings are taken into account in her relationship, I always ask. Are you expressing these things? Sometimes she is not. She is hoping, hinting and overall expecting that “he will know.” Or she has stopped offering her thoughts and feelings since they have not been heard so far.

Heard……understood……weighed…..discussed- That is influence. It is not necessarily agreement. It is “ I see your point,” “ I know what you mean,” “ I can see how that might have been harsh.”

Whether it’s “where should we go eat” to “ How can we save more money,” each of these is a legitimate invitation to dialogue. Unless it’s not.

Maybe we really don’t want to hear what s/he has to say. Better to say “I really want sushi, how about you?” We might not get sushi but we have had an exchange. Believe it our not these mini exchanges are connectors.

Then there are dismissals.

Ignoring the concerns, not answering a question, not giving eye contact, all of these are similar to a teen's “ whatever.”

A word of caution: If you are guilty of being dismissive, my strong recommendation is to stop this and check with your partner if your “dismissal’s “have been hurtful.

It would be better to say I don’t want to talk about it then to ignore the concern, question or bid for connection. A pile of dismissals cause many of my clients to feel unloved and invisible.

And always the timing of these connections is crucial.

It really boils down to listening more intentionally.

If you need help navigating the partnership you are in, give a call.


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