The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert ~By John M. Gottman, Ph.D. And Nan Silver
This book was a gift from one of my daughters for Christmas 2011. It had been recommended to her by a counselor and she had found it a valuable resource. It was so important to her she wanted her sisters and her parents to benefit from the wisdom found within. I made note that this book had been on my must read LIST for nearly 9 years.
I am not unfamiliar with Dr. Gottman’s incredible work on marriage, relationships and love as he and his wife have been ardent researchers at the University of Washington for many, many years and I have been graced with having taken several credit update courses from his team. When I was teaching Marriage Preparation classes at the University where I was campus minister, we used his work extensively for our retreats we had tremendous success.
I also had tremendous resistance to reading this book. As much as I knew that the information was valuable, I also understood that I would been exposed to my many points of failure within my own 34 years of marriage and I had to deal with the fact that I found it easier to live in a parallel relationship and had found it too difficult to build a team of my own. I went ahead and read the book and I got angry with myself and with my partner who I am fairly certain will never read this book or do the exercises.
I do believe that this book is a powerful resource for young couples and for couples who wish to refresh their relationship. All those folks who are now empty nesters have an opportunity to build their relationships also. I think one just needs to have the desire, do the exercises, practice and the deeper connections will begin to change and take hold. Just the simple act of changing a few words at the beginning of a confrontation or conflict can and may produce tremendous change and outcomes.
“Softening the start up of a discussion is crucial to resolving conflicts, because, my research finds, discussions invariably end on the same note they began.”
Dr. Gottman is able to predict within a 91% success rate, which couples will stay together and which couples will not stand a chance. Usually it just takes him the answer to one question.
“Another important lesson I have learned is that in all arguments, both solvable and perpetual, no one is ever right. There is no absolute reality in marital conflicts, only two subjective realities.”
I so enjoy listening to the CAR TALK fellows on NPR try and help so many couples work through their car questions – always the expectation of an absolute answer.
The book is very hands on and hopeful. Concepts are explained clearly and simply and the examples are relevant. Although being able to communicate well can be either a boon or a determent to a couple, this is not actually a book about communications skills. It is about relationship skills and how to create and highlight your own skills, tweak, and eliminate those that are not serving you well.
I do like to take surveys and true and false tests and was just amazed at how clearly the little quizzes brought me to a truer definition of my style. When I first meet a person I am more likely to use my counselor greeting to start the connection. My family on the other hand does not like it when I approach them in the manner so I use a more questioning approach to getting the ball rolling. This approach is similar to an “early warning” system and I find that they disappear or change the subject very quickly – actually they will do just about anything not to deal with conflict or problems and their greatest “weapon” is to ignore.
By participating in the quizzes, I can see my style clearly and I can practice some of their techniques and ideas and explore new ways of handling the conversation. I have been working some new approaches on my partner for helping us to downsize and to look at our financial situation; planning for retirement. By attending several classes about Retirement planning and Medicare, I have been able to get my partner to start the conversations and stay engaged in the process and even do some of the research!
“The basis for coping effectively with either kind of problem (perpetual or solvable) is the same; communicating basic acceptance of your partner’s personality. Human nature dictates that it is virtually impossible to accept advice from someone unless you feel that person understands you.” “If either (or both) of you feels judged, misunderstood, or rejected by the other, you will not be able to manage the problems in your marriage.”
The happiest and longest married couples from the studies, and now they have 40 + years worth of data, are those that like everything about their partners. They often joke about the foibles and are the first to tell tales on themselves of mistakes they made – usually with a twinkle in their eye and delight in the telling. They have little tricks for overcoming the tough things and they are able to step into the conversation, modify intensity, and play with options. Here’s an example:
My partner just runs about 15 to20 minutes late for everything, I decided it was part of his biorhythm system and after a few years of frustration I just figured out to tell him the plane, train or event started a half hour earlier than it did. Now we both know that I am doing this, but we never speak of it and we are not always late or missing the plane or making folks upset with us. This removes the intensity of the frustration, cuts the analysis and discussion and gets us to events without ruining the party.
I think I will just keep this gem of a workbook on my shelf for a long time to come. I believe it will become dog-eared and ratty over time, because I believe I am capable of changing to make my marriage experience even better over the next third of my life. I think we are still capable of deepening our relationship and becoming even better friends.
How about you? Are you thinking about being in a relationship? Are you thinking about deepening your relationship? Are you considering getting out of a relationship that is just not working for you?
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