The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, 1999 & 2015
John M. Gottman, a psychology professor at Washington University.
The Sound relationship house therapy, 7 principles + trust & commitment.
truth about happy marriage
An observation lab of couples at Seattle, 91% accuracy rate in the prediction of their marriage end state.
better communication? active listening? Successful conflict resolution isn’t what makes marriages succeed. It is the marriage fitness.
Many misconceptions about happy marriages:
- learn to communicate more sensitively
- neuroses or personality problems ruin marriages. Not necessarily. If you can accommodate each other’s crazy side and handle it with caring, affection, and respect, your marriage can thrive. A severe mental illness is another matter and should look for a mental health professional.
- common interests keep you together.
- you scratch my back and … Many couples function with an unwritten agreement to offer recompense for each kind word or deed. But if you find yourself keeping score about some issues with your spouse, that suggests it’s an area of tension in your marriage.
- avoiding conflict will ruin your marriage. Not necessarily. Some couples avoid fights at all cost and go on as if nothing happened. Some argue a lot. Some are able to talk out their differences and find a compromise without ever raising their voices.
- Affairs are the root cause of divorce. not necessarily. Trysts are usually not about sex but about seeking friendship, support, understanding, respect, attention, caring, and concern.
The list can go on and on.
what makes marriage work
Happy marriages were never perfect unions. They still had significant differences in temperament, interests, and family value. They also argue over money, jobs, kids, housekeeping, sex, and in-laws. The mystery was how they walked through these difficulties.
Happily married couples may not be aware that they follow these 7 principles, but they all do.
The simple truth is that happy marriages are based on a deep friendship: a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company. They tend to know each other intimately — they are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams.They express this fondness not just in the big ways but through small gestures day in and day out.
positive sentiment override (PSO): positive thoughts about each other are so pervasive that they tend to supersede their negative feelings. It takes a much more significant conflict for them to lose their equilibrium as a couple than it would otherwise.
How I predict divorce
Anger between husband and wife doesn’t itself predict a marital meltdown. The clues to their future breakup are in the way they argue, which leaves them vulnerable to increasing negativity and distrust.
There are several signs:
- harsh Start-up. when a discussion leads off this way — with criticism or sarcasm, which is a form of contempt, it has begun with a harsh start-up. It is very likely to end on a negative note.
- the four horsemen: criticism, contempt(name-calling, eye-rolling, mockery, and hostile humor), defensiveness (innocent victim stance), stonewalling(no eye contact, no facial movement, no response)
- flooding: psychologically and physically overwhelmed.
- body language: heart beats faster, blood pressure rises
- failed repair attempts. the pattern of their conversation is unlikely to change unless they receive the right sort of help.
the difference between complain and criticism is global and expresses negative feelings or opinions about other’s character or personality. e.g. by adding “you always”, “you never”, “what’s wrong with you”. dismiss the explanation and continues to take the high moral ground.
Due to evolutionary psychology, wives are better able to handle the stress, brings up sensitive issues. The husband, who is not as able to cope with it, will attempt to avoid getting into the subject.
Frequently feeling flooded leads almost inevitably to emotional distancing, which in turn leads to feeling lonely. They may go through the motions of togetherness — attending their children’s plays, hosting dinner parties, taking family vacations. But emotionally they no longer feel connected to each other. They have given up.
The betrayal is usually a symptom of a dying marriage, not the cause.
The key to reviving a relationship is not simply how you handle your disagreements, but how you engage with each other when you’re not fighting.
1 enhance your love maps
Many married couples fall into a similar habit of inattention to the details of their spouse’s life: joys, likes, dislikes, fears, stresses…
emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world. I call this having a richly detailed love map: part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life. These couples have made plenty of cognitive room for their marriage. They remember the major events in each other’s history, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their spouse’s world change.
If couples don’t start off with a deep knowledge of each other, it’s easy for a marriage to lose its way when lives shift so suddenly and dramatically.
There are few greater gifts a couple can give each other than the joy that comes from feeling known and understood. Don’t pass judgment on what your spouse tells you or try to give each other advice. Remember, you are simply on a fact-finding mission. your goal is to listen and learn about your mate.
quesionaire game: 60 questions: http://rhlink.com/mmw003
30 open-ended questions.
self-exploration questions. life changes us, neither of us may be the same person who spoke the wedding vows 5, 10, or 30 years ago. make sure you have enough time and privacy to do them.
2 nurturing fondness and admiration
Let your partner know what you’ve observed and are grateful for. These everyday thank-yous don’t have to be about momentous acts on your spouse’s part. search for the small, everyday moments. Catch your partner doing some little thing right and then offer a genuine appreciation like “I love the ay you handled the teacher conference yesterday” or “thanks for making my sister feel welcome here”.
Developing a positive habit doesn’t sugarcoat a relationship. Instead, it resets it to a more realistic perspective.
The unhappily married couples only noticed half of the positive interactions that actually occurred. They were so used to tuning in to other’s mistakes.
Thanks for doing … (as specific as possible)
practice exercise for 7 weeks.
3 turn toward each other instead of away
Couples who engage in lots of such interaction tend to remain happy.
The first step in turning toward each other more is simply to be aware of how crucial these mini-moments are, not only to your marriage’s trust level but to its ongoing sense of romance. Just realizing that they shouldn’t take their everyday interactions for granted makes an enormous difference in their relationship. Remind yourself that being helpful to each other will do far more for the strength and passion of your marriage than a 2-week Bahamas getaway.
Many people think that the secret to reconnecting with their partner is a vacation by the sea. But a romantic outing only turns up the heat if a couple has kept the pilot light burning by staying in touch in the little ways.
Before you reply defensively to your partner, pause for a moment and search for a bid underneath your partner’s harsh words. Then focus on the bid, not the delivery. If you find it difficult not to react defensively, take 5 deep breaths, 9 slow breaths and then say to your partner, “I want to respond to you positively, so can you please tell me what you need right now from me? I really want to know”
In some cases, constantly checking emails, postings, tweets, and text messages can lead to a sort of addiction — self-distraction. All of those electronic devices have gotten us used to have our concentration and focus interrupted. But it is important to be truly present.
Don’t give unsolicited advice. Just to be a good listener or offer a ready shoulder to cry on. Unless your partner has specifically asked for help, don’t try to fix the problem, change how your partner feels, or rescue him or her. Instead, your motto should be Don’t do something, just be there!
It is not your responsibility to rescue your partner. In fact, such attempts to save her tend to backfire. When a wife shares her troubles, she usually reacts very negatively if her husband tries to give her advice right away. Instead, she wants to hear that he understands and feels compassion.
Haim Ginott: Understanding must precede advice.
When your partner comes to you for emotional support ( not for advice), your job is not to cast moral judgment or to tell him or her what to do. express a “we against others” attitude. show affection validates her emotions.
Credo: when you are in pain, the world stops and I listen.
listen to sadness and crying. Ask what’s missing, where is the sadness coming from. don’t try to cheer up your partner.
listen to anger. don’t take it personally. don’t ever tell your partner to calm down. search out the goal and obstacle.
listen to fear and stress. Don’t minimize it. We trust such a gut feeling instead of dismissing it because our best guide for staying safe is to develop an intuitive sense of when se are confronting a dangerous situation or person.
marriage is something of a dance. There are times when you feel drawn to your loved one and times when you feel the need to pull back and replenish your sense of autonomy. There is a wide spectrum of normal needs — some people need more connection, others desire for independence.
4 let your partner influence you
The car needs a costly repair, so he never bought Phil’s car. More importantly, he never bought Phil’s attitude toward women.
I wouldn’t think about making a decision she disagreed with. That would be very disrespectful. We talk and talk about it till we both agree, and then I make the decision.
Basic truth: women tend to be more oriented toward discussing and understanding feelings than are men. They are more tuned to the social nuances and deeply sensitive to others.
Girls have a head start at emotional intelligence. At childhood, boys play run-and chase games, their priority tends to be the game itself, not their relationship with each other or their emotions. Girls play baby doll and pretend the doll is their baby and show it off to their friends. girlish games offer far better preparation for marriage and family life because they focus on relationships.
toilet seat issue. For many women, a raised toilet seat is symbolic of the male’s sense of entitlement. So a man can score major points with his wife just by putting the seat down.
two kinds of marital conflicts
gridlock/perpetual vs solvable
tips for managing conflicts:
- negative emotions are important
- No one is absolutely right
- Acceptance is crucial. Communicate basic acceptance of your partner’s personality.
- focus on fondness and admiration
A big difference between:
- Sheesh, you’re a lousy driver! slow down before you kill us!
- I know you enjoy driving fast, but I get really nervous. Could you please slow down?
The 2nd approach takes a bit longer. But that extra time is worth it since it is the only method that works.
Children thrive when we express understanding and respect for their emotions, rather than belittle or punish them for their feelings.
5 solve your solvable problems
the best soft start-up has 4 parts:
- I share some responsibility for this
- here’s how I feel
- about a specific situation
- here’s what I need
- complain but don’t blame.
- make statements that start with I instead of you. “I would like it if you’d listen to me”( vs: you are not listening to me). “I’m feeling neglected”(vs: you just don’t care about me)
- describe what is happening. don’t evaluate or judge. “I seem to be the only one chasing after Charlie today” (vs: You never watch the baby).
- be clear about your positive need. Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader. “ I’d apprecaate it if you would clean your stuff off the kitchen table” (vs: you left the kitchen a total mess). “please change Emmy’s daper and give her a bottle”(vs: would you take care of the baby for once?)
- be polite. “please…. I would appreciate it if …”
- be appreciative. “ Remember how we used to go out every Saturday night? I loved spending so much time alon with you… let’s start doing that again” (vs: you never have time for me anymore)
repair attempt questionare: http://rhlink.com/mmw013
coping with typical solvable problems
electronic distractions: http://rhlink.com/mmw011
stress. schedule formal griping sessions can prevent the spillover of everyday stress intro your marriage. Build time to unwind into your daily schedule. make it a ritual.
In-laws. The difference between the 2 women’s opinions, personalities, and life views become evident the more time they spend together. The only way out of this dilemma is for the husband to side with his wife against his mother. This may sound harsh, remember that one of the basic tasks of a marriage is to **establish a sense of “we-ness” between husband and wife.
He should not compromise who he is. But he has to stand with his wife and not in the middle. he and his wife need to establish their own family rituals, values, and lifestyle and inst that his parents respect him.
In the end, David’s message was loud and clear: She comes first, Mom. Get used to it. An important part of putting your spouse first and building this sense of solidarity is to not tolerate any contempt toward your spouse from your parents. At first, the in-laws may be miffed by your new attitude, but as time went on, they came to accept the change.
in-law problems: http://rhlink.com/mmw002
Money. work as a team on financial issues and that you express your concerns, needs, and fantasies to each other before coming up with a plan. you’ll each need to be firm about items you consider non-negotiable.
- itemize your current expenditures
- manage everyday finances
- plan your financial future
housework.who does what list: http://rhlink.com/mmw018
becoming parents. She discovers she is willing to make enormous sacrifices for her child. She feels awe and wonders at the intensity of her feelings for this fragile little being. The experience is life-altering. He can’t get his wife back — he has to follow her into the new realm she has entered.
sex questionnaire: http://rhlink.com/mmw012
stop thinking that sex is about orgasm. Consider all positive interactions to be sex, such as pillow talk, touching, caressing, kissing and so on.
6 overcome gridlock
The best approach to coping with gridlock is to avoid it in the 1st place. Practice other principles to avoid these difficulties. Lookout for those small moments where you miss each other’s needs.
Dreams can operate at many different levels. Some are easier to see, others are hidden. e.g. underneath the dream to make lots of money may be a need for security.
A list of some common deep dreams: (21)
- feeling at peace
- exploring who I am
- consistency with my past values
- exploring a creative side of myself
- getting over past hurts
- ending a chapter of my life — saying goodbye to something
happy couples are aware of each other’s dreams and consider helping each other realize them to be one of the goals of marriage. Whatever they decide to do isn’t really the issue. The point is that their concept of their marriage incorporates supporting both of these dreams. The way they go about making such decisions — with mutual respect for and acknowledgment of each other’s aspirations — is part of what makes their relationship so meaningful to them.
The dream is unlikely to emerge until you feel that your marriage is a safe place to talk about it. Often deeply personal dreams go unspoken or underground because both partners may feel not entitled to their dreams. They may see their own desires as childish or impractical. But such labels don’t end the longing. When you bury a dream, it just resurfaces in disguised form as a gridlocked conflict.
explore the dream. write an explanation of your position. don’t criticize or blame your spouse. explain where these dreams come from and why they are so meaningful to you. Each person gets 15 minutes to talk and 15 minutes to listen. Don’t try to solve this problem. Attempting to do that now is likely to backfire. Your goal is simply to understand why each of you feels so strongly about this issue. suspend judgment.
3 levels of honoring your partner’s dreams:
- express understanding of the dream and be interested in learning more about it
- actively enable the dream, such as financial support
- become a part of the dream
If flooding occurs, the conversation will get nowhere. stop for 20 minutes and calm down.
Separate the issue into 2 categories:
- nonnegotiable areas
- areas of flexibility
7 create shared meaning
4 pillars of shared meaning:
- rituals of connection. A ritual is a structured event or routine that you each enjoy and depend on and that both reflects and reinforces your sense of togetherness. You can create your own. At Thanksgiving, we always go around the table and each of us recounts what we are grateful for in the past year.
- support for each other’s roles. Not just who washes the dishes but your deep expectations of yourself and your spouse.
- shared goals.
- shared values and symbols.
ritual questionnaire: http://rhlink.com/mmw014
role questionnaire: http://rhlink.com/mmw015
goal questionnaire: http://rhlink.com/mmw016
value questionnaire: http://rhlink.com/mmw017
afterword: what now?
successful groups were devoting only an extra 6 hours a week to their marriage.
|Action||Time cost per day|
|partings||learn about one thing in partner lat day||2 min|
|reunions||hug, kiss, stress-reducing conversation||20 min|
|admiration||communicate genuine affection||5 min|
|affection||physical touch, embrace, goodnight kiss||5 min|
|weekly date||ask open-ended questions, love map||2 hr per week|
|union talk||appreciation, gentle start-up||1 hr per week|
what causes a spouse to be chronically critical?
- emotionally unresponsive partner
- self-doubt, always look for what’s not there in yourself and your partner. solution: accept yourself with all of your flaws. **expressions of thanksgiving and praise are the antidotes to the poison of criticism and contempt.
an exercise in thanksgiving:
- search for reasons to praise. begin with simple things.
- just find one feature for each person. ignore the shortcomings.