Principles for a Happy Marriage and Other Committed Relationships

Reviewed Mar 21, 2017

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Summary

Happy marriages are alike in seven ways, beginning with intimate familiarity with each other's worlds.

Everyone knows a “perfect” couple that eventually divorces, as well as a seemingly mismatched marriage that begs the question, “How do they ever stay together?” To find the secret to happy and enduring unions, marriage researcher and psychologist John M. Gottman, PhD, collected data using rigorous scientific methods on hundreds of married couples of various ages and at various life stages.

“No two marriages are the same, but the more closely I looked at happy marriages the clearer it became that they were alike in seven telltale ways,” writes Gottman in his best-selling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, which boils his research down into practical advice for couples who want to enhance—or even save—their marriage.

Principle 1: Enhance your love maps

Gottman says that “emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world”—knowledge that he refers to as a love map. A love map involves knowing, for example:

  • Irritations and stresses going on at work
  • Names of best friends and coworkers
  • Favorite and disliked relatives, colors, TV shows, foods, etc.
  • Life aspirations
  • Meaningful childhood memories

Principle 2: Nurture your fondness and admiration

Fondness and admiration are critical to romance and a rewarding relationship. Yet they can be fragile unless a couple remains aware of the critical role they play in maintaining the friendship at the core of the marriage.

To revive or to boost your mutual esteem, or when negativity sets in, Gottman suggests dwelling on a quality or attribute of your partner that you value (such as patience, honesty, willingness to help around the house, etc.). Begin by saying “I appreciate …”

Principle 3: Turn toward each other

Find small moments throughout the day to connect with one another. Doing so demonstrates that you value your partner, and “is the basis of emotional connection, romance, passion, and a good sex life,” says Gottman. Here’s an example:

A wife comes home from work, visibly upset. She says, “Bob didn’t like my report.” The husband turns toward her emotional needs by responding, “I can understand why you’re so upset. You worked so hard on it. I can’t believe he’s dissatisfied.”

In contrast, “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?” serves to side with the opposition, or “Next time, make sure he tells you exactly what he wants” gives unsolicited advice without demonstrating understanding first. Gottman adds, “Couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice.”

Principle 4: Let your partner influence you

Gottman found that men have more trouble than women when it comes to sharing marital power and allowing their partner’s opinions and feelings to shape their decision making. Yet, he says “men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives’ influence,” which is why he advises men to develop this attitude and skill.

For example, if your spouse makes a complaint or suggestion, Gottman suggests that you “try to think of negativity as her way of emphasizing how important this issue is—not as an attack on you.” Then, instead of being “righteously indignant,” identify the reasonable part of your wife’s request, and “yield to win.”

Principles 5 and 6: Solve your solvable problems and overcome gridlock

Happily married couples can distinguish between conflicts that can be resolved and those that will probably be perpetual issues throughout the marriage. Furthermore, they solve the solvable problems, but they don’t spin their wheels arguing over perpetual ones.

Gottman says couples can overcome gridlock caused by perpetual problems, first by understanding that “the goal is not to solve the problem, but rather to move from gridlock to dialogue.” His advice is to:

  • Listen and try to understand why your partner feels so strongly about an issue.
  • Comfort each other, empathizing that the topic is stressful to both of you.
  • Find core areas of the conflict you cannot yield on; then “declaw” the issue by identifying areas of flexibility and compromise.

Principle 7: Create shared meaning

For happily married couples, Gottman says, “Marriage isn’t just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love.” It also has “a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together—a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you, that lead you to understand what it means to be a part of the family you have become,” he says.

To create “shared meaning,” Gottman encourages husbands and wives to share openly with each other their most deeply held views and beliefs. “The more shared meaning you can find, the deeper, richer, and more rewarding your relationship will be,” he says. 

Resource

Road to a Happy Marriage by Charles O. Uzoaru, M.D. AuthorHouse, 2011.

