Let Your Partner Influence You

A little self-disclosure here… I, Laura Heck, am a reformed fun hater.

What?!?

Carefree, joyful Laura Heck?

Yes, it is true.

I can find any excuse to not participate in fun activities. I have been a fun hater my whole life. If I was to be completely honest with myself, I think it comes down to a deeply ingrained sense of responsibility that came to me at a very early age. If there is work to be done, I will choose work over a weekend outing 9 out of 10 times.

My husband, on the other hand, is Mr. Adventure. He squeezes in games of golf in his work week, slips away for beers with friends and is dutifully planning our next vacation.

I love his adventurous spirit. It is, however, a fundamental difference in our relationship and it becomes a point of tension more often than not. This man, my husband, would rather experience life with me by his side. I have spent years denying his requests to go to music festivals, gamble in Vegas or even skydive.

Why am I giving you a hint of one of our perpetual conversatons (ie, conflict!)? Because two years ago, I made it my mission to purge my fun hating ways and join the lighter side of life.

I was fed up with staying home and working while my husband was out playing. I sat on the sideline of life, quietly simmering with envy for Ryan’s free time.

Let me be crystal clear. Ryan did not leave me home with a pile of laundry. Ryan did not shirk duties to go wakeboarding. Ryan simply prioritized his fun and I prioritized work. This was not going to continue to hold up in our relationship any longer. I needed to change.

January 1, 2014, I decided to follow my husband’s lead and accept his influence in my life. I call this year “The Year of Yes”!

Dr. John Gottman found that one of the key principles to healthy, satisfying relationships is one in which partners can accept influence from one another. He explains that accepting influence is about trying to accommodate your partner’s wants, desires, and needs without sacrificing your own. The goal is to develop an atmosphere in your relationship where you intentionally try and honor your partner’s requests and find ways to say “yes” whenever possible.

This brings us back to the “Year of Yes”. I made a vow to my sexy, adventurous husband that I will immediately and enthusiastically say YES to any request he had for an entire year. Like developing any new habit of mind, I struggled at first. My YES was less than enthusiastic. Frankly, actually, my YES was sheepish and guarded. I was terrified of this new lifestyle. Saying YES to Ryan meant that money would be spent, time would be wasted and my mental health would be compromised with all of this change and discomfort. Or so I thought! Knowing how uncomfortable this new lifestyle was, Ryan gently ushered me into the light side.

His requests started with kickball tournaments in the park with friends, dressing up for halloween and going to a club (this was a real stretch for someone who parties more like a 50-year old).

In time, I began to recognize a sense of freedom around enjoying my time doing activities that didn’t involve matching socks or balancing the budget. By the end of the year, Ryan had requested a European Vacation (which was a massive financial stretch), moving to a new state to chase a career dream of Ryan’s and buying a new house. Woof!

Something surprising happened over those 12 months. I felt closer to my husband than ever before. Rather than digging my heals in and putting my defenses up, I was open and welcoming to his requests. With every YES I honored, I was building our relationship up. Ryan no longer looked at me as the enemy who kept US from having fun and enjoying life. He looked at me as his partner, willing and able to support his dreams.

Accepting influence from your partner is a two-way street. Someday, a few blog posts from now, I will gush about how my husband supported me through graduate school; how he stays home for days on end with our son while I fly across the country for work; on more.

The point I want to make is three-fold:

1. Change in your relationship begins with YOU!

2. Fundamental differences in your relationship does not have to keep you stuck.

3. Honoring your partner’s dreams should be your priority.

The “Year of Yes” was two-years ago. I recently celebrated my birthday, and for fun Ryan built me an epic slip and slide! We are preparing for our first Spartan Race (death by exercise) and I begin scuba lessons in a week.

My fun-hating ways will never leave me, but I have just gotten REALLY good at saying YES to my adventurous husband and am grateful for his influence!

– Laura Heck, reformed fun-hater