The Rushmore Report: Seven Principles that Make Marriage Work


John Gottman has provided seven principles that make marriage work in his latest book by the same name. The book seeks to debunk a number of what it calls myths about marriages and why they often fail. Gottman thinks outside the norm, offering suggestions you won’t find anywhere else. Along with his companion book, What Makes Love Last? this work gives hope to millions of couples struggling in their marriages.

These are Gottman’s seven principles to make marriage work.

1. Enhancing love maps

A “love map” is that part of one’s brain where one stores all the relevant information about one’s spouse, such as his or her worries, hopes, and goals. The map also goes into the spouse’s history and feelings. Gottman says happily married couples use their love maps to express not only their understanding of each other, but also their fondness and admiration as well.

2. Nurturing fondness and admiration

This involves meditating a bit on one’s partner and what makes you cherish him or her. The book suggests exercises such as thinking about incidents that illustrate characteristics one appreciates in the partner. There is a focus on happy events.

3. Turning toward one another

This brings connection with the spouse. It means being there for each other during minor events, and responding positively to the spouse’s bids for attention, affection, humor, or support.

4. Accepting influence

Accepting influence means sharing power and making one’s spouse a partner in one’s decision-making by taking their opinions and feelings into account.

5. Solving solvable problems

Gottman’s model for conflict resolution involves softening the start of the discussion, learning to make and receive repair statements, and compromise. This is done while accepting each other’s faults.

6. Overcoming gridlock

According to Gottman, gridlock occurs when a conflict makes one feel rejected by the partner. Each spouse becomes entrenched in his or her position. To the contrary, successful compromise means exploring hidden issues that are really the cause of the gridlock.

7. Creating shared meaning

Gottman describes shared meaning as a spiritual dimension to marriage that has to do with creating an inner life together – a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation for the spouse’s roles and goals.

About the Author

These excerpts are taken from John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Gottman has written other books, including What Makes Love Last?


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