Home Marriage Book Summary: The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work

Book Summary: The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work

Book Summary: The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work

Marriage is one of life’s greatest gifts, but also one of its greatest challenges. Keeping a marriage strong and healthy over the long run requires effort, compromise, and wisdom. Dr. John Gottman, a renowned relationship researcher, has spent decades studying what makes marriages succeed or fail.

His findings, outlined in the bestselling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, provide invaluable guidance for any couple looking to build a marriage that lasts.

In this blog post, I’ll give you an in-depth summary and review of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I’ll explain each of Gottman’s seven principles in plain English and share examples of how couples can apply them.

Let’s dive in!

Principle #1: Enhance Your Love Map

According to Gottman, one of the strongest predictors of whether a marriage will succeed is the depth and accuracy of each partner’s “love map” of the other. A love map involves truly knowing your spouse – their dreams, hopes, fears, pet peeves, and history. It means remembering important details and showing you were paying attention.

Building a rich love map takes time and effort. Gottman suggests sharing your life stories with each other, asking questions to learn new things, and paying attention to small reveals. Make a point to notice details like your partner’s favorite meal or what really stresses them out at work. Showing you care about the big and little things that matter to them strengthens emotional intimacy.

Couples can enhance their love maps by scheduling regular “state of the relationship” talks. During these discussions, share updates on your lives, goals, feelings, and each other. Listen without distraction to truly hear what’s on their mind. Keeping lines of communication open keeps love maps full and vibrant over the long run.

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Principle #2: Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration

According to Gottman’s research, the ratio of positive to negative interactions in a marriage is the best predictor of stability and satisfaction. Couples who maintain a ratio of at least 5:1 positive to negative exchanges tend to be the happiest and most successful.

To achieve this vital ratio, nurturing feelings of fondness and admiration for your partner is key. This involves frequently expressing appreciation and affection through words, gestures, and quality time together. Say “I love you” daily and look for opportunities to compliment their character or accomplishments. Send a sweet text just because you were thinking of them.

Making small acts of service also builds fondness, like cooking a meal, giving a back rub, or helping with chores without being asked. Notice things your partner does well and express gratitude regularly. Attuning to each other’s needs and showing you care through everyday actions and words keeps the positive energy flowing.

Principle #3: Resolve Conflicts Constructively

All couples argue from time to time. What separates the thriving marriages from the struggling ones is how they handle disagreements. Gottman’s research found that stonewalling, criticism, contempt, and defensiveness during fights predict divorce.

To resolve conflicts in a healthy way, remain calm and avoid escalating negative emotions. Express how you feel respectfully without accusation. Listen actively by restating what they said to ensure understanding. Find compromise by considering their perspective as well as your own needs. Agree to disagree respectfully if a resolution can’t be reached immediately.

Taking a “time-out” if tensions are high is also constructive. Come back to discussions when you’ve both cooled down. Affirm your commitment to resolving the issue, not hurting each other. End conflicts by expressing care for one another, not just the issue at hand. With practice, you can have productive disagreements that strengthen rather than damage your bond.

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Principle #4: Let Your Partner Influence You

In thriving marriages, partners feel truly understood and that their input matters. They know they have the ability to influence one another. However, Gottman notes that some spouses try to control or change their partner against their will.

To follow this principle successfully, be open to new perspectives and compromise respectfully. Express opinions but don’t demand your way or shame them into agreement. Listen actively without judgment to consider ideas you may not have thought of. Thank them for sharing a different viewpoint.

Compromise by finding middle ground both can live with. Accept that influence is a two-way street – be willing to be influenced as much as influence them. Make major decisions as a team that consider both viewpoints equally. Your partner will reciprocate openness when they feel heard and that you value their thoughts and needs too.

Principle #5: Solve Your Solvable Problems

Not all problems have quick fixes, but Gottman notes that many smaller issues couples argue about are actually quite “solvable.” These include conflicts over chores, finances, in-laws, schedules, and more that have reasonable solutions if you work as a team.

To solve solvable problems, clearly define the specific problem or concern without blame. Brainstorm multiple options together and choose a mutually agreeable solution. Set a deadline to implement the plan and check in on progress. Compromise willingly to find an answer you both feel good about.

Resist dragging up past transgressions or making problems bigger than they are. Stay focused on the solvable issue at hand. With effort, you can resolve many repetitive arguments, reducing unnecessary stress and strengthening your partnership through cooperation.

Principle #6: Overcome Gridlock

Some couples get stuck in a negative cycle called “gridlock” where solvable problems remain unresolved due to resentment, withdrawal, or conflict-avoidance patterns. To overcome gridlock, Gottman recommends having courageous conversations.

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In a courageous conversation, commit to finding a resolution rather than avoiding discomfort. Express how unsolved issues make you feel without accusation. Listen with empathy to understand their perspective fully. Compromise on a plan, set goals, and follow through.

Be willing to acknowledge your role in creating or prolonging problems respectfully. Forgive past hurts and move forward together. With open communication and cooperation, you can break free from gridlock and strengthen your bond through problem-solving as a team.

Principle #7: Create Shared Meaning

According to Gottman, shared meaning – finding purpose and connection through common interests, values and experiences – is the hallmark of lasting love. It gives partners a foundation when times get tough.

To cultivate shared meaning, engage in regular couple activities you both enjoy, like date nights, hobbies, community volunteering or spiritual practices. Travel together and make new shared memories. Discuss your visions, dreams and core beliefs. Find compromise when views differ.

Show interest in each other’s worlds by asking questions and offering support. Share perspectives on current events, find common ground in opinions. Make family traditions. Focus on similarities rather than differences to bond over your shared humanity. With effort, you can deepen intimacy and partnership through a sense of shared meaning and purpose.

In conclusion, Gottman’s seven principles provide a research-backed framework for building a strong, resilient marriage. Enhancing love maps, nurturing fondness, resolving conflicts constructively, valuing influence, solving problems, overcoming gridlock and creating shared meaning take ongoing effort. But making these relationship skills a priority pays off in the form of greater trust, satisfaction and stability over the long run.


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