the seven principles making marriage work

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John Gottman's Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work provides in detail the ways in which a person could have a healthy marriage and by extension the principles also generally apply to romantic relationships in general and perhaps even just friendships. I'll put this principles in my own words to make them more perspicuous; you can read the book if you want his words.

The first principle is to increase your knowledge about each other. You ought to be able to know, for example, who your significant other doesn't like at work. You should also know his or her life philosophy. And what her deepest dreams are. Etc.

The second principle is about nurturing your fondness and admiration for each other. This involves first looking at your partner worthy of dignity and respect. Too often in a relationship you can get hung up on how you don't like your partner's habits or you don't like some of these fundamental differences in attitude he or she has from you. By focusing again on your partner's positive characteristics, reminding yourself why you like or love this person in the first place, will help you re-center your relationship.

The third principle is turning to your partner to communicate about the mundane stuff of life. If you haven't begun to or forgotten how to enjoy talking to your partner about your everyday activities or his or her everyday activities, it would be good to re-light that fire, to just be able to talk about work, problems, what you have been thinking about lately, what you saw that day, etc. Gottman writes that everyday you cherish this time and you act encouraging toward your partner at this time, it is like putting money in the emotional bank, which really helps when time gets tough.

The fourth principle is letting your partner influence you. Since a relationship is give-and-take, and since it would be a mathematical impossibility for you to be right all the time, be willing to let your partner's decision influence what you think or your actions or whatever. Allowing for this give-and-take and not being obstinate goes a long way.

The fifth principle is solving your solvable problems. Some of the problems, say maybe 30%, of the problems you have are solvable problems. This is because they are mainly situational problems. If you begin to make changes in your schedule with respect to each other, or in little ways of doing things, you will be able to deal with each other a lot more easily.

The sixth principle is "overcoming gridlock." Probably about 70% of the problems that a couple has together is a matter of deep fundamental differences you two have. It is okay to have differences. For example, perhaps you are someone who is always interested in saving money and your partner is someone who is always interested in having a good time (which occasionally means that spending money won't be an important issue for him or her). You won't be able to change each other about these deep fundamental issues, so it calls for a compromise; this is "overcoming gridlock." You can begin to make compromises regarding this, say, by making a budget together and then allowing each other to freely spend within that budget. (Perhaps this isn't the best example, but it's the best I could do for the moment.) The important thing is is that you work to compromise and get through these differences.

The seventh principle is creating "shared meaning." This might not seem very specific, but what Gottman means is that you create a culture in which the two of you live, and if you have children within the three, four, five, nth number of you live. You create rituals for yourself, you celebrate special holidays, you honor certain rites of passage, you create duties and obligations and practices for yourself within your family unit. This is the real, deep stuff that one might call spiritual.

Gottman provides a lot of activities and exercises throughout the way, little games that you can play with your partner or with other couples to improve and increase the strength of your relationship. This is a wonderful wonderful book.


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