What Makes Marriage Work

Recommended book:

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

I must admit that I avoided reading this book for quite a while. I found the title pretentious and was afraid all I would find was some form of self help oversimplification and piles of platitudes.

When I did finally read the book I was surprised by its quality and the way in which the author dispels many common myths.

The Author is also able to offer many valuable practical suggestions. His ideas are based on direct observations of couples, physiological measurements, and longitudinal study, not just on his clinical experience that may be biased. During his long career he saw a wide range of couples from all walks of life. Some lived happily, some were miserable. He was able to observe a diverse sample of marriages and he became particularly interested in what the happy couples do to make their marriages thrive.

Some of the myths he dispels in this book:

1. Men and women come from different planets.

Actually for both, the most important factor in marriage is the quality of friendship that they share.

2. Affairs are the cause of most divorces.

In reality, it is the other way around. When marriages fail, one or two of the parties start to look for an affair, to meet their unfulfilled emotional needs. In most cases, the affair is not the cause of the marital dysfunction but the result of underlying problems.

3. You should never avoid conflict in your marriage.

For unimportant and small matters it is better to avoid conflict. Conflict should be reserved for the truly meaningful questions.

4. Common interests strengthen the bond in a relationship

It can strengthen the relationship, but it depends on how you interact around that common interest.

Outlines of the principles that he recommends, the principles below are paraphrased, not exactly how he worded them.

1. Get to know each other. Dr. Gottman calls it “enhancing the love maps of your partner”.  Get to know each other’s daily life, struggles, hopes, dreams, interests – and continue to know each other as each of you grow and evolve. This seem obvious, but sometimes people live together for decades, and do not know basics about their partner’s work issues, and other important information.

2. Continue to enhance the positive affect in the relationship. Respect the differences between the two of you, maybe that’s why you chose this person in the first place. Look at bad things as situational, and good as indicative of character.

3. In time of needs, go to your spouse as opposed to go for help and support to other people in your life.

4. Listen and take into consideration your spouses ideas. This rule is directed more towards men;  according to Dr. Gottman, women do it anyway. Men tend to dismiss their wives opinions. In addition to the opportunity to get good advice, you also foster respect and connection in the relationships.

5. Check the quality of your interactions. Avoid nonconstructive criticism, contempt, and silent treatment. Be aware when your partner makes a repair attempt, tries to make up for something. Be gracious enough to accept it. If you have a conflict, or difficult subject to discuss, approach the conversation with consideration and care.

6. Learn how to sooth yourself and your partner in times of stress, either externally or between the two of you.

7. Create Shared Meaning. Create a shared value system that continually connects you and your partner through rituals/traditions, shared roles and symbols.


Healthy Relationship

These two books  by Shel Silverstein, are in themselves two parts that make a whole.  The two books describe peoples struggles with relationships and various alternatives.
The Missing Piece (An Ursula Nordstrom Book)
The Missing Piece Meets the Big O

In the first book, the  missing piece,  a circle that has a missing piece, goes on a journey. For me the circle is a female, although in the book she has no gender.  She believes that the her partner must be another piece, who would exactly match the slice that is missing and make a perfect circle. She  is able to enjoy the  journey to some degree, but is invested in finding  that missing piece. The circle meets  many pieces on her way, but none of them is an exact fit.  She  doesn’t give up. She  rolls along happily, talking to a butterfly,  smelling a flower, and singing her song. Although she enjoys her journey, she does not appreciate that joy since she is so intent on her search to find that precise match to her missing piece.  On the way the circle finds various slices that can fit to some degree but none is a perfect fit, some leave a void and others are oversized with their point gouging into the circle.

After a long eventful journey the missing piece joyfully finds a slice that makes her perfectly whole. Now as a perfect circle she whizzes past the flower and the worm so fast that she can no longer appreciate them. The circle decides that it is better to be without that perfect missing piece so that she is better able to take in her surroundings. The simple story can be easily interpreted as our search for the romantic notion of the perfect love, the precise match for us. What the book conveys is how being intent on searching for an answer to that romantic notion we can miss out on many things. Even more powerfully it shows the  the complexity  of relationships and that all relationships have a price that we may not be willing to pay.

In the second book “The missing piece meets the big O”  We meet the missing piece again. She roles around experiencing life. As she roles around her shape slowly changes and the missing slice eventually disappears so that she becomes a whole circle without finding a complimentary piece for her missing slice. At one point the missing piece finds a big O and together they role around side by side. This second, more optimistic book, shows Shel Silverstein’s view of human relationships. In his view, when someone seeks out a relationship to fill a void it will eventually lead to either a mismatch or suffocation. Only when a person feels whole with themselves can a mature relationship develop where two people enjoy life together.

Someone on Amazon recommended these two books as a wedding gift. Not a bad idea.Facebookmail