The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert
John M. Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver
Dr and Dr Gottman are the creators of the Gottman Method of couples therapy, a form of therapy that I chose to train in because of the strength of the research-based interventions. The structure of the theory, along with interventions you can try at home and assessments to check how you are doing in different areas, are neatly outlined in this book.
The primary structure is the "Sound Relationship House" theory that imagines your relationship like a house with walls made up of trust and commitment and different floors of the house, each representing a pillar crucial to the strength of a relationship. The pillars include: Love Maps, Fondness and Admiration, Turning Towards Instead of Away, The Positive Perspective, Managing Conflict, Making Life's Dreams Come True, and Creating Shared Meaning. Each pillar is outlined with exercises that you can try to strengthen that particular area. There is a strong focus in this work on focusing on what is going well in the relationship and strengthening it while also growing in new ways and learning to manage conflict in a way that leaves the relationship intact.
The downside of this book is that it was written in 1999 and contains some outdated ideas in regards to gender roles, uses heterocentric language, and focuses on traditional marriage, versus committed relationships of other types. However, the principles are adaptable to relationships of all types, and the exercises are powerful ways to refocus on strengthening your bond.
Positive Sentiment Override: "This means that their positive thoughts about each other and their marriage are so pervasive that they tend to supersede their negative feelings. . . . Once your marriage gets "set" at a high degree of positivity, it will take far more negativity to harm your relationship than if your "set point" were lower. And if your relationship becomes overwhelmingly negative, it will be more difficult to repair."
Repair Attempt: "This term refers to any statement or action — silly or otherwise — that prevents negativity from escalating out of control. Repair attempts are a secret weapon of emotionally intelligent couples . . . When a couple have a strong friendship, they naturally become experts at sending each other repair attempts and at correctly reading those sent their way."
"Certain kinds of negativity, if allowed to run rampant, are so lethal to a relationship that I call them the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Usually these four horsemen clip-clop into the heart of a marriage in the following order: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling."
". . . the key to reinvigorating fondness and admiration is to get in the habit of scanning for qualities and actions that you can appreciate. And then, let your partner know what you've observed and are grateful for."
Solving solvable problems: ". . . entails the following steps:
1. Soften your start-up.
2. Learn to make and receive repair attempts.
3. Soothe yourself and each other.
5. Process any grievances so that they don't linger."