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.