Aw, relationships. Regardless if they are couples that are dating, engaged, or married, they can fill you up and break you down, sometimes both in the same day. Sometimes we can find ourselves stuck in this crazy cycle that keeps the negative going, even when we wake up with intentions to have an awesome relationship that day. It can take one moment, one tiny action, to start the snowball effect.
So what can a couple do to maintain or repair their relationship so that it is filling you up way more often than it is breaking you down? John Gottman has been researching couples for decades and shares his findings in this incredible handy book filled with helpful information and exercises that you can do right then and there with your love and some by yourself. Let me introduce you to this amazing book by John Gottman and Nan Silver: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert.
Even happily married couples can have screaming matches – loud arguments don’t necessarily harm a marriage.”
Here are the highlights that I got from the book:
- In regards to the divorce predictions – If you want to enhance your relationship, reading this book and doing the exercises is a fantastic start. Doing NOTHING will result in that… nothing will change in your relationship in most couples.
- Keep the four horsemen out of your relationship. This includes criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. These only hurt your relationship.
The 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work:
- #1 Friendship – spend time getting to know your partner throughout your relationship. The same questions you asked at the beginning of the relationship may not have the same answer years later. Keep talking to your partner and learning about them the entire time you are with them. This includes their hopes, dreams, goals, and worries.
- #2 Make sure your relationship is overflowing with fondness and admiration. When a couple finds reasons to admire and like their partner, the good stuff is still there. Even if the relationship is rocky, if a couple still has fondness and admiration, the relationship bumps can be worked through. So make sure to be telling your partner what you admire, appreciate, love and respect about them often. By often I mean daily or at least several per week. Don’t be stingy with the fondness and admiration… give it out generously. Be specific as possible. They are doing nice things all the time, look for them and point them out.
- #3 Turn toward each other instead of away. Gottman calls it “bids” when a partner is trying to connect with the other. It is so very important that each person in the relationship is turning towards each other instead of away or ignoring the bid. Couples that have a lot of interaction and connection tend to be happy. “A tendency to turn toward your partner is the basis of trust, emotional connection, passion, and a satisfying sex life (pg. 88).” This includes taking your partners side, even if you don’t agree. Focus on their emotion, not the content.
Couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice.
- #4 Be influenced by your partner. This one is a bit harder for the men according to the research. This does not mean that you say “yes, dear” to everything. It means that you consider your partners feelings and opinions when making a decision. Simple, but hard to do for some. It means taking a moment to listen to their thoughts on the topic instead of saying “no” right off the bat.
69% of marital conflicts fit in the perpetual problem category – even in happy couples
- #5 Solve the solvable problems. There are problems in your relationship that can be solved. Some things you can do, is have a soft start-up when bringing up the conflict. Make repair attempts and accept repair attempts by your partner. Learn how to sooth yourself and your partner. Utilize the skill of compromise. Process the hard feelings so that they can be let go. This is when you use that famous “I statement”. I feel ___(an emotion)_________________ about ___(specific action or event)____________ I need ___(what is your request)__________.” Leave the “you statements” out of the conversation if you want to get anywhere.
- #6 Overcome Gridlock. This is in regards to those perpetual problems that continue to show up in your relationship with no solution. There is no humor, empathy, or affection when the problem is discussed. There seems to be no way to compromise. To move through gridlock, it is important to discover the underlying dream that is hidden behind the issue for both people. And then you would eventually do the compromise exercise of the two circle method (separating what you cannot budge on and what you can be flexible on).
- #7 Create shared meaning. When creating “we-ness” around your relationship, it is important to create your own rituals. These are ways that you keep connection strong in your family that you can depend on. Support each other’s roles. Have shared goals. Sure not all of them need to be the same, but it is important to have goals that you are working towards together. And have shared values and symbols.
- After all that, it is important to maintain all that work and effort you are putting into your relationship. This is where the Magic 6 Hours comes in. This includes how you leave each other, greet each other, making time to have a date night (even if it is after the kids go to bed and you stay home), affection, appreciation, and making time to talk about your relationship.
There is so much great stuff in this book, I could only touch the tip of the iceberg. This book has a ton of information, tips, examples and exercises to complete. It is easy to understand. You definitely get your moneys worth. I really love this book and I encourage anyone who is interested in enhancing their relationship to own, read, and do the exercises in this book.
In the near future, I will also be offering couple retreats and workshops for those looking to enhance their relationships. So make sure to check out my website from time to time. Have a phenomenal day!