What can you do to save an unhappy marriage? Are there ways to strengthen your marital relationship? What is the secret of a long and healthy union?
John Gottman and Nan Silver have probably heard each of these questions more than ten thousand times. In 1999 these highly experienced marriage counselors published a book called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: it rapidly became a best-seller and is often referred to as the best book on marriage, romantic relationship and even friendship.
What appeals to numerous readers all over the world is that there is nothing artificial about The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. The book is nothing if not practical, honest and down-to-earth. There are tons of statistical data and scientific analysis so that what the authors say seems to be not their (subjective) opinions, but rather hard facts. The authors provide numerous examples of typical marital problems: it is extremely likely that many readers will find their descriptions of dysfunctional families and signs of failing marriages way too familiar.
So, what are the principles that might help you to make your marriage better? Are they difficult to follow?
First, you should do your best to know your spouse really well. This means, for instance, that you should be able to tell offhand what he/she thinks of his/her boss. It is extremely important that you know your spouse’s life philosophy and way of thinking.
Second, you should, in the authors’ words, ‘nurture fondness and admiration’ for your husband or wife. Always focus on your spouse’s positive characteristics rather than his or her disadvantages. Beware of four horsemen of a failing marriage: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
Third, there is hardly anything as important as daily communication with your spouse. It is essential that you enjoy talking to your partner about your everyday activities and problems. The authors compare it to putting money in the emotional bank: when time gets tough, you will be able to withdraw as much funds from your account as you might need.
Fourth, do not behave as if you are always right. Let your partner influence you and your decisions: do not be obstinate and willful.
Fifth, aim to solve everything that can be solved. Many problems you have are situational ones: you can sort them out by changing your habits and schedules. In other words, show respect to your spouse and be ready to make sacrifices.
Sixth, seek compromises. There are problems that arise from fundamental differences you and your husband/wife have. If you cannot come to an agreement, be ready to accept a compromise so that you will manage to ‘overcome gridlock’.
Seventh, the authors urge you to ‘create shared meaning’. This means that you ought to create your own culture: invent special rituals, coin new words, play little games with your partner, participate in the same activities and share each other’s big moments.
Although the book was first published some twenty years ago, its subsequent editions are constantly updated. Thus, in the latest version of the book, there are some pages devoted to such modern pastimes as playing video games and spending too much time on using various electronic gadgets. Statistical data was also brought up to date: the book in no way seems dated or antiquated.
Let me give you some advice. Buy The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, read it carefully, reread it several times, act on its recommendations, and you will definitely become a better spouse – and person.