The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work: #5 Solve Your Solvable Problems

The 7 Principles For Making Marriage Work

By: John Gottman

“Solve your solvable problems.” Gottman says that there are two types of marital problems: conflicts that can be resolved and perpetual problems that can’t. It’s important for couples to determine which ones are which.

Sometimes, though, telling the difference can be tricky. According to Gottman, “One way to identify solvable problems is that they seem less painful, gut-wrenching, or intense than perpetual, gridlocked ones.” Solvable problems are situational, and there’s no underlying conflict.

Gottman devised a five-step model for resolving these conflicts:

  • In Step 1, soften your startup, which simply means starting the conversation without criticism or contempt.
  • In Step 2, make and receive “repair attempts.” Gottman defines repair attempts as any action or statement that deescalates tension.
  • In Step 3, soothe yourself and then your partner. When you feel yourself getting heated during a conversation, let your partner know that you’re overwhelmed and take a 20-minute break. (That’s how long it takes for your body to calm down.) Then you might try closing your eyes, taking slow, deep breaths, relaxing your muscles and visualizing a calm place. After you’ve calmed down, you might help soothe your partner. Ask each other what’s most comforting and do that.
  • In Step 4, compromise. The above steps prime couples for compromise because they create positivity, Gottman says. When conflicts arise, it’s important to take your partner’s thoughts and feelings into consideration. Here, Gottman includes a valuable exercise to help couples find common ground. He suggests that each partner draw two circles: a smaller one inside a larger one. In the smaller circle, make a list of your nonnegotiable points. In the bigger one, make a list of what you can compromise on. Share them with each other and look for common ground. Consider what you agree on, what your common goals and feelings are and how you can accomplish these goals.
  • In Step 5, remember to be tolerant of each other’s faults. Gottman says that compromise is impossible until you can accept your partner’s flaws and get over the “if onlies.” (You know the ones: “If only he was this” “If only she was that.”)

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The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work: #4 Let Your Partner Influence You

The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work

By: John Gottman

“Let your partner influence you.” How important do you think it is to allow yourself to be influenced by your spouse? Men, is being a strong spiritual leader to your family mean that you have all the answers and that you don’t need any help from your wife? Women, are you receptive to your husbands suggestions, or do you think he is as inept as mainstream media suggests he is? Dr. Gottman believes accepting influence from our spouse is important enough to be one of his 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.

Happy couples are a team that considers each other’s perspective and feelings. They make decisions together and search out common ground. Letting your partner influence you isn’t about having one person hold the reins; simply put, it comes down to honoring and respecting each other and valuing what each brings to the relationship—and to your life together. Its conveying to your spouse that your opinions and feelings matter to me and giving consideration to those opinions and feelings before making decisions. It says “we are a team, we’re in this together and we need each other”.

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The 7 Principles For Making Marriage Work

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, written with Nan Silver, renowned clinical psychologist and marriage researcher John Gottman, Ph.D, reveals what successful relationships look like and features valuable activities to help couples strengthen their relationships.

Gottman’s principles are research-based. He and his colleagues have studied hundreds of couples (including newlyweds and long-term couples); interviewed couples and videotaped their interactions; even measured their stress levels by checking their heart rate, sweat flow, blood pressure and immune function; and followed couples annually to see how their relationships have fared.

He’s also found that nine months after attending his workshops, 640 couples had relapse rates of 20 percent, while standard marital therapy has a relapse rate of 30 to 50 percent. In the beginning of these workshops, 27 percent of couples were at high risk for divorce. Three months later, 6.7 percent were at risk. Six months later, it was 0 percent. (Here’s more on his research.)

Over the course of the next few posts we will examine the principles that Gottman goes over in his book. Can it be that simple? Can you make a marriage work by following these 7 principles? Stay Tuned

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