I’m not a proponent of so called know-it-all gurus and I’m even a little wary when experts, authors or speakers appear to have cult-like followings from their adoring legion of fans. Typically, I prefer to take a more eclectic approach to learning and growth by dipping in and out of evidence-based content that contributes to my personal and professional knowledge, believing that a range of perspectives provides a more balanced viewpoint.
However, as a psychologist, wife and mother, I’m a pretty big fan of psychologist and researcher, Dr John Gottman, who has conducted over 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples, authored over 200 published academic articles and authored or co-authored more than 40 books, including a New York Times bestseller.
At the Family Peace Foundation, we believe that respectful relationships form the cornerstone of peaceful families and healthy marriages. Naturally, seeking to create respectful relationships is a call to action for every family member regardless of gender or age, however, Gottman’s rigorous research has found that in particular, men have the potential to separate a great relationship from a failed one (The Man’s Guide to Women by John and Julie Gottman).
Some men may hear this as a threat, a pressure, or perhaps even a criticism, however for me it is an encouraging message of hope, intended as an invitation to empower men to better understand what women want and how they can quite simply provide it to create a more harmonious and loving relationship with their partner, which in turn, is a gift to the children who live in their care.
So, if you’re a man wondering how to create a more respectful and connected relationship with your wife, I give you the following four statements Gottman says men should never utter to their partners, together with some more useful alternatives:
1.“What is it now?”
This terse response suggests impatience and frustration, and shuts down any attempt your partner may be making to connect with you. Instead try replacing this toxic response with “tell me more, I’m listening.” Then listen without offering corrections, rebuttals or solutions!
2.“I miss the great body you used to have!”
Some men feel like this is a compliment but chances are your partner already has enough thoughts in her own head about how her body isn’t up to scratch so instead find something you genuinely love about her body to comment on. The options are endless so long as they are authentic. “I love you in that dress.” “Watching you dance makes me happy.” “You look sexy when you’re putting on your lipstick.” “I love your eyes/lips/hands/feet etc.”
3.“Fine. Have it your way. You always do anyway.”
This statement oozes score-keeping suggesting that when she gets what she wants you miss out. Respectful relationships aren’t a competition. Instead continue to go back to the simplest yet most effective questions on the respectful relationships menu – “what do you feel?” and “what do you need?”
4.“Why are you always so needy?
We are all needy and we all spend much of our time trying to figure out how to get our unmet needs met! Healthy and respectful relationships are about trying to help fulfil each other’s unmet needs. Try to hear her bid for needs as an opportunity to connect rather than a drain on your resources!
- Sabina Read