John Brown's Reviews > The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman
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Jan 11, 11

Read in January, 2007

Back in April of this year, Dr. Liz Hale, a licensed clinical psychologist, started her remarks to a local audience of more than 100 mental health professionals by saying, “Dear fellow colleagues, you are in danger of having an affair.”

Her point was that every marriage, even those of the marriage gurus, is vulnerable to infidelity–be it sexual or emotional. Individuals have to actively curb all the subtle and often innocent beginnings that lead to unfaithfulness.

“We make the mistake of thinking (marital) vows will keep us safe; and they don’t,” she said. She went on to say that couples cannot depend on love or similarities to keep their marriage intact. It’s not enough.

Emotional or sexual infidelity isn’t as rare as we might think. But even if we don’t stray into some type of unfaithfulness, that doesn’t mean a marriage will stay together. Like anything worth having, a good relationship takes work.

But what kind of work? What are the key principles for making a marriage last?

For many years the prescriptions of marriage gurus were based on anecdotal evidence and rules of thumb—on opinion. Because the opinions weren’t tested, they led to all sorts of errors. For example, many yet believe that the road to marital bliss is through communication, specifically through successful conflict resolution. According to this idea, happy couples are those that have learned to resolve all their conflicts in a nice manner. The problem is that when conflict resolution was put to the test, the studies showed it didn’t work. Marriage therapies based on conflict resolution share a very low success rate—over the long haul they only work about 20% of the time.

So what does work?

John Gottman is a marriage counselor who took a different approach and started to collect rigorous scientific evidence on over 650 couples, tracking the fate of their marriages for up to fourteen years. The results of his work are startling.

He uncovered a number of relationship myths, including the one about communication. He found that happy marriages were never perfect unions. These satisfied couples often had differences in temperament, interests, and family values. They argued over money, kids, and housekeeping, just like unhappy couples did. They had problems and faced issues. However, all these satisfied couples also practiced seven principles, even if they didn’t know it, which helped them navigate their way through all the difficulties and keep their marriages happy and stable.

And it’s not just opinion. The success rate for the type of marital therapy based on his research is 80%. He knows what makes marriages work and has written it up in a fabulous book called The Seven Principles For Making A Marriage Work.

Every marriage is vulnerable to failure. It takes work to enjoy a satisfying relationship with a spouse. But it’s so much easier to improve and maintain a relationship when you’re working on the things that actually make a difference. If you want to improve your marriage, give Gottman’s book a read.

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