There is a critical question that every couple must ask and answer:
“Am I able to influence my mate?”
You might think this is not such a critical question, but I have found that the answer is critical to the direction of the relationship. What do I mean by this?
What I mean is that we must have a sense that we are heard and cared about in our relationships. We must have a sense that our mate, friends, family or anyone with whom we relate, cares about us and wants to know what we think, feel and want. It doesn’t mean that they have to cater to every one of our wishes, but they must care about them nonetheless. We must have a sense that we can influence others, that they will take what we say under careful consideration.
Consider the words of the husband during a recent Marriage Intensive.
“I don’t really believe she cares what I think or want,” George said with a bit of an attitude as he looked firmly at his wife of 10 years. “She is going to do what she is going to do; and I don’t believe she really wants to know what I think.”
His wife, Char cowered at his words. Clearly his words stung.
“That’s not true,” she said. “I just have my own opinions and speak my mind.”
“But the way you speak your mind has me feeling like my opinion doesn’t count for anything,” he continued.
“I want your thoughts to count, but don’t want them to overwhelm mine,” she continued. She seemed defensive.
“Well, I don’t know how we can both get our points across without the other one feeling dismissed?” he said.
Both had understandable points of view. Both had feelings that needed to be considered and valued.
Certainly, Char needs to be able to speak her mind and have her point of view considered. Certainly, she needs to feel valued and her thoughts encouraged.
Likewise, George needs to feel valued as well. Both need to have a sense that their feelings matter and that they can influence one another.
Scripture seems to encourage mutuality in marriage. The Apostle Paul penned the famous words, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Most believe this is a statement of mutual submission, where both sacrifice for the other, seeking to meet their mate’s needs. Both should feel cared for by their mate, with an attitude of humility pervading interactions. With an attitude of humility, an ‘open heart’ and receptivity, we will be influenced by our mate and change will occur.
Consider these additional guidelines to assist you in influencing each other and assisting your mate in feeling cared for.
First, we must create an atmosphere of openness with our mate.
We all know the feeling of defensiveness, or a ‘closed heart,’ and how dismissing that feels. What we need for a healthy relationship is an attitude of humility and openness.
Second, we must convey a spirit of humility.
The Apostle Paul seems to say that we are to engage in acts of mutual giving, generosity toward the other. We will only do this when we have a spirit of humility, forsaking our pride and seeking to serve our mate.
Third, listen to your mate.
You cannot be influenced by your mate if you’re not listening to him/her. You must listen carefully to what they are saying, (and not saying) and what they are asking for and how you can best satisfy their concerns.
Finally, respond to their concerns.
With an open heart and humble mind, a keen listening ear and readiness to respond, meet their needs. This act of service will not only soften your heart, but will garner the love and appreciation of your mate.
There is power in being able to influence, and be influenced by, your mate. Make it a practice to sit with your mate and listen attentively to what they are asking for. If they can influence you with their words, they will not have to amp up their intensity. If they sense you are willing to be influenced, they will show it by their caring for you.