The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (Crown, 1999) is a book that I often recommend for people who are wishing to improve their relationships, married or otherwise. The author, Dr. John Gottman, actually hooked couples up to electrodes and watched what happened to their blood pressures and heart rates while they talked to each other. He found that he could predict with 91% accuracy whether their relationship was slated for the long term or headed for break-up.
Dr. Gottman found that even happily married people have screaming matches; the difference is in the way they argue. What is death to a relationship is treating your partner with criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or refusal to communicate.
Dr. Gottman’s seven principles are:
- Enhance Your Love Maps
Find out what works with your partner and do more of it.
- Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration
Focus on what you like about your partner rather than their faults.
- Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away
One of the most destructive things you can do when things are going through a rough patch is to isolate and go off by yourself, leaving your partner alone to imagine the worst. Dr. Gottman found that couples with good relationships stick with their partner and turn toward each other seeking solutions to their problems.
- Let Your Partner Influence You
Dr. Gottman identified this as especially challenging for men: letting their partners influence them to share more vulnerability, to talk more about their feelings, and to not need to be in control all the time.
- Solve Your Solvable Problems
Dr. Gottman says that 69% of the problems in any relationship will never be solved, so it is good to focus on the 31% that can be. Pick your battles. As they say in the AA prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
- Overcome Gridlock
Get whatever help you need to keep problems from backing up.
- Create Shared Meaning
Examples of this would be to create new rituals around holidays and vacations.
Happily married people live an average of four years longer than those not so blessed, and have been shown in test after test to have healthier immune systems, less chance of getting sick, and higher scores on happiness measures. To learn more about what you can do to improve your relationship, I would recommend this book to anyone. It is easy to read and has practical advice you can put into practice immediately.
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth