Saturday, August 9

Psychology Book Club: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
The Seven Principles
For Making Marriage Work

John M. Gottman, Ph.D.

In my current Marriage and Family Therapy coursework we've begun studying Gottman...which has prompted me to pull an old classic off my shelves for review.

John Gottman and his wife Julie are minor celebrities in the marriage and family therapy world, and we're very fortunate they make their home here in the Pacific Northwest. John Gottman's "Love Lab" at the University of Washington has provided the first real research into why marriages succeed -- or fail.

Many years ago, the Hubby and I, and about 100 of our best friends, spent a long weekend with the Gottmans learning how to use their research results in our own marriage. At the time our oldest kids were entering their teens and we'd just made a big, expensive cross-country move. We weren't having an awful marriage, but with a houseful of teenagers and the vicissitudes of life, I wouldn't have called it terrific, either. So the weekend retreat with the Gottmans was a welcome break.

And it was a real eye-opener. I wasn't surprised, as we conducted some self-evaluations, to find that my good husband was already Mary-Poppins-practically-perfect-in-every-way. But I realized that if we were to move our relationship from "okay" to "great," I had some growing to do.

Rereading Gottman's Seven Principles this week has reminded me that truths about human nature are timeless.

One-line take-home message:
In happy marriages, couples turn inward; in bad marriages, it's all contempt.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. When these four riders enter a marriage, the end is near:
  • Criticism: Describing complaints as a personality defect in your partner. ("Borderline.")
  • Contempt: Complaints indicating you're superior to your spouse. ("Idiot.")
  • Defensiveness: Playing the victim. ("Jerk.")
  • Stonewalling: Withdrawing emotionally. ("Football!")
  • Drop the pride. Allow your spouse to influence you. Take counsel, listen for wisdom and perspective, let this person you love -- or loved -- offer insights that might help you grow.
  • Fix what can be fixed, but accept that some problems will be problems your entire lives. If you saw everything the same way, you could be your own spouse. Embracing differences gives you wisdom.
  • Turn toward one another to solve problems. Don't bring the world into your marriage by complaining to friends, family, and colleagues. Keep your relationship a safe place protected from the outside world.
  • Nurture one another with admiration and fondness. You did it when you were dating; you can do it now.

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