Book Review: Strengthen Your Relationship with 'The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work'

When divorce rates are high and unhappy marriages surround you, is there any hope for your own relationship? John Gottman, PhD, in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, insists that, yes, your marriage can not only survive, but thrive.

Gottman has conducted countless scientific studies about marriage and found that emotional intelligence is the key to a relationship that works. Encouragingly, he has also found that emotional intelligence is a skill that couples can learn, and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is a handbook for doing just that.

The Principles

In his book, Gottman outlines the seven principles that he has found will build your emotional intelligence and help you maintain or develop a successful marriage.

  1. Enhance Your Love Maps

    Gottman encourages couples to know each other well. Asking questions is a way to build up your information stores about one another and to update them as your partner grows and changes.

  2. Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration

    Spouses need to think positively about one another. By focusing on each other's admirable traits, you build respect for one another, and it's easier to see past the characteristics that irritate you.

  3. Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away

    This principle teaches that little things add up. By engaging in the daily stuff of life together, couples connect with each other.

  4. Let Your Partner Influence You

    You don't have to be right all the time. Part of loving and respecting one another is being willing to listen to what the other has to say and to bend in response.

  5. Solve Your Solvable Problems

    Conflict is normal in a relationship, but sometimes a solution can be found just by making changes to the way things are done in your house. A respectful discussion can help you solve the problem, and Gottman offers tips for having such a conversation.

  6. Overcome Gridlock

    While solutions for some of a couple's conflict can be solved through making adjustments, a good portion of it will be related more to your fundamental personalities, rather than your schedules. A couple involves two different people with their own ways of seeing life. Finding ways to work through these differences is key to a healthy marriage.

  7. Create Shared Meaning

    This is your family culture, where your traditions, rituals and rites of passage are found. There is a spiritual element to this principle, and it's the one that bonds your family together.

In addition to explanations of the principles and plenty of real-life examples, the book also contains exercises and questionnaires for couples, or even individuals, to work through.

The Results

There's a reason that this book is a New York Times bestseller: Gottman's principles work. In fact, the book is so popular that a new edition is coming out in 2015, 15 years after the book's original publication.

Granted, the number one complaint that readers have about this book is a sense that Gottman comes across as arrogant. However, it's hard to argue with the man who pioneered the field of marital research and can predict with greater than 90 percent accuracy whether a couple will divorce.

By and large, whether or not readers are bothered by the author's attitude, they admit that his principles are effective. Gottman's work is credited with saving thousands of rocky relationships, often where traditional marriage counseling has tried and failed.

Whether your relationship is already strong or on the brink of collapse, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is a worthy read. It's a practical marriage workshop tucked inside the cover of a book.

Buy this book from: Alibris  |  eBook

Dr. Barb Nefer, PsyD, is a licensed counselor who's worked with couples and families for more than 10 years. She specializes in relationship counseling, self-esteem issues, and working with adults who grew up with addicted or dysfunctional parents. She takes an eclectic approach but favors cognitive/behavioral techniques. Barb is also the author of "So You Want to be a Counselor," a career guide from Frederick Fell Publishing.


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