The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work is a compilation of the best lessons from John Gottman’s research on how healthy relationships happen and will teach you exactly what you and your spouse need to do to have a happy, healthy, and successful marriage.

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The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work Summary

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Whether you’ve been married for 15 years or recently started dating someone, many of the problems in every relationship are similar. Psychologist Dr. John M Gottman has spent years researching and interviewing couples. He’s identified the fundamental problems that plague relationships. 

In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide From the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, he and author Nan Silver reveal these problems and how to solve them. A long, healthy relationship ultimately comes down to building healthy habits.

Here are 3 of the most insightful lessons about marriage from this book:

  1. Principles one and two involve developing your love map and setting up a fondness and admiration system.
  2. In principles three through five, you’ll learn how to grow closer through bids, considering one another’s opinions and feelings, and understanding problems. 
  3. The last two principles for making marriage work are learning how to cope with issues and recognizing that you don’t have to agree on everything to be happy.

Let’s dive right in and see what it takes to have a great relationship!

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Lesson 1: Start by developing your love map and setting up a fondness and admiration system.

When you’re married, you get to know a lot of personal, sensitive information about your partner. Gottman says this information is stored in our brain’s love map. The more detailed the love map, the stronger your love

Many marriages fail because couples simply don’t know each other well enough. They didn’t set enough space aside in their brain for their marriage. I mean, if you don’t really know someone, can you really love them? 

It’s important to be aware of your love map and make sure you understand your partner well. Also keep in mind that a love map can change as changes happen in your lives, like when you become a parent. 

It is also essential to a marriage that a couple has a fondness and admiration system. When a marriage is in trouble, the first way to assess if the relationship is salvageable is to see how they reflect on their past.

If the couple’s speak of their first date or other shared events with at least some positivity, this shows they still have respect and admiration for one another. A whopping 96 percent of couples who recall their marriage history finally will likely enjoy a happy future.

Another way you can assess your fondness and admiration system is by answering true or false to three statements: 

  1. When we’re apart, I think of my partner fondly. 
  2. I can easily list three things I admire in my partner. 
  3. My partner is happy to see me when I come into a room. 

If you can answer true to these, you’re in good shape!

Lesson 2: Connect more deeply with each other through bids, being considerate, and understanding the true nature of problems.

Some of the most important moments in a marriage are just the day to day conversations with your spouse. Partners make “bids” through conversation to receive their partner’s attention, support, or affection. For a healthy marriage, make sure you turn toward their bids. 

It’s also important to respect each other’s opinions. Gottman says it is particularly important for husbands to take their wives’ opinions into account. He says most stable, long term marriages have a husband who treats his wife with respect. 

A study across 130 married couples found that husbands who let their wives influence them were happier and less likely to get a divorce than those who didn’t. Additionally, there is an 81% chance of divorce if a husband doesn’t share power with his wife.  

Another important aspect of a healthy marriage is to understand there are solvable and unsolvable problems. Obviously, solvable problems can be resolved. But almost every relationship has unsolvable problems, and what we do with these can make or break the relationship

Gottman teaches that though many of us have these perpetual problems that arise again and again in the relationship, it doesn’t mean it’s doomed. Even if there isn’t a real solution, keep on recognizing the problem and talk about it. 

Lesson 3: Learn how to deal with difficulties and understand that you can be happy even if you don’t agree on some things.

So what are we supposed to do in the face of unsolvable problems? Gottman encourages couples not to attempt to eradicate the problem but turn it into a dialogue. Talk to your partner and try to figure out what is actually feeding the conflict. 

Having a gridlock is an indication that you have hopes about your marriage that aren’t being respected by the other person. Maybe they hope for a better salary or a cleaner home. Your partner needs to learn how to come to terms with your desires and know they are a part of you. 

Gottman also reassures us that you don’t need to agree on everything in a marriage. You can still have different life views and values, just be sure to share them with one another. Many problems arise with couples who don’t know enough about each other’s aspirations and values.

However, the more shared meaning, you are able to find, the deeper your relationship will be. You will feel more fulfilled in your marriage when you both agree on the roles you play in the relationship. 

For example, some spouses may take on more traditional roles, like the husband as the provider and the wife as the nurturer. Others might want an egalitarian marriage, where each partner supports both emotionally and financially. Whatever way you want to be, it’s important that you agree.

The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work Review

I really like The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work. But that might just be because I have such a great wife who makes marriage a lot easier than I think it is for most people. Regardless of the state of your relationships, you’re going to get a lot out of this book and it’ll change your life if you apply what it teaches!

Who would I recommend The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work summary to?

The 45-year-old couple that is thinking about getting divorced, the 27-year-old newlyweds that hope to have a marriage as long as their grandparents, and anyone that wants to know how to make their relationship with their spouse the happiest and healthiest it can be.

Last Updated on July 23, 2023

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.