7 Principles to Strengthen Your Marriage

Isn’t it interesting that we spend years in school for our chosen vocation, but we hardly take any classes for the most important relationship in our life, marriage?

Daniel and I practically grew up together, so when we got married, like many other couples, we assumed it would all just fall into place. After all, we already knew each other so well, what could possibly go wrong?

As it turned out, a lot! By the time we had our first child, I was so bitter at what I felt was his constant negligence, that it took us a lot of time and conscious effort to rebuild trust and intimacy.

The good news is, champions for marriage have constantly worked at bringing us very helpful materials for understanding this highly complex but rewarding relationship. Clinical psychologist John Gottman is one of those who spent much time researching the nuances of marriage. From his more than 40 years of work, he shares his findings in his book, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

An important principle for growing in the marriage relationship involves you and your partner sharing relevant details with each other in a love map—and treasuring these information. 
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7 Principles for Strengthening Your Marriage:

In this post, we hope to give you a summary of each of Dr. Gottman’s seven principles:

1. Share Love Maps

Do you remember when you and your partner were starting to fall in love? Most likely, you wanted to know everything about each other! When Daniel and I first started going out, we were always curious about what the other thought about just about everything. We would spend a whole day together and then come home and spend a few more hours talking on the phone!

A love map is essentially a map of all your partner’s likes, dislikes, dreams, fears, just about anything that makes you tick. An important principle for growing in the marriage relationship, this involves you and your partner sharing these relevant details with each other—and treasuring these information.

2. Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration

Two of the most crucial contributors to a satisfying and sustainable relationship is fondness and admiration. But just like when you’re asked to take a look at a blank page with a dot in the center, we tend to find fault more easily than finding something to appreciate. We need to cultivate the habit of calling out the things we like about each other.

(This is one of the principles we tackle in our free e-book, 10 Days to Improve Your Marriage, with an activity to help you develop an appreciation culture. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, get it here!)

3. Turn Towards Each Other Instead of Away

Sometimes we think that romance is some fancy candlelit dinner with music, dancing, and a glass of champagne. But in reality, our love for each other grows more in the context of little things in our everyday life. That’s why it’s important that we constantly turn towards each other in the mundane stuff.

How does this look like? This can be choosing to sit for a few minutes over coffee to hear about your wife’s harried afternoon instead of waving her off and plopping in front of the TV to relax over your own stressful workday. Or it can be listening attentively and engaging with your husband as he talks about his latest achievement at work. We can improve in the level at which we turn towards our partner by constant practice.

4. Let Your Partner Influence You

Do you sometimes notice that it’s easier to listen to other people’s opinion, but not your spouse? What a difference compared to when you were first dating, when you most likely held each other’s ideas up over everyone else’s!

According to Gottman’s 7 principles, listening to each other’s feelings and perspectives is an integral part of growing together in marriage. It doesn’t mean that we will always agree with our partners. Instead, think of it as honoring and respecting each other’s thoughts and opinions to the point of choosing to let him or her influence your choices.

5. Solve the Solvable Problems

In every marriage, there are two types of problems: those that we can resolve, and those that we can’t. Being able to identify which problems are “solvable” is important, so that we can focus on getting them out of the way.

One of the ways we can tell that an issue is solvable is that it tends to be situational and does not come with underlying conflict of values. Focus on solving the solvable problems first.

6. Overcome Gridlock

The other kind of marital conflict can come with more serious underlying issues, tend to be more painful and often feel almost perpetual. We call these “gridlock.” One way of overcoming these seemingly permanent sources of conflict is to move them from being a cause of contention into an opportunity for dialogue.

Most of the time, these feelings of tension are caused by the couple having unfulfilled individual dreams. It can be further complicated by the thought that the partner does not care about those dreams. Because of that, we can disarm this kind of problem by starting to talk about the disappointment and the dreams that are still in our heart: this brings our partner into that sacred space and makes us a team instead of fighting against each other.

7. Create Shared Meaning

Lastly, creating shared meaning means that we build an inner life together as a couple. Just as every business has its own organizational culture, every family also has its own family culture. That is set in place largely by the husband and wife, to include both of their dreams. As we do this, we become more coherent and understanding of each other’s needs and aspirations.

Applying the 7 Principles of Marriage

Now that you know a little bit about the seven important principles of a happy marriage, we encourage you to put them into action. A good marriage does not come about simply by head knowledge, but as you walk out each baby step, we look forward to seeing you grow closer together as a couple.

If you would like added hand-holding, please feel free to check out any of our upcoming workshops or get in touch with us for a one-on-one couple’s consultation. We’d be happy to walk alongside you in your journey to strengthen your marriage.

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