We are just a few years short of the century anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. Much has changed for women in the last 100 years and that has spilled over into changes in relationship dynamics.
For example, in the early 60s men were not allowed in the delivery room to see their children born. But now 91% not only watch, they actively participate in that special moment. When my son was born by C-section, I was being stitched up and my husband was the first to hold our bundle of joy . . . now I was the one that felt left out. Yes, the times have changed.
It’s no surprise that two income families are becoming the norm. Women outnumber men in higher education enrollment and that means they now vie for higher paying jobs. While women still lag behind men in equal pay, men are losing their status as sole breadwinners. A recent Pew Research analysis showed that of all married couples 24% had women as breadwinner, and that number is 30% among newlyweds. This is up from 6% in 1960.
In his research of couples, John Gottman found that men who accept these changes are way ahead of the game in the world of parenting and relationships. They are sharing power and allowing themselves to be influences by their partner’s point of view. Women who feel respected in this way are happier in their relationships. And as we say in Texas, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
But accepting your partner’s point of view is a two-way street. Women must allow themselves to be influenced by their husband’s point of view, especially in the area of parenting or other traditionally held female roles. But the truth is women generally do a far better job of accepting influence from men than men do from women.
Developmental psychologists have found the roots of this in childhood. Girls accept influence from boys, but boys almost never accept influence from girls. This is most likely due to the fact that boys and girls are raised to manage emotions differently. Boys learn to deal with emotion quickly and “to keep the ball in play”. Girls “play house” and nurture baby dolls in their play, and they love playing with others. This means that when both genders come together at puberty, girls are more experienced about relationships.
Gottman’s work suggests there is a new kind of male partner that is emerging, one that is adapting to these changes. The new male has reset his priorities and is turning towards relationships.
When men have a hard time accepting influence they say “no” and try to hang onto their power. They become obstacles in the relationship. They dismiss their wives needs and emotions and become righteously indignant. And they also become lonely.
We are living in a world-wide revolution that is trying to correct the imbalance that has been historically there for women. As women become more psychologically and economically empowered they no longer accept feeling powerless or stuck in unfulfilling relationships.
How are you doing with accepting influence in your relationship?