By Christine P. Martin
Source: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, PhD, and Nan Silver. Crown Publishing Group, 2000.

Summary

Happy marriages are alike in seven ways, beginning with intimate familiarity with each other's worlds.

Everyone knows a “perfect” couple that eventually divorces, as well as a seemingly mismatched marriage that begs the question, “How do they ever stay together?” To find the secret to happy and enduring unions, marriage researcher and psychologist John M. Gottman, PhD, collected data using rigorous scientific methods on hundreds of married couples of various ages and at various life stages.

“No two marriages are the same, but the more closely I looked at happy marriages the clearer it became that they were alike in seven telltale ways,” writes Gottman in his best-selling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, which boils his research down into practical advice for couples who want to enhance—or even save—their marriage.

Principle 1: Enhance your love maps

Gottman says that “emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world”—knowledge that he refers to as a love map. A love map involves knowing, for example:

  • Irritations and stresses going on at work
  • Names of best friends and coworkers
  • Favorite and disliked relatives, colors, TV shows, foods, etc.
  • Life aspirations
  • Meaningful childhood memories

Principle 2: Nurture your fondness and admiration

Fondness and admiration are critical to romance and a rewarding relationship. Yet they can be fragile unless a couple remains aware of the critical role they play in maintaining the friendship at the core of the marriage.

To revive or to boost your mutual esteem, or when negativity sets in, Gottman suggests dwelling on a quality or attribute of your partner that you value (such as patience, honesty, willingness to help around the house, etc.). Begin by saying “I appreciate …”

Principle 3: Turn toward each other

Find small moments throughout the day to connect with one another. Doing so demonstrates that you value your partner, and “is the basis of emotional connection, romance, passion, and a good sex life,” says Gottman. Here’s an example:

A wife comes home from work, visibly upset. She says, “Bob didn’t like my report.” The husband turns toward her emotional needs by responding, “I can understand why you’re so upset. You worked so hard on it. I can’t believe he’s dissatisfied.”

In contrast, “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?” serves to side with the opposition, or “Next time, make sure he tells you exactly what he wants” gives unsolicited advice without demonstrating understanding first. Gottman adds, “Couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice.”

Principle 4: Let your partner influence you

Gottman found that men have more trouble than women when it comes to sharing marital power and allowing their partner’s opinions and feelings to shape their decision making. Yet, he says “men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives’ influence,” which is why he advises men to develop this attitude and skill.

For example, if your spouse makes a complaint or suggestion, Gottman suggests that you “try to think of negativity as her way of emphasizing how important this issue is—not as an attack on you.” Then, instead of being “righteously indignant,” identify the reasonable part of your wife’s request, and “yield to win.”

Principles 5 and 6: Solve your solvable problems and overcome gridlock

Happily married couples can distinguish between conflicts that can be resolved and those that will probably be perpetual issues throughout the marriage. Furthermore, they solve the solvable problems, but they don’t spin their wheels arguing over perpetual ones.

Gottman says couples can overcome gridlock caused by perpetual problems, first by understanding that “the goal is not to solve the problem, but rather to move from gridlock to dialogue.” His advice is to:

  • Listen and try to understand why your partner feels so strongly about an issue.
  • Comfort each other, empathizing that the topic is stressful to both of you.
  • Find core areas of the conflict you cannot yield on; then “declaw” the issue by identifying areas of flexibility and compromise.

Principle 7: Create shared meaning

For happily married couples, Gottman says, “Marriage isn’t just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love.” It also has “a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together—a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you, that lead you to understand what it means to be a part of the family you have become,” he says.

To create “shared meaning,” Gottman encourages husbands and wives to share openly with each other their most deeply held views and beliefs. “The more shared meaning you can find, the deeper, richer, and more rewarding your relationship will be,” he says. 

Resource

Road to a Happy Marriage by Charles O. Uzoaru, M.D. AuthorHouse, 2011.

By Christine P. Martin
Source: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, PhD, and Nan Silver. Crown Publishing Group, 2000.

