The Couples Clinic

The Seven Principles

After several decades of research, Dr John Gottman published a book in 2000 (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work), outlining the summary of his findings. Gottman set out to understand the inner workings of a relationship, and what makes a successful and loving relationship verses what makes couples eventually separate. Gottman was very dedicated to his work and the book is a great guide for couples to start implementing good relationship habits. The Seven Principles include:

1. Enhancing Love Maps

Love Maps are the knowledge we have of our partner. Couples who know each other’s inner world tend to have successful and fulfilling marriages. Love Maps are about knowing your partner, and also feeling known by your partner. It is essential to friendship and intimacy to build Love Maps regularly.

2. Nurturing Fondness and Admiration

Cherishing your partner is the cornerstone to nurturing fondness and admiration. Just like Love Maps, couples who regularly work on their fondness and admiration for each other feel a greater level of satisfaction and closeness in their relationship. There are many ways to nurture fondness and admiration, and all couples need something different to achieve this.

3. Turn Towards Each Other Instead of Away

Do you have your partner’s back? Not just in times of need, but all the time. Learning to turn towards your partner helps the relationship flourish. The key to learning how to turn towards properly is understanding your partner’s bids for connection. Bids can be obvious, subtle, positive, negative, humorous, and sometimes even non-verbal.

4. Accepting Influence

Accepting influence is easy to understand, however can sometimes be difficult to implement. Essentially, accepting your partner’s influence is about considering their opinions and feelings when making decisions, even when it differs from your own. Just like turning towards, it demonstrates partnership and shows your partner you have their back.

5. Solving Your Solvable Problems

This is about the implementation of appropriate conflict management tools. From engaging the other person gently, learning to compromise effectively, implementing and receiving repair attempts, managing own emotions, and not using the four horsemen (see our other articles for further information on the four horsemen).

6. Overcoming Gridlock

Not all problems experienced in a relationship are solvable. If you set out to solve problems that have been perpetual for a long time, the chances are damage will occur through poor conflict management. Overcoming gridlock is about dialoguing about the perpetual problem without the need to solve the presenting issue. This can open a space for understanding and learning about your partner.

7. Creating Shared Meaning

Creating shared meaning within a relationship is essential. Shared meaning can be defined in many ways. The rituals that couples implement, a desire to help the other realise their dreams, the legacy they hope to leave as a couple, or a deep understanding of the roles each play are important elements to creating shared meaning.

 

Gottman, John; Silver, Nan (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Crown Publishers imprint (Three Rivers Press).