The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: Full Review

Top 10 Marriage Books Reviewe

Making Marriage Work

General Description

Copyright 1999. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver is nothing short of revolutionary.  Their research has influenced most of the books on The Top 10 Marriage Books Reviewed list.  Their research at the Love Lab led to observations about the habits that can make and break a marriage.  This book is packed with insights and how you can incorporate them into what you do and make marriage work.  There are two types of problems in marriage: solvable and perpetual.  Gottman helps you tackle both types in such a way that you can stay connected and make your marriage work.

Big Ideas

In their work at the Love Lab, Gottman and his team found 8 Predictors of Divorce and 7 Principles For Making Marriage Work, this is the research that anchors the field of marriage therapy.  Let’s take a look a some of the big ideas.

Positive Sentiment Over-ride

The Love Lab uncovered how to nurture the ability to overlook faults, irritations, and differences.  This ability prevents the negative stuff from contaminating the marriage with it’s toxicity.  How do you do this?  You create a friendship and a way of interacting that is so positive that the negative stuff is of little concern.  What is interesting is that these behaviors were most likely part of a couples courtship.  So what you perceive as your spouse’s irritating qualities you once overlooked and may have even found unique or interesting.

Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work

Enhance Your Love Maps

Know your spouse.  Learning about your spouse doesn’t stop once you are married. Information gets old and things change. You should know what they like, don’t like, who their best friend is and why. You should know about their work and what drives them bonkers. By understanding this type of information you are better equipped to love them in the way they need.

Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration

Getting the information to plot out the love map involves the same quality of communication and time that was spend during courtship.  Look into each others eyes, listen deeply, be curious to know and understand your unique spouse.  Tell them what you like about them and keep your friendship alive.

Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away

When something goes bad do you seek out your spouse?  You should. By turning toward each other instead of away, a powerful message is communicated about the other person’s value.  You are saying, this person is the one I share my life with.  When this occurs in an argument, you communicate that the relationship is more important than winning the debate.

Let Your Partner Influence You

Have you ever played ball with a kid who had to have it their way?  They were rigid and inflexible to your influence of how to play.  You suggested playing a certain way and they shut it down. Soon, it became their way or no way.  Chances are, one of you quit playing.  The stubborn rigid one either took their ball and when home alone, or you said you’re too selfish I am going home.  When you accept your partner’s influence you are telling them they have value in their ideas, thoughts, feelings, and existence.

Solve Your Solvable Problems

This seems like a no-brainer but nothing is obvious in marriage.  Problem solving is a process that ends with feeling connected.  It starts when one of you softly approaches a potentially hazardous issue.  This soft start-up helps prevent things from getting out of control.  As tension rises, someone makes an attempt to repair the connection. In some way they offer an “olive branch” by showing flexibility, speaking a word of encouragement or empathy.  If received, the couple will attempt to further soothe one another.  With connection and validation both parties are ready to be flexible. This makes room for compromise.  Finally, they focus their attention on any lingering grievances.  By not allowing for unresolved grievances they prevent resentment from taking root.  This 5 step process for problems solving is a natural process that couples engage in.  The key for struggling couples is to work at this on purpose until it becomes more natural and they see results.

Overcome Gridlock

Gridlock is when a couple reaches a stalemate and there is no movement except to dig in deeper.  The real reason no one is flexible, showing empathy, or willing to compromise is because you both “have dreams for your life that the other isn’t aware of, hasn’t acknowledged, or doesn’t respect.”  This hurts your hopes, aspirations, purpose and meaning of your life.  By spending time explaining why their position is so important people usually identify their goal and make it known.  This almost always “makes sense” to the other person and the gridlock is broken.

 Create Shared Meaning

The last principle for making marriage work is to create shared meaning.  By understanding one another’s goals, aspirations, and life purpose we strike a deal to help each other make it happen.  We agree to be supportive, have shared goals, share symbols of those goals, and be involved in their manifestation through connection.  Think about it, your dream is to own a horse farm but you live in a 1 bedroom apartment.  A shared symbol of the horse farm might be the balance of your savings account.  So it is no wonder you argue about cost over-runs when it impacts your savings.

What Do Leaders Need to Know

There are 2 kinds of marital conflict: solvable and perpetual.  This is very helpful in the midst of daily life.  The solvable stuff is usually figured out within a year or two, if you have some communication skills most couples can solve their own problems.  After that, it’s the same arguments in perpetuity.  These are gut-wrenchingly painful and intense.  Figuring out how to focus on what is really important in the perpetual issue is the key to making marriage work.

What is really important?  Feeling connected, accepted, understood, valued, appreciated, respected, and loved at the end of the same old argument. One of the great things about this book is it tries to teach you how to do this in the midst of daily life.

If your marriage needs help learning how to apply these principles, communicate effectively or restore lost connection visit our services page to see how Leadershop Counseling or Coaching can help you.