Summary

Happy marriages are alike in seven ways, beginning with intimate familiarity with each other's worlds.

Everyone knows a “perfect” couple that eventually divorces, as well as a seemingly mismatched marriage that begs the question, “How do they ever stay together?” To find the secret to happy and enduring unions, marriage researcher and psychologist John M. Gottman, PhD, collected data using rigorous scientific methods on hundreds of married couples of various ages and at various life stages.

“No two marriages are the same, but the more closely I looked at happy marriages the clearer it became that they were alike in seven telltale ways,” writes Gottman in his best-selling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, which boils his research down into practical advice for couples who want to enhance—or even save—their marriage.

Principle 1: Enhance your love maps

Gottman says that “emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world”—knowledge that he refers to as a love map. A love map involves knowing, for example:

  • Irritations and stresses going on at work
  • Names of best friends and coworkers
  • Favorite and disliked relatives, colors, TV shows, foods, etc.
  • Life aspirations
  • Meaningful childhood memories

Principle 2: Nurture your fondness and admiration

Fondness and admiration are critical to romance and a rewarding relationship. Yet they can be fragile unless a couple remains aware of the critical role they play in maintaining the friendship at the core of the marriage.

To revive or to boost your mutual esteem, or when negativity sets in, Gottman suggests dwelling on a quality or attribute of your partner that you value (such as patience, honesty, willingness to help around the house, etc.). Begin by saying “I appreciate …”

Principle 3: Turn toward each other

Find small moments throughout the day to connect with one another. Doing so demonstrates that you value your partner, and “is the basis of emotional connection, romance, passion, and a good sex life,” says Gottman. Here’s an example:

A wife comes home from work, visibly upset. She says, “Bob didn’t like my report.” The husband turns toward her emotional needs by responding, “I can understand why you’re so upset. You worked so hard on it. I can’t believe he’s dissatisfied.”

In contrast, “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?” serves to side with the opposition, or “Next time, make sure he tells you exactly what he wants” gives unsolicited advice without demonstrating understanding first. Gottman adds, “Couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice.”

Principle 4: Let your partner influence you

Gottman found that men have more trouble than women when it comes to sharing marital power and allowing their partner’s opinions and feelings to shape their decision making. Yet, he says “men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives’ influence,” which is why he advises men to develop this attitude and skill.

For example, if your spouse makes a complaint or suggestion, Gottman suggests that you “try to think of negativity as her way of emphasizing how important this issue is—not as an attack on you.” Then, instead of being “righteously indignant,” identify the reasonable part of your wife’s request, and “yield to win.”

Principles 5 and 6: Solve your solvable problems and overcome gridlock

Happily married couples can distinguish between conflicts that can be resolved and those that will probably be perpetual issues throughout the marriage. Furthermore, they solve the solvable problems, but they don’t spin their wheels arguing over perpetual ones.

Gottman says couples can overcome gridlock caused by perpetual problems, first by understanding that “the goal is not to solve the problem, but rather to move from gridlock to dialogue.” His advice is to:

  • Listen and try to understand why your partner feels so strongly about an issue.
  • Comfort each other, empathizing that the topic is stressful to both of you.
  • Find core areas of the conflict you cannot yield on; then “declaw” the issue by identifying areas of flexibility and compromise.

Principle 7: Create shared meaning

For happily married couples, Gottman says, “Marriage isn’t just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love.” It also has “a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together—a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you, that lead you to understand what it means to be a part of the family you have become,” he says.

To create “shared meaning,” Gottman encourages husbands and wives to share openly with each other their most deeply held views and beliefs. “The more shared meaning you can find, the deeper, richer, and more rewarding your relationship will be,” he says. 

Resource

Road to a Happy Marriage by Charles O. Uzoaru, M.D. AuthorHouse, 2011.

By Christine P. Martin
Source: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, PhD, and Nan Silver. Crown Publishing Group, 2000.

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