Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work

In the previous blog on Tips to Better Vacations, I mentioned that you may have relationship challenges arise on vacations by virtue of spending more time together and being out of the regular routine.

Today I will address what makes a successful relationship as outlined in Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”. The information and approach can be beneficial to you in learning about the things you are doing well in your relationship and what needs improvement. I use the Gottman approach in couples’ work and the book is an excellent resource. I am going to give you a taste of the book and the approach.

The approach is research based, a first in the marital/couple therapy. Dr. Gottman discovered that there are distinct behaviors in couples who have a good relationship and those who have a poor relationship. Further, based upon these observations he compiled the information into seven principles, with two overarching themes. With these categories, Dr. Gottman could predict with 91% accuracy those couples who would stay together and those who would not stay together. It was an astonishing finding, which he then developed into strategies for relationship improvement, the content of the book and an effective approach for therapists to use in their practices. Not only did Dr.

Not only did Dr. Gottman debunk some myths about successful couples relationships, he also identified two areas to cover as the bases of a successful couples relationships and the single most corrosive characteristic leading to separation and divorce. For example one of the myths about successful relationships is that there are few if any arguments and that arguments are bad for the relationship. In contrast to this prevailing belief, he found that “even happily married couples can have screaming matches and loud arguments do not necessarily harm a marriage”. The two areas that are the basis of a successful relationship are : 1. The friendship between you and your spouse or partner; and 2. The ability of you and your partner to deal effectively with the inevitable conflict that arises in relationships over the mid and longer terms. The single most corrosive aspect of a relationship is contempt between the individuals, meaning the tendency to look down upon each other as less than oneself.

Dr. Gottman further broke down the two areas into seven principles as follows:

Principle #1. Enhance your love maps.
Principle #2. Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration.
Principle #3. Turn toward Each Other Instead of Away.
Principle #4. Let Your Partner Influence You.
Principle #5. Solve Your Solvable Problems.
Principle #6. Overcome Gridlock.
Principle #7. Create Shared Meaning.

In each of the seven principles, Dr. Gottman gives explicit ways to help enhance the relationship and deal with the conflict. The friendship is enhanced by showing ongoing knowledge of and interest in the other person’s life, activities and work, catching your spouse doing positive things that you like and reminding yourself of his or her good qualities and being willing to connect with one another. The ability to address conflict effectively is enhanced by both partners being willing to be influenced by one another. As well, it is important for the couple to identify problems that are perpetual and unsolvable in the relationship, such as personality, preferences and family issues and and focus on solveable problems or things that can be changed. Each of the seven principles has a chapter of insights and exercises to learn and apply the strategies for improvement.

The book is a useful adjunct to any relationship and couples counselling. I hope this taste of “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman will inspire you to read the book to achieve a more successful relationship. It is available online at;; or check at your local library.

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